Anyone who knows me; knows that counter surfing is a big no no. My clients know how much it bothers me; they've all heard my ranting about dogs on the counter. Counter surfing is when a dog get's their paws up onto your counter and surfs around for food. Many dogs do it but there is no excuse for it; unless of course it doesn't bother you. Hey; your house, your kitchen, your counter and your dog. Makes absolutely no difference if I hate the fact that your dog gets on the counter; you live with your dog, not me. But in my house? No surfing allowed.
The biggest issue with surfing is the initial trial visits; do they result in a reason to return? Did your dog find some food up there making it an irresistible place to stay away from? Does your dog have access to the counter when you are out? If so why wouldn't they surf up there for the chance of finding a tasty morsel. The bottom line is that dogs are opportunists and if the opportunity arises to eat food from the counter; they will. That is unless you ingrain a clear message of "off limits," with regards to the counter.
It all starts from the first sniff; when you are teaching the no counter surfing lesson you have to let your dog know that the counter belongs to you and you do not share it. A sniff at the edge of the counter is the beginning of going up and onto the counter; nip it in the bud. Young dogs need to be stopped from climbing up on the cupboards to try to reach the counter. Even though it may be cute because they are little; this is just the beginning. A straight head sniff quickly turns to the head turned sniff which is the the step before going up and on, stop the first sniff.
When you are trying to teach the no surfing lesson is of utmost importance that your dog not have access to the counter when you are away. So baby gate the kitchen off, use a crate or put them in another room. If they only do it when you aren't around; this is what they learn. Size is not an issue when teaching your dog not to counter surf. Some of the worst surfers are the tiny but very ingenious dogs; the ones who figure out how to use chairs, trash cans and other objects to get up onto the counter. The line must be drawn in the sand so to speak; "this counter is mine, not yours."
Once your dog understands and would never consider jumping up onto the counter; then the sniffing rule can become more relaxed. My three will press their noses up against the counter when I get out fresh meaty raw bones but I know very well that is as far as it goes. I can leave the bones on the counter and exit the room knowing they will still be there when I return. The bones may have an audience but no one will touch them. Counter surfing is an annoying. expensive and possibly a dangerous habit. Never knowing if your stuff is safe or if you've pushed your stuff far enough back to keep your dog safe, not good.
Making a huge fuss; the big "I cannot believe you just did that," act is very important. But catching them as their first paw leaves the ground is the secret. Once they are up there and eating you've lost your chance; they are already rewarding their own bad behavior. Treating your dog for not surfing is a great way to convince them that staying off of the counter is beneficial. Using a firm AHHH if they attempt to sniff the counter and using your body language if need be. You must make it clear that the counter and it's contents are yours. Often teaching your dog to stay out of the kitchen while you are working in there is another step to help in the non counter surfing lesson. Once you can keep them out then you allow them in every so often and keep them away from the counter.
The counter needs to be a clear boundary; first in your head, then you put that fact into your dogs head.