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How to Keep Dogs Out of the Trash: 7 Easy Tips

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

Dog Head in Trash_shutterstock_ Masarik

There are a lot of annoying things our dogs can do. But, getting into the trash is possibly one of the worst. Not only can it potentially make our pets sick, but it can also make a huge mess. Trash will end up all over the floor, while your dog will likely get dirty as well.

Keeping your dog out of the trash can be challenging, especially if they have already gotten into it once. If your dog has a strong nose, it may be challenging to keep them away from the yummy-smelling trash. We’ve compiled some tips on how to help keep a dog out of the trash can to help you.

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Top 7 Tips on How to Keep Dogs Out of Trash Cans

1. Hide the Trash Can

One of the easiest ways to prevent your canine from breaking into the trash can is to hide it. You can place it underneath your cabinet or behind a closed door. If you have a pantry, you can place the trash can in the pantry and leave the door closed.

Often, this isn’t the preferable solution. However, it is the easiest one and requires minimum effort. You have to remember to keep that door closed. If you leave it open, your canine will likely get into it—even if it’s been safely hidden for a while.

2. Put the Trash Can Out of Reach

Alternatively, you can also put the trash can out of reach. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hide it, but it does need to be somewhere your canine can’t reach. You can put small trash cans on surfaces that are above your dog’s reach, though this is assuming they won’t be able to figure out how to knock it down.

Pomeranian Looking Up
Image Credit: CC0 Public Domain, pickpik

3. Use a Dog-Proof Trash Can

Some trash cans have lids that are difficult for dogs to open. Choose a trash can with a lid that doesn’t merely flip open. When shopping for a trashcan, look at it from your dog’s point of view and consider whether or not they would be able to get it open quickly.

Alternatively, you can install a lock on your garbage can. A simple latch is often plenty. This can be locked when you are not utilizing your trash can so that your canine can not get into it. The tricky part is remembering to re-lock the latch every time. Over time, your dog may assume they can’t get into the trashcan after a few failed attempts. At this point, you may be able to remove the lock.

4. Use a Baby Gate

In some households, you may be able to cut your dog off from the trash can using a baby gate. This won’t work in all house layouts. However, it is suitable for some. You may decide to keep your dog out of the kitchen in general.

A dog that can get into the trashcan may figure out how to get into cabinets and even the fridge. Unless you’ve entirely dog-proofed your kitchen, you may decide that the best option is to prevent your dog from entering the kitchen, to begin with.

Cute mixed breed dogs standing on hind legs behind safety gate
Image Credit: Alex Zotov,Shutterstock

5. Ensure Your Dog is Well-Fed

If your dog doesn’t have a history of breaking into trash cans and starts doing it suddenly, it may be because he is hungry. Many dogs may only break into the trashcan when they are hungry. Because dogs are natural scavengers, breaking into the trashcan is often an instinctive behavior.

Therefore, you may be able to prevent future break-ins by keeping your dog well-fed. You should look at your dog’s body condition to ensure that they are at an appropriate weight. If you are unsure, ask your vet. Perhaps your dog isn’t getting enough food.

This doesn’t mean you should over-feed your dog, though. You don’t want your canine to become overweight, as this can cause even more problems. However, you can feed your canine a few smaller meals a day, ensuring that he has steady food access. You may also consider a fiber-rich food, which can make your dog feel fuller without the extra calories.

If your dog tends to get into the trash during a specific time of day, move their meals around so that they get fed before this period. This will ensure they are full, which may reduce the likelihood of them getting into the trash can.

Some medical conditions cause hunger, even if your dog is getting enough food. If your dog suddenly starts breaking into the trash can, stealing food, and breaking into food packages, it may be time for a visit to the vet.

6. Provide More Mental Stimulation

Some dogs break into trash cans because they’re bored. In these cases, more mental stimulation may help your canine find alternative ways to stay entertained. Figuring out how to get into the trashcan and being rewarded with tasty snacks can be very entertaining for dogs, so you’ll need to find something to compete.

Often, puzzle toys can be a good option. They can be filled up before you leave your house, allowing your canine to play while you’re gone. This provides them with an alternative to the trash can, which may be enough to prevent a mess.

You should also ensure that your dog’s physical needs are being met. This means taking them on walks and having plenty of playtime.

white dog playing puzzle toy
Image credit: Lenti Hill, Shutterstock

7. Train Your Dog

There are a few training methods that can prevent your dog from breaking into the trash can. Often, these involve teaching your dog to leave things alone. When applied to the trash can, your dog will learn that it is off-limits.

There are two primary ways to do this.

The “Leave It” Command

The “leave it” command is a useful, all-around command. Every dog should know it, as it can help in a wide variety of situations.

  • Start by putting a treat in a closed fist in front of your dog. Put your hand right next to your face. Say “leave it.” When your dog looks away from the hand and to your face, immediately reward them with the treat. If your dog doesn’t look around after a minute or two, you can say their name to encourage them to shift their eyes.
  • Next, you’ll want to do the same thing with an open hand. Place the treat in your hand while you’re kneeling in front of your dog. Say “leave it” and treat your dog when they look away.
  • The next step is tricky. You want your dog to ignore food that you drop on the floor. Usually, you’ll need to start by placing food on the floor right in front of your canine. Keep your hand close, just in case your dog goes after the treat. Tell your dog to “leave it” and treat them when they look at you.
  • Eventually, you want to work up to dropping the food on the floor while standing, telling your dog “leave it,” and have them listen to you. The first time you do this, you’ll want to have your foot near the treat if they go after it so that you can cover the treat with your foot if necessary.
commanding dog
Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock

Once your dog knows this command, you should be able to use it for everything, including the trash can. This command can also help prevent your dog from eating mysterious objects while walking or becoming fixated on other dogs.

The “Off” Command

Off can also be a useful command. It works very similarly to leave it, though it has fewer applications. However, teaching this command is very simple.

  • When you catch your canine in the garbage can, say “off” and remove your dog. Then, provide him with a treat. It will take a few iterations of this process, but eventually, your dog will understand that “off” means to leave it alone.

That’s about it. Your dog may only learn the “off” command for the trashcan, though some dogs generalize the command. Either way, this is a reasonably easy command that doesn’t require tons of outside work.

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Various options can help keep your dog out of the garbage. Everything from hiding it to investing in a dog-proof trash bin can help, as can taking the time to train your dog and ensuring that they aren’t bored.

Beyond the annoyance of cleaning up the mess, it’s vital that you keep your dog out of the trash, cupboards, and fridge. Many human foods are quite toxic to dogs, so you must take the appropriate steps to prevent your dog from accessing things that can hurt them.

Featured Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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