Dogs Countersurfing: Why Does My Dog Do It and How to Stop It?

white dog waiting at the table

Ever found yourself preparing a meal, only to turn around and discover your furry friend has swiped a snack off the counter? You’re not alone. But why do dogs engage in this behavior, and more importantly, how can you prevent it?

Dogs engage in counter-surfing primarily because they’ve learned that kitchen counters can be an easy source of delicious treats. When they’re rewarded by finding food, they’re more likely to repeat this behavior, driven by their natural instincts and curiosity.

Stick around, and we’ll delve deeper into understanding this behavior and provide effective strategies to curb your dog’s counter-surfing habits, ensuring a harmonious living environment for both of you.

What is Dog Counter-Surfing?

Counter-surfing is when dogs try to get to food by jumping or reaching onto kitchen counters, tables, or other high places. Dogs do this mostly because they’re curious and the smell of food is super tempting to them. So, if there’s some pizza or chicken on the counter and a dog thinks they can reach it—they might just try.

Comparison of Counter-Surfing Behaviors in Different Dog Breeds:


Likelihood of Counter-Surfing

Typical Behavior

Large Breeds (e.g., Golden Retriever)


May place their snouts or front paws on the counter.

Medium Breeds (e.g., Beagle)


Might jump to reach food items closer to the edge.

Small Breeds (e.g., Chihuahua)


Some can jump straight from the floor onto the countertop!

Puppies & Adolescents


Curiosity and exploration can lead to counter-surfing.

Senior Dogs

Low to Moderate

Less likely due to reduced energy, but still possible if motivated.

Why Does My Dog Counter-Surf?

Understanding the reasons behind your dog’s counter-surfing can help in addressing the behavior effectively. Here are the top reasons based on dog behavior observations:

  • Natural Instinct: Dogs are scavengers by nature. Their ancestors scavenged for food, and this instinct can still be strong in our domesticated pals.
  • Temptation: The aroma of food can be too hard to resist. If they’ve ever found a tasty treat on the counter before, they might remember and try their luck again.
  • Self-Rewarding Behavior: If a dog successfully gets food from the counter even once, the behavior becomes self-rewarding. They associate the act with a positive outcome – getting food.
  • Boredom: Dogs left alone without sufficient mental and physical stimulation might resort to counter-surfing as a form of entertainment.
  • Unintentional Reinforcement: Sometimes, without realizing, we might reinforce this behavior. For instance, if we chase them away from the counter, they might perceive it as a fun game.

The Dangers of Counter-Surfing

Counter-surfing might look harmless or even amusing behavior at first, but there are some real dangers to it—for both dogs and people.

Potential Hazards for Dogs:

    • Toxic Foods: Sometimes, our counters have foods that are delicious for us but can harm dogs. If they eat these, they could get really sick or conditions can get even worse.
    • Choking Hazards: Bones or large chunks of food can pose a choking risk.
  • Digestive Issues: Even if the food isn’t harmful, some can upset a dog’s stomach, causing pain or digestion problems.

Risks for Humans:

  • Contamination: If a dog gets its mouth on the counter, it can make our food unsafe to eat, posing health risks.
  • Loss of Food: It’s frustrating to prepare a meal only to have it swiped by a sneaky snout.
  • Potential Accidents: While looking for food, dogs might push things over—like hot pots, sharp knives, or items that can break. This can hurt the dog and people around.

Top 3 Most Common Toxic Foods Dogs Might Access on Counters:

  • Chocolate: Contains theobromine, which can be toxic to dogs in large amounts.
  • Grapes and Raisins: Even small amounts can cause kidney failure in some dogs.
  • Onions and Garlic: These can lead to anemia by damaging red blood cells.

Tips to Prevent Counter-Surfing

It’s much better to stop a problem before it starts—this is true for counter-surfing dogs as well. Taking proactive steps and establishing good habits can help keep your kitchen a secure place for all.

  • Keep Counters Clean: Ensure that all counters are always clear of food. Even the smallest crumbs could attract a dog.
  • Use Airtight Containers: Place food in airtight containers, and store these in cabinets or refrigerators, well away from inquisitive dogs.
  • Extra Attention for Young Dogs: Younger dogs, such as puppies and adolescents, are more likely to engage in counter-surfing. Paying extra attention to them can help nip this behavior in the bud.
  • Prevent Access: When cooking or preparing food, be careful to keep it away from the edges of counters, so it’s not easily reachable by your dog.

Management Strategies for Dogs Who Love Counter-Surfing

Your dog has already developed the habit of counter-surfing? No worries, it’s not too late to implement some management strategies:

  • Restrict Access: An easy way is to use baby gates—this stops your dog from getting into the kitchen when you’re not there to keep an eye on them.
  • Teach Essential Commands:  Teaching your dog commands like “Leave it” and “drop it” can be super helpful. If they’re about to snatch something they shouldn’t. These commands can make them stop.
  • Be Aware of Harmful Foods: It’s super important to remember that some foods, like grapes and garlic, are bad for dogs. It’s not just about saving your snack, sometimes it’s about keeping your dog safe from foods that can harm them.

Teaching Alternative Behaviors

Addressing the counter-surfing behavior in dogs requires a combination of prevention and teaching alternative behaviors, by redirecting their attention and rewarding desired actions, you can help your dog understand what’s expected of them.

  • Praising Good Choices: Giving your dog a treat, kind words, or a fun toy when they stay away from the counter will make them realize that it’s a good choice. They’ll start to understand that doing the right thing brings fun rewards.
  • Keeping Them Busy: When you’re making food or eating, give your dog toys or special chews. This way, they’ll be distracted and also have a way to use their chewing energy.
  • Teaching a Safe Spot: Show your dog a special place they should be during meals, like their bed or a specific spot. It’s a place they’ll feel good about, and it keeps them away from tempting food on counters.

Recommended Toys and Chews for Distraction:

  • Kong toys filled with peanut butter or dog-safe treats.
  • Durable chew toys–like Nylabones.
  • Puzzle toys that challenge your dog mentally.
  • Squeaky toys for those dogs that love a good squeak.
  • Rope toys for tug-of-war and chewing.


Understanding, preventing, and managing counter-surfing is essential for the safety of your dog. And for everyone else in the house.  It’s not just a cute or funny thing dogs do. You don’t want them to eat something bad, and you want to make sure food stays clean. It’s essential to remember that every dog is different, some might learn fast while others take a bit more time. Stay committed, and soon, you’ll have a well-behaved companion who respects the boundaries of your kitchen.

Off Leash K9 Training has the patience to work on this for you!

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