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17 Tips To Stop Your Dog From Stealing Food Off The Counter

Dog Stealing Food Off Counter

Your dog is your partner in crime…

But sometimes, they like doing sneaky things on their own…

Like stealing your food off the table.

It makes you think, how can you put a stop to this betrayal?

Continue reading to discover:

  • The reason why your dog steals food off the counter.
  • 17 tips to stop your dog from stealing food from the counter.
  • 3 training methods that’ll help you curb counter-surfing behavior in your dog.
  • And much, much more…

Why does my dog steal food off the counter?

Your dog steals food off the counter due to a natural urge. It’s from their time in the wild where they had to scavenge for food. Sometimes, your canine is hungry, bored, stressed, or anxious. Other times, it’s the chance to steal or a reflection of their lack of training or personality.  

How do I stop my dog from stealing food from the counter? 17 tips

#1: The empty bird feeder effect

This technique is coined by dog trainer Kathy Santo from AKC Family Dog.

She calls it ‘the Empty Bird Feeder Effect.‘ 

And the idea of it is:

Birds will eventually stop coming around if you stop refilling the bird feeder.

Now, let’s apply that to this scenario…

So, if there’s no food to steal, there’ll be no thievin’ for Fido.

With that, you must remove food from any counter or tabletop.

And don’t forget to put food away when you’re done preparing your meal.

Make it a habit to set everything back on the refrigerator, pantry, or kitchen cabinet.

And by removing the opportunity, your pooch won’t have anything to steal. Thus, stopping the behavior.

#2: Keep food out of their reach

It’s not always avoidable…

There’ll be times when you have to keep food on the table.

And sometimes, you might forget your habit of not leaving food on the counter. 

Don’t worry…

You’re human, and you tend to forget things sometimes…

Moreover, you’re still bound to keep a few foods on the counter as well.

There might be no more space anywhere else…

With that, how can you still prevent Fido from stealing food?

The answer lies in restricting your fur baby’s access to food.

You can do so by practicing the following:

Method #1: Keep food out of their reach.


You’ll just have to push the food as far as the counter allows.

Note: This will work if your dog is medium-sized.

But if your pooch is a large one…

Then, uh-oh…

This method might not put a stop to their thieving.

Just like what happened to this Goldie. But little did she knows, her dog parent caught her on camera:

Method #2: Put boundaries around the kitchen.

That part of the house is where most of the heist happens…

So, put a perimeter around it.

Putting a baby gate around your kitchen will do. 

#3: Clean everything up

Let’s go back a little…

Remember ‘the Empty Bird Feeder Effect’?

Well, there’s something more that dog trainer Santo teaches us…

Again, the first rule is to remove the opportunity.

Now, you gotta practice that really seriously…

So, even crumbs should be off the table (pun intended).

With that, you must clean everything up after each meal preparation.

The reason for this is to remove all temptations for Fido totally.

Moreover, this practice might be more important than you think.

How so?

Research gives us an idea of how powerful the noses of dogs are.

According to it, the odor detection ability of dogs is up to 100,000 times better than the average human.

So with that much power on their nose…

Oh, it’s sure that even crumbs can call on Fido.

With that, clear it all up before your pooch tries to checkout the leftover bits.

#4: Keep them well-fed

Stealing food off the countertops is also called ‘counter surfing.

And most of the time, the reason for such is hunger.

Yep, your pooch is just plain hungry…

Moreover, dogs are natural scavengers.

That’s how their ancestors survived in the wild. 

They see food somewhere, and then they secure it for their pack. Whatever it is, it’s their next meal.

So, put hunger and the instinctual urge together…

And you’ll get a pooch that has a thirst for such heist.

Now, you can’t get rid of that urge of them. It’s because it’s in their DNA, and they’ll pass it down to their offspring.

With that, you must focus on what you can change…

And that’s their hunger.

So to avoid it, you must keep your fur baby well-fed.

Moreover, ensure proper nutrition in your pooch.

Let’s talk about dog nutrition

Feeding your dog their exact nutritional needs can go a long way…

First, it keeps your dog healthy. With that, they’re less likely to experience any illnesses.

Then, proper nutrition can also help you curb unwanted behaviors.

And it can specifically help with this problem…

When your pooch receives proper nutrition, they’re less likely to be hungry.

They’re gonna be all set that they might not get tempted at all.

So, here’s how to ensure property nutrition on your pooch:

Reminder #1: Stick on the essentials.

According to VCA Hospitals, these are the basic nutrients that your dog needs:

  • Fats.
  • Water.
  • Proteins.
  • Minerals.
  • Vitamins.
  • Carbohydrates.

Reminder #2: Choose high-quality food.

You don’t have to go over your budget here…

Just make sure to provide the highest-quality dog food that your wallet can handle.

That’s because high-quality food ensures proper nutrients.

Moreover, it has fewer preservatives and additives.

Reminder #3: Feed them fruits and vegetables.

Those are called functional foods.

