Curbing Counter Surfing

Has your dog ever jumped up on the counter and stolen a snack or two? This behavior is easily created (simply by leaving food out), but a bit harder to curb! You see, dogs do what works! So when they successfully steal a tasty treat off the counter a few times, you bet they are going to continue trying!

So what do we do?



Photo from:


First things first. Prevention is important!

Prevention tip #1: Try not to leave anything out on the counter unattended. I know this is easier said than done, but it makes a big difference!

Prevention tip #2: A dog that isn’t in the kitchen, can’t counter surf! By teaching your dog that the kitchen area is off limits, you will greatly reduce if not eliminate the counter surfing issue. Depending on how your home is set up, you may choose to have the kitchen entirely off limits, or maybe the dog is only allowed in upon invitation (for example if they need to go through the kitchen area to go outside). Teaching an “Out” command is very helpful!

What if prevention fails?

Well, it’s up to us to set our dogs up for success, so as much as possible, we want to prevent the behavior from being a possibility. But, when life happens and prevention fails, we need to help our dogs understand that jumping up on the counter is NOT rewarding. They have already learned that the opposite is true (goodies are up there), so we need to focus on re-training them. This means that you need to provide an appropriate consequence for counter surfing when there is inevitably something on the counter. For most dogs, a great consequence for counter surfing is a time out. Dog jumps on counter, you say “Ah, Ah!” and immediately remove your dog from the counter and put him in a time out behind a nearby closed door for 15-30 seconds. What you are effectively telling your dog is that if you jump up on the counter, you will be immediately removed from the room, the goodies, and any social interaction.

But my dog only does it when I’m not looking (or not home)…

If your dog is only counter surfing when you aren’t in the room, I recommend setting up a sting operation. Through strategically placed mirrors or even two phones (tablets etc) on Skype, you need to set up a way to see the dog when he doesn’t think you can. Then once he jumps up on the counter, you immediately from the next room say “Ah, Ah!” and come to provide the time-out. He will learn that even if he thinks you couldn’t possibly see him, the consequences still happen. The same goes for if you dog complies with the out of the kitchen rule when you are in eyesight, but sneaks in when he thinks you can’t see him.

If your dog is only counter surfing when you aren’t home, prevention is easy! Crate your dog, confine him to another room, gate off the kitchen, don’t leave anything out etc. You could mess with scat mats or remote collars with boundary pucks, but why resort to shocking your dog (and risking injury when you aren’t home) when management is so simple?


Understanding Your Anxious Dog

Anxiety in dogs seems to be more and more common these days. That likely has something to do with the increased pace of our lives (meaning less exercise/interaction for your canine) and the increase in rules & confinement (often creating more mental frustration & a lack of social interaction). The world is also busier than ever meaning that dogs need to learn to acclimate to A LOT! Some dogs can do this easily, while others struggle greatly.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to help your anxious dog, and the first of those things is truly understanding them. Anxiety creates many behavior problems, so understanding where the behaviors are coming from and how to alleviate that anxiety will help your canine not only feel better but behave better too!


Lucky Paws Board & Train dog Finnegan. Finn struggled with anxiety related behavior problems, but she is now in a much better place due to behavior modification, training, management and the help of behavioral medicine.

What is anxiety?

If you were to pull out a dictionary, it would read something like…

Anxiety: distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune OR a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, often with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.

This means that an anxious dog suffers from an uneasy mind. They are often excessively worried about what might happen and often have reactions to things that frighten them that are not proportionate to the stimuli (similar to a panic attack). Most anxious dogs have increased sensitivity to environmental stimuli, an exaggerated startle response, hyper-vigilance, and long recovery after arousing events.

The difference between a “normal” dog and an anxious dog:

When a “normal” dog is confronted by something it doesn’t understand (hasn’t seen before, considers it may be threatening), you may see a small amount of wariness in the body language (moving slowly, lowering head, moving away slowly), but after a few moments of evaluating the situation, curiosity typically kicks in and the dog begins using his senses to investigate (assuming the thing it didn’t understand was not actually something threatening).

When an anxious dog is confronted with the same situation, there is an exaggerated startle response. The dog may physically jump back or run away, bark at the trigger and generally exaggerate the level of threat. Many anxious dogs will either take much longer to get to the point of evaluating the situation, or skip it entirely and just run away to avoid the situation. Anxious dogs generally take quite some time to fully recover from a stressful event, sometimes taking several hours (and even occasionally days) after a stressful event.

