I was revisiting a current Home Dog Training client in Dawson County to perform some follow-up work with him and Sky, his Golden Retriever.  He had rescued Sky from the Dawson County Humane Society about four months ago and Sky is doing far better than he did when we first started working together last month.  The big problem that we addressed during our first two sessions was separation anxiety.  Since Sky had been passed around between multiple homes over the prior two years, he was never sure that when my client left, if he would ever be coming back and that his environment was currently safe.  After some great, hard work on my client’s part, Sky is now great in that respect.  He feels happy and safe at home. He trusts that when my client needs to leave, that he is coming home.  The problem that my client wanted to address at our current visit was Sky’s wanting to steal food off the counter when he was making dinner.

Since separation anxiety is such a big issue to overcome, we often don’t pay attention to the smaller issues or focus on some of the finer points of relationship building and resolution control.  My client became so excited that the destruction and adrenalized situations caused by the separation anxiety were overcome, he let his guard down regarding other matters.

He let Sky jump on him when he came home and gave him little treats as he was in the kitchen making dinner.  Sky began to demand more from him and, with his success with the separation anxiety, he felt that giving in to a few things wasn’t that bad.

This is where the problem began to rear its ugly head.  He forgot that dogs focus on consistency and direction.  When he started to “give in” once in a while to his rules, that showed Sky that he was no longer being the clear leader.  Sky saw that he could begin to demand more things and successfully get them.  One of those things was the food on the kitchen counters.

My client tried to alleviate the problem of Sky’s counter surfing when he was cooking by simply pushing Sky off the counter.  In Sky’s mind, this was simply the start of a game of King of the Hill.  This simply encouraged him to jump more and try to steal his opponent’s flag (i.e. the food).  My client also tried to divert Sky’s attention by taking a piece of the food and throwing it into the family room, hoping that Sky would leave and not return.  All this did was to give Sky a sample of the prize. Sky would obviously return for the whole prize on the counter.

After my client understood that he was sending the incorrect signals to Sky, we began to work on an exercise to properly tell Sky that the kitchen is off limits when he is cooking.

We set the scene by putting some food on the counter and getting out some pots and pans.  This created the sight and smells of making a meal.  In Sky’s mind, this meant that it was time to counter surf.  We also agreed that Sky’s rule when he was cooking was to stay out of the kitchen.  We didn’t care where he was or what he was doing, just as long as he was not in the kitchen.  In maintaining this rule, my client could cook without the fear of Sky’s counter surfing.  So, here is what we did:

  • We established a “kitchen perimeter” that Sky could not cross while food and pots & pans were out for preparing dinner.
  • My client began to “pretend” make dinner while I stood guard at the perimeter.
  • As Sky approached, I would correct Sky and direct him back into the family room. It really didn’t matter where, but the family room was just the most convenient place.
  • I then moved back to the kitchen perimeter, always facing Sky to assure he would not approach.
  • If Sky began to approach again, I corrected him and guided him back. I also make sure he had a toy or some other distraction in which he could engage.
  • After Sky remained out of the kitchen, my client and I switched places.
  • If Sky tried to test the perimeter with my client, I had him repeat the correction and guide him back to a correct zone.
  • After about ten minutes of successfully keeping Sky away from the perimeter, I stepped away from the area and asked my client to perform both roles of the cook and the guard.
  • If Sky began to approach the perimeter, he needed to stop his dinner preparation and correct & direct Sky back.
  • Since we had already conditioned Sky to stay back through our combined actions, it took far less energy on my client’s part to successfully perform both actions himself.
  • I also mentioned that he could increase the distractions of “away from the kitchen” by feeding Sky his dinner while he was preparing his dinner.

Please call us at (770) 718-7704 it you are in need of any dog training help.  We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Dawson County Georgia.  Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Dawson County Georgia.