Tag - trash

Q&A: How do I keep my dog from picking things out of the trash?

How do I keep my dog (a rescue) from picking things out of the trash. For example, we cleaned his ears and then threw the stuff in the small bathroom garbage pail. He was after it immediately! What’s the best way to teach him that garbage cans are off limits?

Thanks, Gail Isabel

Greetings Gail, and thank you for reaching out.

For dogs who raid the trash can there are 2 solutions: one involves management and the second involves training. Let’s look at the two options more closely.

First of all, let’s understand the behavior more closely. As a general rule of thumb, consider that behaviors in dogs that repeat and persist, have some form of reinforcement at play. If every time your dog raids the trash can he finds something enticing (from his perspective) contained within, he will be likely to visit it more and more. It’s sort of like shopping, if every time you shop at a store, you find great deals, you will be more likely to visit that store in the future. If the store though stops providing good deals, you will likely stop going there.

Dogs are sort of like toddlers, they tend to get in trouble if we leave them to access to a full kitchen with all its cabinets full of items that may look like toys. While stealing some cotton balls from an ear cleaning may not be much of a safety hazard, consider what may happen if there were bones, chocolate or chemicals in the trash. In bathroom trash cans consider that tampons, bottles of nail polish removers or boxes of hair dyes can cause big problems if a dog has access to them. Stopping a dog from raiding the trash can is therefore more of a safety measure than a training issue.

So this brings us to solution 1, the easiest solution of all: keep the trash can out of the way in a closed cupboard or closet, for instance, or invest in one that has a lid that doesn’t allow a dog to open,even if it is knocked down. There are several trash can models now on the market that are pretty much dog proof. But if you want to go 100 percent safe, keeping a trash can completely out of reach is the safest and most effective option of all. Out of sight, out of mind!

The second option which is training a dog not to raid the trash can. This option though comes with some flaws. It comes natural for many dog owners to want to punish the dog in the act, but by doing so there is a big risk factor: your dog may learn to not raid only when in your presence. So your dog will be more likely to sneak his way to the trash can when you are not looking, which is a big problem if there is something potentially harmful in the trash can.

On top of that, consider that scolding the dog for doing something that is instinctive (dogs are scavengers by nature) can make the dog owner appear unpredictable as dogs may not understand why their owners are unhappy. “Is my owner upset because I am eating? Because I just looked at him? Because I made the trash can fall? Because I am in the bathroom? Because I stopped eating? Because I am playing with a toilet roll? “

You see, when you are training a dog not to raid the trash can, you are dealing with strong competing stimuli. In other words, the trash can is inviting your dog, while you are telling your dog not to give in. Back to the shopping example, it’s as if somebody is telling a shop-aholic not to shop. So what is left to do? Unless you are there t oalways 24/7 monitor your dog, sometimes it takes a multi-model approach