If Liam the pug had to name a favorite space within my house, I know just what he'd bark about: a 3-foot space that sits right in front of the stove. This space gets grease splatter when my husband is frying things, and sometimes, said husband drops hot morsels of things like meat in that same space. So, not surprisingly, Liam tries to spend as much time as he can in that space when dinner is cooking.
As you can imagine, this is a huge problem.
Many of the things we humans eat (like onions) are simply not safe for dogs to eat. And many very hot things (like sausage) can burn a pug if they move right from the pan into his gobbling mouth.
Also, it's very hard to do anything involving cooking when there is a small dog standing in the exact space in which you need to stand to keep the food prep moving.
So keeping Liam and Sinead out of this space is vital. And since I believe in positive reinforcement training (not yelling and punishment), that means I have to get creative about making the kitchen spot less appealing and rewarding.
Here's what works for me.
1. Designate a treat space.Pugs are food motivated little creatures, and that means they can be lured away from one space with another food item that is both delicious and readily available. The key is to work on the "wait" command, so the dogs will move into this space and stay there until the treat is ready to eat.
In the summertime, I use the great outdoors as the treat space. When the meal work is ongoing, the dogs head outside for some sort of chewy treat, like a jerky stick. That keeps them out from underfoot and happily chewing on something good, instead of lurking in the kitchen.
In the fall and winter, that's a little harder. The dogs don't want to head out into the rain for anything, even snacks. But, I have had good luck in using a bedroom with the door closed. They eat their treats and wait happily until I open the door again.
2. Enforced play during dinner prep.Treats are great, but dogs that eat treats all the time can quickly become dogs that are absolutely huge. Playtime helps, as it distracts them from the snacks they'd like to eat, while they burn calories. Liam and Sinead both enjoy a good game of fetch, and they'll happily run after a ball as long as I'll throw it. If I'm cooking, I ask them to bring me the ball while I'm at the stove, and I can just kick it away for them to grab. If it's not my turn to cook, we can play tug or fetch in another room while hubby cooks. He can also play tug or fetch while I cook.
3. Beds on the perimeter.If I'm doing something long and complicated, so I can't either play or bribe with treats, I use nap spaces. Liam and Sinead both have favorite beds they adore, and if I bring them to the edge of the kitchen, and I put them in a down/stay, they'll relax in those beds. In time, they'll even fall asleep in those beds. Putting the beds at the edge of the kitchen allows them to watch me as I work, which means less getting up to see if something yummy is happening. They seem to like that a little better.
Any readers out there have good tips for dogs in the kitchen? I'd love to hear them. Drop me a note in the comments, won't you?