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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 17019
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 16+ years
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Our 2-year-old hunting dog has been taking food from the counter

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Our 2-year-old hunting dog has been taking food from the counter in our kitchen and from the table. We like giving our dog free run in our house, but realize that we must now kennel him whenever there is food in the kitchen. We have trained him to go to his kennel when we eat, which he does without prompting now. But, if we accidentally leave food in the kitchen for just a minute while we run to the garden for an herb or to the garage or storage to grab something, he is likely to take food from the counter. (He's a big dog.) Is there anything we can do to train him, or do we just have to be food police and kennel him when we start preparing food and leave him there as long as there is food out?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.
Hi JaCustomer,

My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

There are a few things you can do. The first is a quick fix and might be something you want to use while you are training so he physically can not jump up to get the food. It is called a no jump harness. You can see one here:http://www.petnovate.com/

This will prevent him from being able to jump up and take the item off the counter. If you don't use the harness, attach a long leash to him that you can attach the other end to something close to the door that you will be exiting from. You can go ahead and leave not so desirable items on the counter and walk out of the room and come back in pretty quick. If he doesn't take the food, reward him with something like a hot dog sliver or liver sliver which most dogs love and are considered high value treats. I believe in a balanced approach to training which rewards good behavior and reprimands bad behavior. The problem is you need to catch them in the act in order to repimand them. So initially you want to come in quickly to catch him trying to take the items off the counter. If you catch him, give a short tug on the leash and a firm "NO". If you use the harness, the harness will prevent him from jumping so you just need to give the NO if he tries to jump.

After a few times of trying or reprimands right in a row, he should start understanding what you do NOT want him doing and keep his feet on the ground. Then you want to give him a treat each time he doesn't try and take the food. After a couple of days of training where he doesn't try to jump up and get the food when you are gone for just a few seconds, slowing increase the time you are out of the room to a minute, then several minutes working up to longer periods of time. Remember to reward good behavior with the treats each time initially and still reward occasionally. Also you need to move slowly with this method.

Some owners just use the harness to control the behavior and don't train, but I feel you need to couple the training with the harness. Another option is an indoor fence system. It uses a transmitting unit that creates a field around the area you want the dog to stay out of. If the dog enters the field a mild shock is delivered via the collar which is the reprimand. these are effective and it is the unexpectedness of the shock that is the reprimand rather than the intesity of the shock. For this reason I recommend owners allow themselves to be shocked so they know what the dog feels.http://www.radiofence.com/petsafe-pawz-away-indoor-pet-barrier/

They also make scat mats that might be effective in this situation. They also use a shock as a reprimand and you could put them around the counters so the dog would need to step on them to jump up and that would give the reprimand just for the dog being that close to the counter. YOu can see the scat mat here"http://www.wag.com/dog/p/scat-mat-sofa-protection-60-x12-108187

I have given you a few different ideas to try and I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have ..

If you have questions in the future that you wish me to answer, you may go here http://www.justanswer.com/pet/expert-jane-lefler/ and bookmark the page or make it a favorite. It is best to put my name "JANE" in the question as well. Please recommend me to your friends and family members if they have any problems with their dog as well. I would truly appreciate it.
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 17019
Experience: Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 16+ years
Jane Lefler and other Dog Training Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX look into the mat, indoor fence, and harness to decide what steps to take. We realize that taking available food is a natural instinct for a dog and he must be taught new behavior. You have given us some very good ideas and appreciate your help. And, we will contact you if we need further instructions.

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Jane Lefler
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Dog Trainer
17019 Satisfied Customers
Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 16+ years