You’re picking up after the kids in the family room when you hear sounds coming from the kitchen….where your dinner roast is cooling on the countertop. You have a sinking feeling that your dog is about to make a meal out of your dinner.
You’re a “positive” trainer who doesn’t use fear, intimidation, or physical force to train your dog.
You enter the kitchen to see what is happening and your worst fear is confirmed – your dog is well up on the kitchen counter and heading for your roast.
What do you do?
Wait a sec – I have to change that around a bit, because I have no idea what you do. Let’s talk about what I’d do.
So, what would I do?
Protect my dinner!
There is a snowball’s chance in hell that I’m going to stand there helplessly, watching my dog eat my dinner, so that I can avoid any unhappiness in my dog.
My dogs do not have more rights than I do.
My dogs do not have more rights than my children either. And if I came in the kitchen and I found my child sitting on the counter, about to eat the cake that I had sitting there….
I’d put a stop to that too, lickety split!
HOW I put a stop to that would depend on the dog or the child. Ideally, I’d do exactly what needed to be done to interrupt the behavior. (By the way, that is what this is called – an “interrupter”).
That interrupter could vary anywhere from saying “eeek!!!!” for a softer dog, to physically taking hold of the dog and pulling my roast right back out of their mouth for a harder or more determined dog.
At which point I might not really want to eat it – but damn it – the dog isn’t going to eat it either.
Going forwards – put the roast somewhere else while your dog learns not to get on counters. All of mine do figure that out but in all fairness, it’s generally not a good idea to leave a hunk of hot steaming meat on the edge of the counter. At the very least, your dog might start licking the bottom and you’ll never know about that. But it’s still disgusting.
My dogs are not allowed on my table or counters – if I find them up there, I’m going to handle it like I would a toddler – I’m going to remove them very quickly and I’m very likely to be saying something as I move in – how forceful I am is totally dependent on the dog. No, this will not scare them, or at least not if you know your dog and what gets their attention. But it will certainly put them on notice that you have an opinion about their behavior.
This action may or may not train your dog. If your dog cares what you think, then they may well never touch your food on the counters again. If your dog does not care what you think, then you might actually have to put some time into teaching your dogs that food on the counters is not for them. Or just manage the situation – no tempting food on the edges of the counters.
Positive does not mean becoming paralyzed when something is happening that you don’t like. Deal with the situation. Decide if you want to move forwards with management (no food on counters) or training (when food is on the counters the dog is taught an alternative behavior like staying out of the kitchen or on a mat).
Going forwards…what’s your plan?
On another note, registration starts at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy on March 22nd – check out the schedule and come join us if something looks interesting!: Class Schedule at FDSA