How to stop your dog counter surfing, by expert trainer Ben Randall

This week, our A-list dog trainer Ben Randall tells us how to stop our dogs from getting on the kitchen worktops.

Dogs who live in the house (and let’s face it, most do these days) are not daft and very quickly work out that kitchen counters offer rich pickings in terms of food and other rewards.

This is the dilemma being faced by J.H., who has written to us from North Yorkshire via our email address, to ask how best to stop his greedy Labradors from jumping up and having a good nose at what — or what not — might be worth sniffing and investigating on the worktops. 

Dear Ben,

I have two relatively well-trained labradors, who I take out shooting with me during the season. However, my issue is one that has developed recently after I moved to a new house. 

Like all labs, they are pretty food motivated, but they never try to steal any of my meals, either from the table or when I am cooking in the kitchen. This therefore might sound a bit odd, but, ever since I moved into a new place a few weeks ago, my younger dog in particular is very interested in what’s on the worktops and often jumps up to have a good look and a sniff, even though he never actually takes anything. 

What can I do to prevent him from doing this, please? Especially as my older dog has decided it’s a great idea, too. If I catch them in the act and tick them off, they look sheepish, because they know I don’t want them to do it and yet still they persist — help! Any advice would be appreciated. 

J.H., via email

Thanks so much for your letter, J.H. and please don’t be too concerned about this annoying habit that your labs have developed. I’ve been perfecting my BG (Beggarbush) foundation methods for nearly 20 years and understand that even experienced dog owners come up against issues that they are not sure how to handle.

However, with a little common sense and patience, it won’t take long for you to stop your two scanning the kitchen worktops for any interesting opportunities. You can learn more via @beggarbush on Instagram and my dog-training app (this link will let you get a free trial) or ask me your own question by emailing

Recommended videos for you

You’ve mentioned that, although this new habit is irritating and undesirable, your younger dog, in particular, is not actually counter surfing for food and that, if there is a meal or a hot drink there, he doesn’t touch it, which is positive, as it proves that your training to date has been working. 

You also say that you have recently moved home and I think this this could be the real issue here. Remember, a dog’s nose is nearly 10,000 times more powerful than our own and I suspect that this is your dog’s way of investigating his new surroundings. He’s sniffing, jumping up and having a good rummage about in order to work out and feel more comfortable in his new environment. However, as he’s jumping up and possibly scratching and potentially breaking things, this needs to stop — and fast.

Ben’s top three tips for stopping your dog counter surfing

1. Teach the essential and potentially life-saving ‘leave’ command

As with so much of my advice, teaching or reinforcing the ‘leave’ command is the best way to curb your dogs’ enthusiasm for wondering what’s of interest on your kitchen worktops. It’s also key in establishing a new positive routine, because dogs — just like us humans — thrive on routine and structure. In addition, once your dogs know the ‘leave’ command, you’ll be able to prevent them from eating anything that falls on the floor, which could potentially save their lives, especially if the item (such as dark chocolate or human medication) is toxic to dogs.

Who? Me? No, I haven’t seen your dinner. Credit: Getty

2. Create a new, positive narrative that’s more exciting than your worktops

Once you’ve spent a few weeks perfecting your boys’ response to the ‘leave’ command and they are acting on it happily and quickly, I’d place their beds in certain positions in each room, along with a chew (such as a red deer antler) or a toy that they only have access to when they are on their beds. Bear with me, as, although this might sound a little odd, it’s a great way of building a new scenario around their desire to investigate the kitchen worktops. The next time they show any interest on anything on the side, whether it be bags of grocery shopping or a newly-made cup of coffee, tell them to get ‘in’ their beds (you can read how to teach this command, here) and give them their chew, which will encourage them to settle, relax and be less focussed on what you are doing or what might pique their interest on the worktop. If you are consistent in implementing this several times a day, this will soon become a way of life for your dogs when entering or spending time in each room.

3. What do I do if they occasionally transgress and start jumping up again?

If, after a few weeks of instilling this new routine, you catch either of them having a sneaky peek on the worktop when you are out of the room, quickly walk towards your dogs, give the ‘leave’ command, point at your their bed or beds, issue the ‘in’ command and reward them with their chew, a piece of kibble or some calm praise. I promise that, if you persist, they’ll soon realise that more good will come of remaining calmly on their beds than sticking their noses into your shopping bags. 

I wish you all the best with teaching your two boys this regime and that you all soon settle into your new cottage. I feel sure that, once you have been following this guidance for a few weeks, they will calm down and relax, as they know this is their permanent home and their good behaviour is positively rewarded. Good luck with your new chapter and do let me know how you get on with this training regime.

Ben Randall’s book, ‘How to Train Your Gundog’, is out now. You can order it here for £40.

For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit