Why Does My Dog... Dig in the Trash Can?

2. Contain the trash. Use a trash can with a tight lid that stays on even when your dog knocks it over. Modern trash cans with motion sensors that automatically open the lid won't do. Nor will trash cans with step pedals or swinging lids. Dogs have gotten their heads stuck through swing lids, and if a can is heavy enough, a dog sometimes learns to step on the pedal and open the lid.

3. Try training. The one method that requires the most work is teaching your dog to “leave it.” I first teach a dog to turn away or back off from my hand while I am holding treats. Once the dog has learned the phrase “leave it,” then I use that phrase every time the dog goes near the trash. When the dog backs or turns away, I immediately offer him praise and treats. When I am not working with the dog, I put the trash can away. After repeated training sessions, I leave the trash can out for longer periods and offer praise and rewards every time the dog walks past the trash can and does not stop to investigate. I may even go a step further and start with a trash can that does not contain any food. Then, in more advanced training sessions, I bait the trash can with really pungent foods.

As always, consult your veterinarian or pet behavioral professional as a first step when dealing with a pet behavior problem.

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