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Old 07-15-2010, 11:42 AM
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Default Food Surfing

Velvet has ALWAYS food surfed. She waits until we leave the room and hones right in. Dawn and Eclipse very rarely do it. Unfortunately she's taught the puppy to do it. Now, Greystoke is an even larger culprit. I left the room yesterday and left our room-mate's son in the room with him and he STILL climbed on the desk to get at my food!

I don't know what to do. I have no idea how to correct him not to do this. I can't just take the food with me everywhere (such as a bathroom) and there's nowhere I can put it that he won't climb his way to get it, except in the fridge. Yet going all the way up to the fridge just because I have to pee during dinner isn't likely. I also shouldn't have to enforce him to always follow me to the bathroom either, so taking him with me so he can't get the food isn't an option.

I've thought of bait training. Leaving food there and "leaving" the room so that he doesn't know I'm there and then correcting it when he goes for it. Yet I know he's smart. What if he figures out how to tell where I am standing so that he knows when I'm truly gone?

None of my dogs are really stupid. They know when the humans aren't there they can get whatever they want. This is why they have been crate trained so well.

Any suggestions or advice for stopping the food surfing? It's very frustrating!
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Old 07-15-2010, 12:21 PM
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Counter surfing is a self rewarding behavior for food driven dogs. So really the only thing to do is to keep the dog from engaging in the behavior. For my brothers two hounds who had a similar issue we created a rule which prevented the behavior (no dogs in the kitchen/dining area) then we sought a way to make it a consistent fair rule by either putting up a physical or mental barrier (invisible fence). I know other people who create the rule that the dog MAY NOT be in any other room of the house except the one they're in or the dog is crated.
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Old 07-15-2010, 01:06 PM
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Well, Buffy stopped doing it after she snagged a block of jalapeno cheese off the kitchen counter.

I tried using something similar with Shiva and Kharma -- I laid habaneros on the counter. Both grrrls ate 'em and went back looking for more What worked with them was catching them in the act and scolding. I think growing up had some effect, too. After about 2 years old they both pretty much quit altogether, but I don't think they would have if they hadn't known it pissed me off.

I've heard of some people having good results by putting small mousetraps on the counter or hiding and using a water gun every time they'd catch the dogs getting up there.

Kharma will still, every once in awhile, help herself. She can steal out of a hot skillet without burning herself and grills are kept CLOSED if I'm not right there I can put up with the occasional surf, and she's pretty good about what she steals, for instance, if she grabs a loaf of bread, it's always the loaf we're using for their peanut butter. Tallulah does the same.
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Old 07-15-2010, 03:40 PM
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if you have to leave for a short time (like to go to the bathroom), teaching a good stay is helpful. Before you leave have the dog go into a sit or down and leave, reward with food when you come back if they have stayed. Of course you'll have to work up to it, starting with short stays without food present moving on to long stays with food present. until you build up to that point you can use a leash, gates, crates, or keep him in an other room so he can't steal the food.

Or teach the dog to stay on a mat or out of the kitchen during meals.

As far as stealing food randomly throughout the day your best course of action is to NEVER leave food out unless it's training time, that way the dog no longer gets rewarded for stealing. Then set out an item of food and watch from another room if you can, when he looks like he's gonna jump up run in and get him away from the table, I'd body block (put yourself between him and the table and walk towards him so he backs up). Then leave and repeat.

I don't know if this would work with dogs but it's one of the only punishment type things I do with the cats. I use double sided tape (or looped duct tape so it functions like double sided tape) and place it on things I want them to stay off of like the lizard's tank lid. You could put this on the edge of your counter and leave a food item far back on the counter (so it would be very hard for him to get it). See if when he put his paws on the tape he doesn't like it and gets off quickly. If the dog doesn't care then you'll have to try something else. I would couple this with some kind of reward based method (like below) as well, if you don't he might just start not caring about the tape if it means he can get food.

You can also look at it from the training view of "keep paws off of table and counters". Dangle treats and whatnot near the edge of the counter and reward with food if he keeps his paws on the floor. If he tries to jump up to get the treat snatch it away until he goes back down and try again. Basically teach him that to get the food you are dangling above the counter he has to stay off of the counter. Then start tossing food onto the counter and walking a few steps away, have the dog on a loose leash so that if he does go for the food you can prevent him from getting rewarded by eating it. if he does not go for it reward him with food. Repeat until he stops even thinking about going for the food you tossed. Change up the type of food you leave on the counter. eventually start rewarding him only when he moves away from the counter.
Over time start moving further and further from the counter, eventually you'll be in the next room. You'll walk back in every few seconds to give a treat, then every few minutes. Then every once in a while. I'd end this type of session by giving the dog some time with a bully stick while you clean off the counter. Later you'll leave more food on the counter at one time, slowly progressing to foods he really likes to steal. You'll then have to transfer this training to other counters and tables he steals from.
again it is very important he never has the chance to steal food while you are training, if you are not doing a session of training there needs to be no food out or the dog has to be put away/tethered/gated/something.
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Old 07-16-2010, 07:38 PM
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Thanks everyone it's all useful advice. I think I'll work with teaching him that counters, tables, and desks are off-limits not matter what! He's a sneaky little thing.

I was thinking of setting my camera on the shelf one day and setting up filming him thieving. XD
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Old 07-16-2010, 11:04 PM
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Personally, I just don't leave food out on the counters. You can put food in the oven or microwave, or in the fridge if you have to leave for a few minutes, that keeps it protected. Or you can put the dogs in their crates or in another room while you're eating.

Maybe I personally just don't like having to think about training while I'm trying to eat a peaceful dinner, LOL.
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Old 07-18-2010, 04:35 AM
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Well while we are eating they are put on the bed or on the couch and told to stay. It's when we have to leave the room for a moment that there's a problem. LOL I'm just going to do everything I can to make sure they aren't left alone with food within reach at all.
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