One of our favorite things to see is a dog continue to do a behavior because the behavior has been reinforced in the past. Dogs do what works. If jumping up on the counter results in getting food or grabbing something that then turns into a game of keep away, he is going to keep doing it. If lying down on a bed results in getting intermittent food rewards, you’ll start to see more of that.
If you want your dog to start making decisions on his own that you prefer, focus on rewarding whatever behavior you want to see more of. Do yourself a favor too and have your dog go to the same spot to do this behavior. Here is an example of how to get your dog to automatically lie down on his bed while you’re both in the kitchen:
Teach your dog where you’d like him to go and have him lie down there. We suggest using a mat or a bed for this. To do this, take a treat and guide your dog over to that spot and then give it to him. Next, ask him to lie down and treat again.
Now it’s time to introduce distractions. With your dog lying down, take a treat and start it as his nose and then pull it away so it is being dangled near his face for one second. If he stays down and patiently waits, deliver the treat right into his mouth. Repeat this so that he is successful five times in a row. If at any point he goes for it, tell him, ”too bad” and snatch the treat away. Place him back into the down and try again. From there, you’ll want to increase the difficultly by doing three second dangles followed by placing the food on the floor. Follow the same rules and he will succeed quickly.
Once he is able to stay with food as a distraction, practice walking around him. We recommend doing one step at a time and making sure he gets five in a row before adding in another step. Remember to reward each rep!
Now that he can stay while things are distracting him and while you walk around him, it’s time to walk away from him. Ask him to “stay” and walk six feet away. Return and reward. Repeat five times. Once successful five times in a row, walk all the way across the room and return and reward.
The last piece of the puzzle is having him lie down and stay while you reward him at random intervals. Start off by rewarding him on average of every twenty seconds. If he is successful, increase to on average every thirty second. Continue to build off of that so that the rewards end up coming every five minutes or so.
Now that we’ve taught all of this, all we have to do is be consistent. Whenever you’re in the kitchen and he enters, ask him to go to his bed and reward him for going there. Reward him at random intervals as stated in Step 4. With repetition and consistency, he will eventually start entering and head right to his bed. This kitchen example is great for preventing counter surfing.