And according to research, frequent feeding of those can improve Fido’s overall health.

It’s talking about ways like improving your doggo’s brain functions.

#5: Establish meal schedules

Establish Meal Schedules To Stop Your Dog From Stealing Food From The Counter

Apart from ensuring proper nutrition, take note of this as well…

You’ll have to establish a strict feeding schedule for your dog.

Vets say that you have to feed your pooch twice a day.

Plus, the interval between meals should be at least 12 hours.

Now, how is this helpful with counter surfing?

You see, dogs are creatures of habit. Plus, canines go crazy over food.

But when they have an established feeding schedule, they’ll know when to expect their meal.

With that, your fur baby will leave that pizza alone on the tabletop.

That’s because they know when they’re supposed to get their meal. And it’s not the moment you turn your back on the said pizza.

Note: This works best with training (see tip #11 to #14).

#6: Only feed them on their bowl

This one’s often overlooked…

Did you know? It’s not unusual for a dog to become possessive.

That’s why there exists the so-called resource guarding in dogs.

But I’m not here to expand on that…

I’ll be using resource guarding as proof of how this tip can help you.

So, you should only feed your dog using their bowl to curb counter surfing.

Moreover, train them to only eat from that dish.

Doing so will make your pooch think that whatever food’s on the bowl is theirs.

With that, they’ll become possessive over that bowl. There, they’ll expect their meals.

But most of all, they’ll think that any food that’s not on their dish is off-limits.

With that, you used their urge to your advantage. So, no more stealing food off the counter.

#7: Never fold with their begging

Ohhh, look away…

Your dog’s puppy eyes work like Medusa’s…

But instead of turning you into stone, they turn you into a softie…

And as their charm worked over you, you gave your pooch the food they’ve been asking.

Let me tell you…

Such action only reinforces stealing food off the counter.

So, fight the urge to answer to their begging.

Yep, no matter how cute they look.

That’s because giving them a taste of what you’re preparing will make them want more.

Plus, it makes them think they can have whatever you’re gonna have.

So when the time comes that you look away…

Oh, there goes the con for your little thief.

Continue reading: Dog Constantly Begging For Food: 7 Reasons + 3 Tips

#8: Stop them from being nosy

Some will be surprised by this fact:

Let me tell you…

Even the littlest actions can lead to unwanted behaviors.

Plus, those deeds are often encouraged or scoffed off.

For this issue with your dog, there’s one minor practice that can affect it…

And it’s none other than letting them sniff around.

Yep, such can encourage your pooch to steal food off the counter.


As I mentioned, dogs are natural scavengers.

That’s why they’ll tend to go on and smell everything.

When they do, they might be curious. 

And to satisfy such curiosity, sniffing isn’t enough…

Dogs will use their mouth to be familiar with a foreign thing.

That’s why a lot of dogs get allergies or poisoning.

But, let me put that aside…

You see, encouraging their sniffing reinforces their scavenging urge.

And as I said, such is impossible to remove.

But, you can manage it.

One way to do it is to stop your pooch from exploring around using their nose.

Then, they’ll learn that scavenging is discouraged. And that you’re supposed to be their only source of food.

#9: Keep them active and stimulated

Keep Them Active And Stimulated

Sometimes, your canine will do things out of boredom…


Well, dogs are social animals.

They need a load of stimulation and exercise.

And if those aren’t given to them, you can expect them to act undesirably.

That’s because they’re going to have a lot of energy at their expense.

With that, your pooch chose to use it to scavenge.

Thus, begins the heist for food.

And as they see some lying on the counter…

Mhmm, target spotted for Fido.

Now, to avoid this, you must keep your pooch active.

Make sure that you exercise them regularly. 

“How much exercise do they need, then?”

Unfortunately, the answer to that isn’t simple.

That’s because every dog is unique.

With that, they have different requirements. 

Moreover, some factors affect that need. Namely:

  • Age.
  • Size.
  • Breed.
  • Health condition.

But all in all, the range will fall between 20 to 60 minutes.

Oh, wait…

That’s not all…

Your dog also requires mental stimulation

If they lack that, it can result in boredom.

Now, a bored dog will look for activities that can satisfy their need for stimulation.

And you’re here because of an undesirable result of boredom…

So if you wanna stop counter surfing, mentally stimulate your dog.

You can do so by providing them with interactive toys.

I recommend a treat puzzle. So, not only is it a toy, but it also dispenses snacks.

With that, it’s a sure goodbye to them stealing your snack off the counter. 

#10: Don’t punish them


You’ve wanted to eat so badly…

Finally, the food has arrived.

You set it down the counter to prepare your utensils.

But when you go back, the food is being eaten by your pooch.

And as you’re really hungry, you can’t help but react.

So, you hit Fido and scold them.

I know it’s a tough situation to handle. You really wanted that food…

But neither of you needed the infliction of any anger or pain.

With that, punishment would never be the answer to this.

That’s because it doesn’t solve the problem at all.

