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with Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson with her Norwegian Elkhound Jinx.

Ask AKC with Lisa Peterson

Dear Lisa: We have a beautiful 3-year-old female, spayed, Irish Setter. She is a wonderful companion, well behaved and working on her agility, even beating out a border collie in the trials. We are so proud of her. Unfortunately, she has one behavioral problem we just cannot seem to solve – she is a counter surfer. I have tried everything from crating her, spraying bleach on the edge of the counter to deter her and nothing helps. We have to keep a baby gate stretched across the entrance to the kitchen. I maintain she is hungry and the vet says no, that she is just strong-willed and is doing what she wants. She weighs 59 lbs, a perfect weight, according to the vet. Any help or suggestions you might provide would be greatly appreciated. – Surfing for Snacks

Dear Surfing: Ah yes, the counter surfer! I have one in my family and she is a real challenge to keep from exploring what food is on the kitchen counter. But I have her trained to immediately stop by using a single word! Notice I have never cured her of the problem, but can stop her. My dog’s mother was even more talented. Her owner told me she learned how to jump “on” the counter before she surfed! I agree with your vet that she is a perfect weight and is most likely not hungry. She just needs to be reintroduced to some doggie manners with you in charge of letting her know what behavior is acceptable and what is not.

Here are two options. First, you must always be with her in the kitchen to “catch” her before she “surfs” and can interrupt the surfing and reinforce the desired behavior you want. Whenever you are in the house with her, put her leash on her collar and attach the leash to your belt loop. This way when you are in the kitchen, she is in the kitchen. When you are not, she is not because she is following you wherever you go since you are joined at the hip! The reason I suggest this is that I suspect those surfer incidents happen when you are not in the room. I’m also going to assume that you don’t leave any food within reach on the counter, which might entice this behavior.

One word wonder
Try this simple training exercise to alter her behavior. Since you already have her leash at the ready when you are in the kitchen, when she goes to surf, make a quick distracting noise like “atch” and then pull the leash toward you and when she looks at you and not the counter, ask her to sit and give her a treat, quickly! So, here’s the order of this exercise: she tries to surf, you say “atch” and pull the leash toward you, ask her to sit, and give lots of treats! You could also try this positive reinforcement using a clicker to mark the desired behavior as well. A local trainer could help train you in clicker training. In addition, bring her in the kitchen and just do the sit and treat behavior as well to reinforce that the only time she will get fed is if she sits quietly for you. If she is currently fed her dinner in the kitchen I would move her food bowl to another room.

If you keep up this routine before you know it she will be sitting by the counter waiting for her treats rather than engaging in surfing. At the very least you’ll know how to stop it with a single word before it happens. Don’t forget to reduce her calories at dinner when you are feeding her extra treats during this training sessions.

Invisible Option
Your other option is to install one of those invisible fence barriers in the kitchen near the counter so she won’t be able to get near the counter yet join you in the kitchen. This option would allow you to get rid of the baby gate across the door. This option would cost more than investing in a good training routine, but would teach her to avoid the counter.


Dear Lisa: I have a dog that I want to show in Obedience but I’m not sure which class to enter. I have earned a Rally title but never an Obedience title. My co-owner of the dog I want to show, however, has put a CD obedience title on another dog. What class should I enter our dog in Obedience? Novice A or Novice B. And what if we both want to show her on different days during the same weekend of dog shows? Thanks! – Obediently Yours

Dear Obediently: I asked AKC’s Director of Obedience, Rally and Tracking Pam Manaton and here is her response:

Simply put, Novice A is for dogs that have not won the CD title and the handler must own the dog, be a member of the owner’s household, or immediate family. The handler may not have previously handled any dog that has earned an AKC Novice, Open or Utility title. In Novice B the owner or anyone may handle dogs in this class to earn a CD title.

In your example, if the 1st owner has never titled a dog to an AKC Novice, Open or Utility title (even a Beginner Novice title) and the dog they are showing does not have their CD title, they would enter Novice A on Saturday. On Sunday, the 2nd owner that has titled a dog before would enter the Novice B class for Sunday; and the 1st owner would again be eligible to enter the Novice A class on Monday.

For her other question, her titling a dog in Rally does not impact the classes she enters in Obedience, but if she titles a dog in Obedience, it will impact the classes she is eligible to enter in Rally. The actual rules are included below.

Obedience Regulations, Chapter 3 - Novice
Section 1. Novice A Class. The Novice A class shall be for dogs that have not won the CD title. A handler must own the dog entered or be a member of the owner’s household or immediate family and may not have previously handled any dog that has earned an AKC Novice, Open, or Utility title. Owners may enter more than one dog in this class. The same person who handles the dog in the first four exercises must handle the dog in the group exercises; however, if a person has handled more than one dog in the first four exercises, that person must provide a handler for the additional dog in the same group exercises. The additional handler for the group exercises need not be a member of the owner’s household or immediate family. No dog may be entered in both Novice A and Novice B at any one trial.

Section 2. Novice B Class. The owner or any other person may handle dogs in this class to earn a CD title. Owners may enter more than one dog in this class. The same person who handles the dog in the first four exercises must handle the dog in the group exercises; however, if a person has handled more than one dog in the first four exercises, that person must provide a handler for the additional dog in the same group exercises. No dog may be entered in both Novice A and Novice B at any one trial.

Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at askakc@akc.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.