Dogs In The Kitchen
Some popular dog training questions are: Should I allow my dog in the bedroom? Should I let my dog on the bed/couch? Should I allow my dog in the kitchen? These are all great questions, but the answer is, these are personal choices. I’m inevitably asked, “what do you do Russell?” As flattering as it is that someone is interested in the choices that I make, it really boils down to the circumstances of the individuals involved. While I do allow all family members to go anywhere that I go, sit or sleep, there is no right or wrong answer to these questions.
That being said, I do have preferences regarding letting my dog in the kitchen. For health and safety reasons, my answer is no. I do not allow dogs in my kitchen, ever. For the same reasons, I don’t let my dog in the garage or any place where there are likely items that if ingested could injure or kill a dog.
I don’t want to actively manage and stare at my dog when they are in the kitchen to make sure they don’t eat something that fell on the floor that could make them sick.
When I am in the kitchen or garage I am usually dedicating my time and attention to doing other projects whether it’s making food, or making a desk! I don’t want my pet’s life to be on the line if I make a mistake and leave something out that they can eat and get sick. It’s much easier to simply have some spaces where dogs are better off not allowed. At least for me.
And this article will explain why.
Here are the top 8 reasons why I do not allow dogs in my kitchen.
- Accidents. I’m a chocoholic. Sometimes I make mistakes and drop some of that savory dark chocolate I was eating on the floor. I have accidents, and I would venture to guess that if you are human, you do too (except my mom, of course, she is perfect). Food falls, and while the list of foods that are deadly or dangerous for dogs to eat is long, I don’t want my hoover to scarf up any of dad’s accidents (which are abundant). I want to focus all of my attention on my taste buds and the activity at hand, eating, cooking, and creating. I don’t want to worry about accidentally dropping something on the floor, or if my dog has eaten something harmful, that may make her sick.
- Prevention – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Bob Baily is known for saying “it is more important NOT to reward undesirable/’bad’ behavior than forgetting to reward good behavior.” How very simple and true. If a dog is able to counter surf, with or without you present, and is rewarded by scarfing down a loaf of bread or whatever is on your counter at the moment, that behavior just got rewarded and reinforced. Yikes!! You just made your job (and your trainer’s job) more difficult.
Why set your dog up for failure when you can just as easily set her up for success? There is no reason to be crestfallen when you can choose to be happy and successful. Practicing desirable/’good’ behaviors (stuffed chew toys, food puzzles, and games in their crate or area) ensures your pup and your family are on the way to happy-town for years to come.
- Independence. Is your dog clingy or have separation anxiety or separation distress? No one wants a stalker, Ewwww! How I love an independent dog. I love cuddles and smooches as well, but not a dog where I can’t leave her sight. I want to teach my dog to be comfortable alone which will help prevent separation anxiety and promote independence and confidence. Preemptively teach your dog where you want your dog to be and how you would prefer your dog to behave.
My dog does not need, nor do I want my pup to shadow me around the house. Shadowing behavior is not healthy for a dog or parent.
- Safety. Think safety, and practicing focused mindfulness in each activity. Since science shows that humans are terrible at multitasking I want to pay attention to cooking delicious vegan meals, not what my dog is doing at every moment. I don’t want to step on or trip over the dog, nor do I want hot water, a hot pot, or ingested foreign items or dangerous foods to injure my dog.
- Space. I grew up in Manhattan and am used to efficiencies and smaller spaces. I worked with what I had. What I didn’t have was a sprawling kitchen. In general, proportionally speaking, kitchens are smaller than the many other communing and canoodling rooms in the house. The kitchen just isn’t conducive to many bodies/cooks in the kitchen. The last thing I want is to trip over my dog while holding or moving a hot pan or plate.
- Training. Dog training is fun! Do cooking mock trials with your dog. Work on teaching your gorgeous pet to go to their place, dog bed, or wherever else you want them, and then reward them. Do this when there is not something in the oven or food at risk of getting burnt or spoiled. Practice when you are not actually hungry or cooking so you can focus all of your attention on teaching and having fun with your dog. Now’s a great time to practice down-stays and rest positions.
Practice Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. It is worth repeating, it is worse for dogs to be rewarded for practicing inappropriate behaviors than to forget to reward good behavior. Teach, all great things come when your dog is laying relaxed on their dog bed. Belly rubs, scratches, dog treats, etc. You can substitute a dog crate or any safe, comfortable place you want to provide for your pup to be out of the way.
This is a wonderful strategy also for when company comes over, or you are just busy running around the house doing chores. I like to call this my dog’s meditation zone or Zen area. In the Zen zone, she knows she is safe, confident, comfy, and pleasing mom and dad.
- Prevent counter surfing and Jumping. Yes, I could have added this to the prevention point above but felt that these two behaviors warranted a little more detail. Not only is counter surfing a natural and self-fulfilling, self-rewarding intrinsic behavior but your pup is extrinsically getting rewarded by eating high-value food.
Some behaviors such as jumping are innately rewarding for dogs. It feels good, and it is part of their social repertoire. Mix together an innate self-rewarding behavior with a high-value external food reward, and you set up a sequence of very strong reinforced behaviors! In other words, undesirable/’bad’ behaviors that are difficult to extinguish.
- Sanitary. I know most dogs that I train are up-to-date on vaccinations, have their rabbi’s shots and health records in order. However there are some circumstances where zoonotic and other diseases are present and having a dog in the kitchen where sanitary conditions are vital, do not mix well.
I rescue and foster dogs often. The dogs I help train and take into my home are sometimes not the epitome of health. In fact, they are quite the opposite and need the spa-like services of my home and dog training to help them find forever homes. They are often sick and are on various medications as well, so I do not want them in my kitchen.
There are other concerns one may have as well such as ticks, fleas, heartworm, bordetella (kennel cough), and other bacteria and/or illnesses that are simply not appropriate to bring into the kitchen. Even if your Los Angeles dogs are well taken care of, and go for many daily walks, sadly other pet parents don’t always clean up after their pets, which is a public health concern.
If you bring your pet to the dog park or dog beach in Los Angeles, fuggedaboutit! Your pup is coming home with something you do not want in your kitchen. It is more sanitary, safer, and easier for everyone to keep this area clean and dog free.
And there you have it. Gourmandise or not, you will make your lives easier and healthier by keeping your dog out of the kitchen. While I will not indoctrinate you on how to raise your dog, I can only explain how and why I teach a dog, what works for me, and what rules I have for dogs in my house. If you feel it is the right fit for you, consider incorporating this into your family’s lifestyle. It is never too late to learn for human and nonhuman animals. What do you do in your home?