And next time, your pooch would only try to steal food when you aren’t around. 

Or if you live with other people, Fido’s gonna continue being a thief. Not just with your food.

Moreover, this study tells us that punishment compromises your dog’s welfare.

According to their findings, punishment puts the dog in a state of anxiety. 

Then, that can lead to more undesirable behaviors.

So, you might see improvement in their counter surfing…

But you might also notice your pooch being disagreeable in other ways.

Read also: 13 Reasons Why You Should NEVER Hit Your Dog (Check #7)

#11: Settle them first

Teach your dog that counter surfing isn’t rewarding…

Instead, train them that staying put is the key for such.

Here’s what you should do:

Before preparing any meal, focus on your pooch first.

Make them ‘sit’ or ‘lie down.’

That’s where you give them the treat and tell them to stay there.

Note: You can also use this opportunity to let them play with the interactive toy I recommended.

And as they keep themself busy or they behave, proceed to your meal prep.

#12: Let them stay on their crate

There’ll be times that this practice is necessary…

Say that your dog is well-trained. You’ve also mastered tip #11 with them.

But your pooch isn’t as rational as you.

And sometimes, they can have a momentary lapse of judgment…

With that, no matter how well-trained they are, counter-surfing might still bother you.

So to totally avoid it, you can put Fido on a crate. Do so every time you’re preparing food or you and your family’s eating.

#13: Put them in their place

This is a little similar to tip #11…

But this one involves a specific place…

You’ll still have to settle your pooch and give them a treat for behaving.

But this time, include a specific area.

It can be their dog bed or a corner you’ve picked.

So whenever you’re going to get or make food, send Fido to the spot. 

Tell them to stay there and wait. And if they can, they can watch you, whether closely or afar.

But when you allow the latter, make sure to toughen your heart, okay? That’s because they still might beg you to give them a bite of whatever you’re munching on.

After you prepare and eat, that’s where you let them free. And to help even further, you can reward their good behavior with treats.

#14: Train them to ‘leave it’

Tip toe…tip toe…

Sniff, sniff, sniff…


That’s Fido trying to be a scavenger.

Catch them in the act before their mission becomes a success.


Let out an authoritative command whenever they try to steal food off the counter.

Tell your canine to ‘leave it!’

Then, practice tips #11 and #12 together.

Settle them down somewhere and let them stay there. Tell them to behave.

Then, put away the food that they tried so hard to get. 

#15: Dog treat camera

How about receiving a helping hand from technology?

You can invest in this gadget that’s gaining popularity…

It’s called a dog treat camera…

What it does is reward your dog appropriately. 

Moreover, it can observe your dog’s behaviors.

And you can have it set as some kind of watcher.

So when Fido tries to steal food off the counter, the camera will catch them in the act.

Then, you can program it to send an alert when your pupper’s caught red-handed.

With that, you’ve got some help in monitoring your dog’s behaviors.

Plus, it also assists you with rewarding appropriate habits.

Here’s a cool recommendation for a dog treat camera. If you have an Alexa, I suggest this even further as they’re compatible with each other.

#16: Booby traps

Did you know? A dog’s memory lies in associating events and objects.

It’s called associative memory. 

How does it work?

Well, a dog will remember you by what they experience with you.

For example, your canine will remember your scent. And with that, they relate your smell to the moments you had with them.

Moreover, they can associate certain behaviors and consequences.

So, use that to your advantage…

Set up a booby trap that’ll stop your dog from stealing food off the counter again.

Booby trap idea

Step #1: Wrap a thin string on your dog’s favorite snack. It can be a piece of meat or a treat.

Then, tie the other end of the string to a plastic cup. (Trust me on using a plastic cup. I’ll explain it later on).

Step #2: Set more plastic cups above the one that has the string tied on it. The best formation of the cups would be a pyramid.

Step #3: Wait for your pooch to get tempted.

When they reach out for the snack, they’re gonna knock over the cups.

With that, they’ll be startled.

In the long run, they’ll be afraid of such from happening again. So, they’re not gonna try to just reach for whatever’s laid out there.

Note: I highly recommend using plastic cups only.

Some will suggest using beer cans. However, those will create a loud noise.

Now, dogs fear any loud and sudden noises…

So, the booby trap can create anxiety in your dog. It might make your dog more paranoid.

#17: Consult their vet

You can say proudly that your pooch is fed the highest quality food you can afford. Plus, they have a strict feeding schedule.

Then, they’re also well-trained.

But suddenly, they start stealing food off the counter.

If everything’s well on your part, then the behavior can be caused by a medical issue.

Unfortunately, some diseases or disorders cause your pooch to be more hungry. 

And as a creature who always answers nature’s calls, your pup will eat and eat. 

They’ll munch on anything they can reach.

So, I suggest taking your dog to the vet. See what’s behind their ravenous appetite.

Some examples of possible diagnoses are:

  • Diabetes.
  • Cushing’s disease.
  • Insulinoma (tumor in the pancreas).