Similarly, anxious dogs are often on edge. They are hyper-vigilant, constantly scanning their environment on the lookout for something scary. The world is a continuous stream of unknowns, so when outside of their safe zone (their crate, your home etc), they are constantly scanning the horizon for the next scary thing. This makes things like walks, and field trips to the park scary events. Some dogs may decide they no longer enjoy walks or trips to the park, but many are conflicted because they enjoy being at the park or they enjoy sniffing things on the walk, so they get excited to go on the walk, even though it tends to be a fairly stressful experience for them.

Anxious dogs tend to learn at a normal level in quiet environments but really struggle to learn and comply with commands they know in busier environments, or environments with a lot of stimuli.

To an anxious dog, the world is often at least a little overwhelming (sometimes incredibly overwhelming). To an anxious dog, a quiet yard can resemble a busy amusement park but instead of everything looking fun and exciting, it’s quite overwhelming and often scary. Remember that dogs have much better hearing and smelling abilities than people, so where we may see or hear nothing, they see and hear a lot!

Helping Your Anxious Dog

Once you understand your anxious
dog and how they see the world, helping them becomes easier. We can control how we expose them to the frightening stimuli so that they can learn not only to feel more at ease in their world, but also to trust our judgement which makes them feel safer.

Use Counter Conditioning

Counter conditioning involves pairing the scary stimuli with something the dog loves (play, affection, high value food rewards etc). When you come across something that frightens your dog, begin praising your dog and even stop to feed him a few treats or play. We want him to think that great things happen when the scary thing happens. Over time, he will begin to like the scary thing because it brings great things! That means, it will no longer be a scary thing!

What to do when your dog has a strong reaction to a trigger (barking, running away etc.)

First you need to stop the reaction as quickly as possible to avoid a huge spike in stress hormones which makes it more difficult to come back down from the fear. Immediately moving the dog away from the trigger to a place where he can actually think and evaluate the situation is helpful. Once you find the location where the dog can function, try to regain the dog’s attention and use food, praise and play (counter conditioning) to get the dog in a better state of mind. Getting your dog into a better state of mind is important. We need to give your dog’s brain the ability to slow down enough to evaluate the situation instead of just immediately reacting to something he doesn’t understand.

Here are a few Dos & Don’ts for helping your anxious dog.

Refrain from harsh discipline: This doesn’t mean you never correct your dog, it only means that you control the level of the correction, especially in the presence of scary stimuli. Any time your dog is around something that makes him uncomfortable, you want to be positive. Fear and anxiety are emotions your dog doesn’t have much control over. Harsh punishment can actually increase anxiety and damage your relationship with your dog.

Change the way you console your dog: Instead of trying to soothe your dog’s anxiety by picking them up, petting them and saying “Your ok…” in a quiet manner, try to change his state of mind by making things fun. Condition him to feel happy in the presence of things that produce anxiety by pairing scary stimuli with fun. This of course needs to happen at a distance that is not too overwhelming for your dog.

Avoid the fearful stimulus when you aren’t able to work on counter conditioning: This doesn’t mean avoid it entirely. If you do, your dog will never learn to feel more comfortable when confronted by things he is fearful of. Only avoid when you are unable to work on counter conditioning. We don’t want to ingrain the fear any more than it already is.

Take the time to learn your dog’s body language: Being able to read your dog and recognize anxiety quickly is a very important part of the rehabilitation process.

Be a good leader your dog can trust: Take the time to counter condition your dog. Teach him that he can trust you to evaluate the situation and get him to a place where he can feel comfortable every time. When he learns to trust you, he will have more confidence to try
situations he may have otherwise not been comfortable with because he trusts you are there to help him through it.

Check your behavior and emotions: Dogs are very good at picking up on human emotions and can sense any stress or anxiety you may be feeling. Not surprisingly, many anxious dogs have anxious owners. Tackling your own stress and anxiety and being confident for your dog makes a world of difference. Anxious dogs are more likely to be able to feel comfortable in their world if they are confident that if anything does come up that is scary, you will handle it. You need to teach your dog they can trust you by immediately taking action when something frightens them, first getting them feeling safe, then following that by helping them adapt and learn about the thing that made them fearful. Soon they will begin to want to investigate things they don’t understand instead of feeling fear and anxiety.

Provide your dog with a routine life: Anxious dogs function best with a routine. They like to know as much as possible what is going to happen next.

Provide lots of physical and mental exercise: Physical and mental exercise boost serotonin levels naturally. Serotonin is a feel good chemical that is depleted when stressful events happen. The less serotonin there is in your dog’s system, the weaker his ability to cope with stress.

