We're dog-sitting for a friend whose dog is a confirmed counter surfer. Barley steals anything and everything from the counter. Or so says her owner. He left us with this dire warning: Barley will surf the counter. She will steal.
Counter surfing isn't a problem in this house. We've got dogs big enough to do it (my god, Talos's head rests on the counter!), but they don't steal from the table or the counters. Before Barley came to visit, I thought my dogs weren't interested in surfing. But since Barley's been here, she's not stolen one thing from the counter either. So maybe it's not a matter of interest in surfing the counter, but rather opportunity to surf that keeps my dogs off the counter.
So what's different about my house? Why isn't Barley surfing the counter here?
It's because I watch her. I watch my counters. When she (or any dog) goes to the counter and they sniff the air, I call their name and give them something else to do.
They get the feeling that they're always being watched. And they are. I watch them like a hawk. I don't give them enough time to get into trouble. I re-direct them long before their paws are on the counter.
I'm not yelling at them, either. I never want my dogs to think: ok, she's gone, now's the time to get on the counter. If I'm yelling at them, they figure out a way, a time, when they can accomplish their mission. They're smart and they figure out that they can safely surf the counter when I'm not there.
That's definitely not what you want to teach.
I don't yell at them, I just give them something else to do. So when Barley wanders over to the counter where I've got the chicken ready for dinner, I simply and sweetly call her over to me and then throw a ball. She loves to chase the ball. I've given her an appropriate alternative behavior – chase the ball – and I've avoided the trap of yelling at her.
Pretty soon, with enough experiences of "do this, not that," she won't even try to surf the counter. And I'll make her job really easy by ensuring that she's always with me when I leave the room.