Counter Surfing and Garbage Gut in dogs

Counter Surfing and Garbage Gut in dogs

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When I think about counter surfing and garbage gut in dogs I think about Kensington (Kensie). She was a beautiful golden retriever that we cared for with our Family Boarding for years until the family moved to Florida. She was like my golden retriever’s kid sister.  They adored each other. I am pretty sure Kensie loved it when her parents traveled and she could move in with Louie.

Kensie had a super bad habit. She was a counter surfer. Like no other. She was super sneaky about it. I can’t tell you how many sticks of butter she snagged in the middle of cooking before I realized it.

That was when we were first getting to know each other. I realize quickly I had a pro counter surfer in the house and had to adjust the way I did things. Counter surfers are happy to forage in trash cans and that can quickly lead to a situation known fondly in the veterinary field as “garbage gut”.

Dogs have pretty sturdy digestive systems. Over-consumption and access to table scraps, trash, spoiled foods, and raw meat can lead to some unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting. In many cases these dogs need a visit to the veterinarian for treatment.


  • Keep food and other items out of reach.  Prevention is always the best option.  Keep counters clear of food, so there’s nothing to steal.  Problem solved!  Sounds easy, right? It can be more challenging with multiple people in the house (especially kids as I have personally noticed)
  • Make sure to supervise your dog when food is out.  Providing instant feedback will teach your dog that stealing food is not the right thing to do.  If you’re not going to be home, make sure your dog can’t get into the kitchen.  Once he gets rewarded positively for stealing food, it will be even more challenging to get him to stop.
  • Never give your dog scraps from your dinner plate or when you are preparing dinner.  Always put all food for your dog in his or her bowl.  That way, he learns the only place food comes from is his bowl.
  • Never chase or give attention to your dog when he counter surfs…many times he’s just looking for attention and a game of chase is a positive reward for stealing food.
  • Teach your dog the command, “Leave It.”    This can be taught in various ways, but your dog simply learns that when you say “leave it,” that means he should leave whatever he’s trying to get.
  • Since most counter surfing happens in the kitchen, provide a place for your dog to lay while in the kitchen…a bed or pillow off to the side can be ideal.  Whenever your dog starts sniffing around, send him to his “spot” and away from the counter.   This can be a good time to reward your dog with a treat.  That way he associates his “spot” as a positive place to be.
  • Many people will choose to kennel during meal prep and meal times. There is also an option to baby gate your dog outside the food area.

Hopefully, one or more of these ideas can help you train your pet to stop counter surfing.  Counter surfing and the possibility of garbage gut is preventable with supervision and persistence.

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