Teach your dog that paying attention to you is great: If you have your dog’s attention, they are more likely to be able to listen to commands in stressful environments. Keeping their attention is the key to success. This means that anxious dogs often rely on rewards in stimuli rich environments for much longer than your average dog.

Additional Helpful Tools:

Natural Calming Remedies: Pet stores sell many herbal supplements for anxiety. This is a great place to start before resorting to prescription medication (which can be a great option for some dogs). Be sure to consult your vet before choosing a remedy, especially if your dog is on any medication.

Comfort Zone Plug-In: This releases something that mimics a mother’s natural pheromones which helps to relax your dog. This can be great in conjunction with other calming remedies.

Pheromone Collar: Similar to the plug-in, this is a collar that helps relax your dog. This is great for dogs who are anxious outside of the house.

Thundershirt: Anxiety wraps use pressure to calm your dog.

Need Training Help?

Need some help with teaching your dog to cope better with their anxiety? We can help! Give us a call (612-388-9656) or send us an email ( anytime!


Doggie Easter Egg Hunt

Easter is just a few weeks away, so we thought we would share with you a fun Easter activity for your dog (and your kids too). If your dog knows the Find It game, this will be a very easy game for your dog to pick up on! If not, below are some simple steps for a successful Easter egg hunt with your canine!

Step 1: Gather up a bunch of plastic Easter eggs and place some smelly treats inside (or have your kids do this).

Step 2: Give your dog a couple eggs and see if they can figure out how to open them (some eggs are easier than others). If it seems too challenging for them, you can always leave the eggs partially open when it comes time to hide them.

Step 3: Place your dog outside or in another room while you (or your kids) hide the eggs. For dogs seasoned in the Find It game, you can make your hiding spots more challenging. For dogs new to this sort of game, make the eggs pretty easy to find.

Step 4: Release your dog from the other room and encourage them to find the eggs! Novice dogs may need some help or encouragement, while seasoned Find It dogs will know exactly what to do!

Here is a Youtube video of a doggie Easter egg hunt!

Boundary Training: Out

Boundary training is something that can make life with your dog muchClicker Training Your Dog easier! The “Out” command allows you to give your dog the cue to leave a particular room or stay out of a room.

Situations where this command is useful:

  • Painting a room – no need to put up the gate, close the door or worry about your dog tracking paint all over the house.
  • Keeping your dog out of the kitchen while you are cooking.
  • Rather not have your dog watch you while you shower? You can teach your dog to stay out of the bathroom.


Teaching the command “Out”

Choose a room that you would like to be able to send your dog out of such as a kitchen, bathroom, or dining area. Just as your dog tries to enter that area, say “Out” while extending your pointed finger in the direction you want the dog to go, and quickly and assertively move into the dogs space, using your body language to push him/her out of the room.

  • Be sure you are standing up straight and portraying confidence both in your body language and tone of voice.
  • You may need to shuffle your feet into the dog or use your knees to push the dog (pressure, not a kick with the knee).
  • Do your best to not grab the collar of the dog, let your body language do the work. Once the dog moves out of the space,  it is important to move away and remove body pressure.
  • You will likely need to do this a dozen times or more before the dog begins to understand what you are asking.
  • If your dog continues to come immediately back into the room, it can often be helpful to hold your ground at the threshold (the doorway or entrance to the room) a bit longer until the dog seems to relax or loose interest a bit.
  • Some dogs will require more persistence than others so keep at it, even if the progress is slow.

“Can I Pet Your Puppy?”


Ryder at 10 weeks

Not many people realize that there are some dogs who truly do not want to be pet. Just like people, some dogs are either uncomfortable with strangers touching them, or just don’t like it. Did you know that even a puppy sometimes would rather not be pet? Yes, that sweet cuddly puppy that you just want to pick up and cuddle, may actually prefer that you don’t!

My dog Ryder has always been one of those dogs. From the time he was a puppy, he was always a bit wary of people he didn’t know. Not hide behind my leg sort of wary, but rather pee submissively nearly every time someone he didn’t know tried to pet him kind of wary. As a dog owner, its embarrassing and frustrating to have a dog that pees every time someone wants to pet your adorably fluffy dog. As a puppy, its just simply frightening.

Not every dog or puppy wants to be pet and cuddled. Can you imagine groups of people surrounding YOU at the pet store. It’s like the paparazzi snapping photos, except they are touching you and picking you up. Small dogs and puppies have to tolerate this all the time and not every dog owner recognizes that this makes the dog uncomfortable until their sweet puppy starts growling or barking at people. What happened? He used to love being pet and picked up? Or did he?

