Counter Surfing can be a maddening problem (especially around the holidays) to which many home baked pies have surely been lost.
Rylee enjoys the occasional lucky find when she goes looking in all the wrong places. In point of fact, she has been reinforced many times for her efforts and fixing this issue now is a more difficult proposition since we have already made a habit of this poor behavior. It doesn't change what we do about it, but it does significantly lengthen how long it will take to rectify. This is because Rylee's behavior is determined by previous reinforcement of that behavior which has occured maybe hundreds of times (every time she finds something yummy it's a winner)!
We are tasked with the job of 1) ensuring that reinforcement for counter surfing does no happen anymore. This will involve keeping surfaces free of reinforcement and/or restricting access to the area where an offense is likely. 2) ensuring that reinforcement of not mugging the counter DOES occur and often since we have to get the total value of reinforcment from not counter surfing up into the area which exceeds the total value of counter surfed reinforcement. We might be going up against home baked pies or T-days turkeys so you can imagine how high the potential value of reinforcement from counter surfing is.
Step One is simply enough. Keep those counters clear and when you can't, keep those pups behind a gate. Don't have a gate? You will need to get several. In the smallest possible nut shell, we are "Preventing or ignoring unwanted behavior while clicking and treating desirable behavior. Behavior that is rewarded is naturally repeated...an animal fact which is true throughout nature. Behavior that is prevented, of course, never even happens, and behavior that is ignored (not rewarded) will naturally extinguish (eventually cease to occur). Be careful though, much of the yelling an carrying on we do in the face of bad canine behavior is actually perceived as reinforcing from the point of view of the pup. They would rather have you yell obscenities at them as opposed to ignoring them with silence and no attention. Any attention is better than no attention.
Step Two is a little harder. It is the subject of this video. I place the temptation (kibble) on a surface which might be easy for Rylee to get but I am diligently preventing any accidental reinforcement by blocking (with my leg, foot, and hands). Be careful here since a mistake results in exactly the opposite of what you are after...that is reinforcement of the very behavior we are trying to stop. And this is where the magic of clicking really works its charm. We click precisely at the moment of the "give-up." As soon as the dog stops mugging the treats, stops looking at the treats, stops orienting towards the treats with their body, looks away from the treats and towards me, etc. That is the moment I click and treat.
You can see where we are headed here. Eventually, Rylee won't be fooled into making a run on the illegitimate bounty because she will understand the greater value of restraint and patience. This is something we teach her. Before we do, it makes complete sense that jumping up and helping our self is a great path to lovely reinforcement.