Sneaky Retriever Hops on the Counter to Steal Food

Hi Alex,

My Golden Retriever, Guinness, loves to jump up on the counter and steal food. He especially likes to sneak up there when I’m cooking dinner. Can you help?Thank you.

- Claudia

Hi Claudia,

I would recommend teaching Guinness “leave it.” Leave it is a universal command that just means to leave “it” alone. The “it” can be anything—your shoes, other dogs, people, even food on the counter. To teach Guinness the “leave it” command:

  1. Begin by having a treat in your open hand.
  2. Place you hand in front of Guinness.
  3. When Guinness starts to go after the treat, close your hand.
  4. Tell him to “leave it” ONCE, and wait for him to give up trying to get the treat.
  5. Once he gives up, praise him, and let him have the treat.

Repeat these steps until he gives up immediately once you say “leave it.”

  1. Once Guinness has mastered leaving the treat in your hand, move up to putting the treat on the floor.
  2. Place the treat on the floor in front of Guinness.
  3. When he goes after the treat, quickly cover the treat with your hand.
  4. Tell him to “leave it” ONCE.
  5. Once he stops trying to get the treat from under your hand, praise him, and let him have the treat.

Repeat these until he immediately leaves the treat alone when you say the command.

Once he has mastered leaving the treats on the floor, and you do not need to continue covering the treat with your hand, practice “leave it” with items he tends to go after (food on the counter.) When you notice him start to walk toward the counter, tell him to “leave it” in a stern voice, and praise him the moment he chooses to walk away, or stop going for the food. Good luck! WOOF! 

- Alex

Alexandra Macias is the owner and operator of Alex Macias Dog Training, a Long Beach-based dog training business. To ask Alexandra questions for a future article, leave them in the comments below, or email her at