Paying attention to your dogs body language is very important to his social health, not just in puppy hood but through adolescence and adulthood as well. Do you know how to tell if your dog is uncomfortable with being greeted? Here are a few behaviors that under the right circumstances may mean that your dog is uncomfortable.

  • Slight cowering/leaning away
  • Ears flattened or furrowed brow
  • Licking lips when no food is near by
  • Moving away or not approaching
  • Submissive peeing/rolling over submissively
  • Wide eyes/seeing whites of eye (aka: whale eye)

With Ryder, I had to put my embarrassment aside and become an advocate for my puppy because his fear was only getting worse. Since Ryder loved to play, we started bringing his ball everywhere we went. When someone asked to pet him, I’d explain that he is shy, but they could help him gain confidence by throwing his ball for him. Over time, Ryder came to anticipate that people meant it was time to play and he could trust that I wouldn’t let them invade his space. Ryder now accepts strangers and even allows petting too without peeing. Had I continued allowing people to pet him, Ryder may have resorted to saying “I don’t want to be pet” in a more firm manner which for a dog looks like growling, barking or even biting. Preventing aggression is much easier than treating it!

Check out this video, then watch your dog while they are greeting someone. What do you think? Do they REALLY want to be touched?

Do you have a shy or fearful dog or puppy? We can help your dog learn to feel comfortable with how humans like to greet dogs. Give us a call (612-388-9656) or send us an email to tell us about your dog.

Winter Dog & Puppy Training in Minneapolis, MN

Dog training is fun, but training your dog or puppy in the cold winter months can be a real bummer! Below are a few services we offer at Lucky Paws that make training your dog in the winter much easier AND several tips for training your dog at home too!

Dog Board & Train Program

Did you know Lucky Paws has two different programs where we do most of the training for you? We offer a Board & Train Program where your dog goes through training while staying in our trainers home in East Bethel, MN.

In Home Dog Boot Camp

Rather keep your dog at home? We also offer an In Home Boot Camp Program where a trainer comes to your home in the Minneapolis metro area and suburbs and trains your dog for you, all you need to do is follow through.

Both programs allow for much faster training success because training is done by a professional.

Group Dog & Puppy Classes

Group classes are another great way to train your dog in the winter as classes are held indoors. Winter is a great time to take classes with your dog to expend some physical and mental energy since exercise can be a little harder to come by when the weather is cold.

Train your Dog at Home

If you and your dog don’t mind the winter weather, here are a few tips to stay comfortable while you are training.

  • Have a pair of gloves specifically for dog training that you don’t mind if they get full of treat crumbs and slobber. They should be thin enough to easily grab and deliver treats, but warm enough to keep your fingers from freezing.
  • Try using a Lickety Stik for treats so you don’t need to fumble with treats while you are wearing gloves.
  • Use a waist leash so your hands can spend more time in your pockets.
  • Acclimate your dog to wearing a coat or sweater (and maybe even some booties).
  • Pick up some traction cleats to put over your boots so you are less likely to slip on ice.
  • Keep your dogs paws off salty sidewalks and roads. If that just isn’t possible in your area, be sure to wipe off your dogs feet after you return from the walk.

Tiny Tails Playgroup for Small Dogs & Puppies

Is your dog in need of some exercise and playtime but it’s just too cold IMAG0369 - Copyoutside? Join us for our Tiny Tails Small Dog Playgroup! This playgroup is for dogs and puppies under 20lbs who enjoy the company of other dogs or are fearful (non-aggressive) and in need of socialization.

When: First and Third Thursday of each month at 6pm

Where: For Pet’s Sake in Blaine, MN.

RSVP: Registration Required (see below)

  • ONLY $5/dog for 45 minutes of play!
  • This playgroup provides a structured environment run by certified dog trainers which means we provide a healthy socialization environment. This makes playgroup great for shy dogs who need to build some confidence either with other dogs or with new people.
  • All dogs and puppies should have age appropriate vaccinations for Distemper/Parvo and Rabies (if over 4 mo.). Bordetella is highly recommended, but not required.
  • The weight limit is 20lbs, but we do on occasion accept dogs over 20lbs who are gentle and appropriate with small dogs (please contact us before attending playgroup).

All dogs must have a Registration & Waiver Form completed prior to attending your first playgroup. Reservations are required for playgroup, don’t forget to reserve your spot.

Click here to register for playgroup now.