Now that the holidays are over, we’re going to return to our series about service dog house manners. So far, we’ve discussed general house manners (Mind Your Manners) and no jumping (Four on the Floor: Training YourDog Not to Jump). Since it’s getting close to lunch time, and we’re feeling a little hungry, we’re going to talk about canine kitchen manners, specifically manners during people food preparation and countersufing.
Contrary to what many dogs might wish, countersufing (jumping on counters to investigate and/or steal something) is not a canine sport. Our dog learn that they must ignore things on the counter and stay out of the way when their puppy raiser or partner is preparing food.
During food preparation for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, dogs should not be underfoot, standing next to you, or sniffing at the counter. In fact, you should be able to leave food on the counter and walk away without your dog countersurfing or stealing the food. You should be able to leave steaks out to thaw all afternoon or store your apples in a fruit basket without worrying that your dog will jump up and swipe them.
To teach good kitchen manners, we start by leaving young puppies in a crate in the room while we’re preparing food. Once they learn the “go to bed” cue, we can use that to keep the dogs in one spot. “Go to bed” means that the dog goes to a designated bed or blanket, which can be in the kitchen, lies down, and stays there.
If the puppy is out of his crate and starts sniffing or jumping on the counter, we use an “eh eh” sound to let them know they shouldn’t be doing that behavior, and we reward them when they keep all four paws on the floor.
If an older dog jumps up on the counter, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a loud “Hey!” and gently use their collar to pull them off. These rules about countersurfing apply for food, toys, and anything on the counter or table.
It’s very important to teach a dog not to investigate counters and tables. A dog that countersurfs may not be able to be placed as a working service dog. Their future partner may not have the physical strength to remove the dog from the counter. Plus, service dogs are supposed to fit seamlessly into their partners’ lives and to help them be more independent. Providing someone with a countersurfing service dog would only add additional stress to their lives.
By teaching service puppies in training that countersurfing is not a sport, they will be well on their way to becoming a service dog and changing someone’s life.