Counter Surfing

How to teach Counter Surfing.

  • Step 1: Cover a pile of treats with your hand - Place a pile of treats on the edge of a bench/seat/coffee table, etc. It must be of a height where your dog's head can reach and they could "steal" the treats. Cover the pile of treats with your hand. 

  • Step 2: Ignore any interaction with your hand - Your dog is probably going to try and nuzzle your hand away, paw at it or jump up to try and get to the treats. This is okay, just ignore the behaviour (don't say or do anything). Just make sure that you have a good cover over the treats so your dog can't sneak one. 

  • Step 3: Bridge the back-off - If they back off from your hand covering the treats, immediately bridge and pick up a treat from the pile and toss it behind and away from your dog for them to chase and get. Repeat this a couple of times.

  • Step 4: Continue until they intentionally stay away - Repeat the above process but as your dog is away getting the treat you tossed, take your hand off the pile so that it is uncovered and wait to see what choice your dog makes when they come back. If they advance towards the pile, just cover it quickly with your hand (do not say anything) and wait for your dog to backup again. Bridge when they do and toss a treat from the pile. If they hesitate or stop on approach back to the treats, immediately bridge and pick up a treat from the pile and toss it away. Slowly they should start stopping further away from the pile of treats. This is what we are looking for, as it is a conscious decision from your dog to not advance or eat the treats. That is definition of 'impulse control'. Repeat this step until there are no treats left in your pile on the bench/seat/coffee table. Do not uncover and cover the treats between each repetition. The only time your hand is to cover, is if you dog were to advance towards the treats. If your dog has impulse control and continues to stay away from the pile, keep it uncovered and the treats on offer for the game to continue. 

  • Step 5: Introduce a sit - With the treats uncovered, toss a treat away and now increase the criteria by waiting for your dog to offer a sit when they return. Bridge the moment they sit. Reward by throwing a treat behind and away from your dog. Repeat until your dog does not hesitate to sit when they return. 

  • Step 6: Introduce distance from the treats - When you are confident that your dog will stay away from the pile of food and offer a sit, increase criteria by slowly moving yourself further from the pile of treats over many repetition. In this step your dog will quickly be closer to the pile of treats than you are. Bridge your dog for returning but not advancing to the pile and offering a sit with you at a distance from the treats. Walk back to the pile of treats to reward by picking one up and tossing it away for your dog to get. Move away again from the treats. 

    *Handy Tip: Dog's can become sneaky in this step and fill you with a false sense of security but then quickly lunge forward out of nowhere and sneak a treat from the pile. You can not do anything to stop it as for this step you are physically too far from the pile to beat your dog back to cover the treats. This is not a naughty behaviour they are opportunists after all and just need a stronger bigger bank of why not eating the treats is worth it and more valuable. Until you are confident your dog is seamless at the behaviour no matter how far away from the pile of treats you are. You can either utilise the help of another people or have your dog on a long lead. The only role the other person plays, is to hang around near the pile of treats while you move further away ready to quickly race in to cover the treats with their hand. The only role the lead plays is to allow your dog movement but a way for you to prevent snatching.  You ca either grab or step on it quickly before they can get to the pile of treats. There is to be no tension on the lead from you, the only tension will come when your dog hits the end of the lead after you grab or step on it when they are advancing forwards to get the treats. Do not say anything to your dog and definitely do not jerk the lead back. You want your dog to learn themselves. 

  • Step 7: Increase time between rewards - You can make the game a bit harder by pausing a bit longer between rewards. To do this your dog will have to hold the sit whilst looking at the pile of treats without advancing for increasing amounts of time before you bridge and reward. Essentially you are asking for more self control for the same reward.

  • Step 8: Proof the behaviour - Think duration, distance and distraction. Combine duration and distance from the pile of treats by walking away and around your dog. Add in distraction by playing with the pile of treats to tease them. Bridge if they continue to hold a sit and do not advance towards the pile of treats. Return and reward by tossing a treat away for them to get. Also, generalise it across different surfaces such as kitchen table, kitchen bench, etc.