Created: 02 January 2013
How do I get my dog to stop jumping on the counter?
With every problem there are a few ways of approaching it.
I could fixate on the problem and pay attention to the fact that the dog jumps on the counter. When I do that my human mind only wants to “fix” the problem. Because my awareness is only on my dog jumping, I tend to ignore the many times that my dog is not jumping on the counter. In this scenario I do not build much of a relationship, I tend to get frustrated, and I do not benefit from other behaviors learned.
My typical first attempt to get rid of a problem behavior does not involve force, yelling, squirt bottles because of the other possible unwanted behaviors that pop up in it’s place. Instead, I use our main tool, the human brain, to find ways to prevent the dog from practicing the behavior and rewarding itself (called management), while I teach the dog an alternative behavior or two.
See, your relationship with your dog is the most important thing to me. I would try to coach you with a toolbox filled with proven training practices that are not a mixture of reward-based and tradition-based methods. In fact, a mixture of those two methods have proven to be least effective. Yes, a household that uses inconsistent communication to “fix” a problem behavior actually creates a confused dog. If you don’t believe me listen to your dog. The dog will show it when the requested behavior isn't understood ... creating a nagging situation. Creating a dog that still jumps, especially when you are not in the kitchen.
Whatever you do, don't loose your patience, simply call for some guidance!
My personal approach with my own dogs consists of this important first step:
First, I would not let my dogs practice jumping on the counter. The act of rehearsing the problem or worse ... jumping and actually getting something of value is what I would avoid at all cost. So instead of thinking about “fixing” the problem, I think of what I’d like my dog to do when I’m in the kitchen. I start teaching a behavior of relaxing and staying away from the counters. It is not a band aide approach. It’s one that is more rewarding and applicable to other situations.
I like to train other behaviors that compete with the unwanted one because I get a desired behavior out of an undesired behavior. It’s a win-win for both of us and my dog builds confidence and understanding. And boom ... a more rewarding relationship starts to emerge!
Here is Quinn and Tayt rehearsing what I’ve taught them when I’m in the kitchen. I’ve taught Quinn (almost 9 years old) and Tayt (16 months) that laying down when I am in the kitchen is the best valued behavior by rewarding their choices. Their choice to jump up is not being practiced and has never been one to choose. I eliminated it from their world by never letting them do it.
So you say: “But I have a dog that has had the opportunity to experience the WOW that counter surfing provides.”
That experience may be close to that gambler playing the slot machines. I would still approach the problem the same way. Through management I would be able to teach a new behavior that pays just as much or better than jumping on the counter. Your part in this is to not be greedy and be generous with the rewards for choosing the behavior you desire. All too often the opportunity to jump is still worth it because the WOW hasn’t transferred to your desired behavior.
Sure it takes time! Doesn’t everything that matters the most? We are not dealing with a piece of electronics, we are dealing with an opportunistic animal who is self-absorbed in getting what is rewarding in every moment.
The method I used with Tayt and Quinn are based on the scientific principles of learning theory. However, if your desires are different then mine, I am always willing to use other techniques, as long as they are both effective and humane.
Believe it or not, training your dog isn’t tough, it's actually fun!
Let me help you teach your dog what you want. Let me help you choose good motivation and communication system that is consistent for the whole family.
Thanks for reading. Obviously there is more, but this is a great starting point.