Okaw Veterinary Clinic LLC

140 West Sale Street
Tuscola, IL 61953



  Cut the Counter Cruising 


It amazes many pet owners how their dog or cat can get into things on the counters, especially in the kitchen. Sometimes the foods or medications a pet can knock off the counter and chew up can be harmful. Even non harmful items (say a loaf of bread) can be very frustrating to lose to your pet. There are ways to keep your pets off the counter that do work without resorting to punishment. A little understanding about why our pets get up there, even when we tell them no, may help us humans to keep the pets off the counters.

Your family may think you are crazy, but  try this. Crouch down to about the height of your pet's eyes and nose. Take a look at your counter now. Take a look at the floor directly below the edge of the counter. Do you see food crumbs? If you could smell 100 - 1000 times better than you can as a human, do you think that counter would be really enticing? If what you smelled and ate off the floor smelled like the counter would you want to get up there to investigate? All the answers to these questions are yes. This is our pet's view. Even cats and toy dogs have a pretty good idea of what is on the counter even though they cannot see it. They can smell it. 

For the toy breed dogs, they really can't get much off the counter.  This is where they may wait for the cat to get up there and knock something down or if you have a bigger dog, the big dog knocks something over and the little dog eats it up before the big dog gets much. They may be working like partners in crime. The little dog may be calling attention by pawing at the cabinets or barking at the counter when you are gone, thereby alerting the other pet to get up on the counter. So be ware when you have small dogs that the little one is not always innocent. 

Any dog who's nose can come within inches of the edge of any counter is in smell heaven. Not only the food presently on the counter, but past foods, hands touching the counter and the sight of bowls, cereal boxes, and plates tells them food is near. Certain foods such as chocolate, cinnamon, cheese, or anything with meat in it is very enticing.  If it smells good to you, it smells fantastic to your pet. No matter how far back you push the item on the counter, it is so rich in smells it is too much for many pets resist. If you could watch a video on how a dog or cat will stretch it's paws while standing on the hind legs to get at the corner of the saran wrap around leftover pizza you would not believe it. I have even seen dogs that pull out a lower drawer and stand on it to get more height to get at wrapped food on the counter. Certain foods are toxic to pets. The big concern near Halloween is chocolate. This is very rich in smells and will entice even the most uninterested dog. Keep all your chocolate up on a wall shelf or in a cabinet. This includes chocolate baked goods.

Cats are usually more picky than dogs, but will still get up on the counter for certain things. Any meat, fish or cheesy smell will usually get them up there. Cats are very agile and can climb into the most unusual areas, including the top of the refrigerator. Chocolate is a problem for cats too, but a big problem is medicine left out on a plate, or bottles that caps come off easily. The cat may not be going after the medication but will knock it down on the way to the tuna salad left on the plate in the sink. Now the dropped pill is interesting, and the cat may go over and mouth or eat the medication. Cats can not metabolize many medications so keep all meds up in a cabinet with tops secure.

How do you keep your  pets off the counter without resorting to punishment? First of all keep all food off the counter when it is not being prepared or eaten by family. Have snap tight containers on shelves or ones that lock so if they get knocked over they do not open. I found a retro cake safe by Mirro made out of metal. It not only snaps close, it locks completely shut! See it on our face book and website page. This is great because the smells do not leak out and it cannot be chewed like plastic. So try to find metal holders for baked goods. Store the baked goods in the refrigerator if possible or on a high cabinet shelf.   

While you are eating enforce that the pets stay off the counters by baby gating them out of the room, praise them for not getting on the counter, and offer them something good on the floor (they eat when you eat) so there is not much fun or point on going to the counter.  You can also tie your dog to a leash at the table to enforce no counter cruising. Motion activated air spray cans that work for cats and dogs that do not depend on you to shoot at them so the negative (which is mild) is not associated with you. If your pet can not get into eating the food at all, there is not reward for getting on the counter so they will learn to stay off.

Screaming, yelling, hitting the counter, and jerking the collar does  not teach them anything but to avoid counters while you are there. It can also increase anxiety and other problems such as swallowing the evidence which leads to bigger health problems such as a poisoning. It is better to find the chewed up chocolate wrappers than nothing and not knowing they ate the chocolate.

You can find videos about pet care and behavior.

 - written by Dr. Sally J. Foote

Okaw Veterinary Clinic
140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953
(217) 253-3221


Mon & Fri 8 am - 6 pm
Tues & Wed 8 am - 5 pm
Sat 8 am - noon
Closed Thurs & Sun

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