How do I get my dog to stop eating off the table?
by Ontario SPCA and Humane Society | Dog Care | February 25, 2021
When you are in the kitchen cooking or eating, you might find your dog reaching for your food. It may be due to boredom, curiosity or they just want to be involved! This is a habit to be cautious of, especially if there are items around that can be harmful to your dog.
Here are a few steps to follow to prevent your dog from eating off your table or counter:
- First, completely take away what your dog is after. Keeping your counters and tables free of food will quickly show your dog that what they desire is not present anymore. If the resource isn’t available, it will decrease the jumping up behaviours since they are not getting reinforced by “treats” they find on the table.
- Make sure to remove anything from counters and tables that can be harmful to your dog if they ingest it.
- If you have to leave food out while cooking, keep your dog out of the kitchen. This will eliminate the temptation.. Easy options include a baby gate or putting your dog in a separate room with a favourite treat during meal prep times.
- Teach your dog to go to certain places during mealtimes and never feed your dog off your plate while you are eating.
- A crate, separate room or a bed can be utilized as suitable location for this, but remember consistency is key.
- Reward your dog with a high value treat or toy when he “goes to his place.” This will reward your dog for good behaviour and give them incentive to repeat the action.
Exercising and enrichment
- Walks and playtime are very important components of your dog’s daily enrichment. Dogs who may be bored at home are more likely to seek out activities they should not, such as stealing food off the counter.
- Enrichment is important for redirecting your dog’s focus. Putting enrichment toys like a stuffed Kong or food puzzle in your dog’s bed is a self-rewarding tool that will keep your dog occupied and focused on an appropriate item.
- Using squeaky toys can be another helpful tool, but require more monitoring because you will need to take an active role in this enrichment. Squeaking a toy when you see your dog starting to sniff the counter or table is a good way to get his attention. You can then reward that attention with play or a treat away from the kitchen area that will show there are fun activities away from the food. Make sure to time the “squeak” very closely to the event to make it meaningful to the dog. If you’re “squeaking” too late after the dog starts sniffing, the dog won’t associate the sound of the squeak with the act of them “counter surfing.”
- A “leave it” verbal cue is a great tool in redirecting your dog away from food items. This cue is also important if your dog has gotten into something that could harm him. Shelter Health Pro has a “Leave it” resource to help your dog learn this verbal cue if needed.
Remember that even with training, exercise and enrichment, it is important to monitor your dog in areas of temptation, like the kitchen.
For more enrichment and positive training tips, visit shelterhealthpro.com.
Hats off to you
To all kind-hearted and hard-working people at SPCA: hats off to you. I love animals and admire the work you do.