My dog enjoys a garbage can. He likes shredding paper, especially tissue paper and Kleenex, and is highly “food motivated.” After coming home a few days in a row to trash strewn across the floor, as well as hidden in his favorite spots, I knew I had to come up with a solution to his dumpster-diving ways before my husband disowned both Mojito and me.
Training a dog to avoid the garbage can is a good idea, so that he realizes that it’s not intended to be an extension of his food dish. However, scavenging is a dog’s natural instinct, and it’s very unlikely that he’ll remember your wishes while you’re gone, and ignore the tempting smells and tastes hidden in the garbage. Rummaging for food is totally normal behavior that served his wild ancestors well.
Household garbage, though, is not only filled with delicious leftovers but a lot of potentially hazardous items if chewed or eaten. It’s just too likely that your dog will come across choking or obstruction hazards, or toxic foods or chemicals.
With all that in mind, the best solution is to eliminate your dog’s access to garbage completely. For us, it took some experimenting.
During the day, Mo has access to the bottom level of our house, which features an open design. It wasn’t possible to block off the entryway to the kitchen, as it was several feet wide and we didn’t want to be stepping over or opening gates there. We tried to remember to set the garbage just outside the door before we left in the morning, but too often it was forgotten. We didn’t have any available cabinet space left to hide the can, either.
One possibility was to weight the bottom of the can, making it impossible to tip over. Since Mo is a small dog, that worked out pretty well, and was cheap – just use a free weight or dumbbell, or even sand or rock. Naturally, I then discovered a more expensive way I liked even better. While shopping, I came across a free-standing wooden cabinet to hide the can inside. It even matched our cupboards, so I had to have it. Its heavy lid means the cats can’t reach into it from the counter, since they are also guilty of putting their paws where they don’t belong.
If your dog respects static correction, you can try Innotek Zones Pet Barriers to mark off-limit areas. Just put the transmitter disc in or near the can, then place the collar on your dog. If he gets too close, it delivers a warning tone before the static kicks in.
Also remember that a dog (or cat) will automatically consider food left on a table or counter to be fair game, especially without nearby human presence. We’ve had to become a lot more diligent in my house about putting away containers of food, as well as treat packages. X-Mats have worked well for our kitchen counters, though I’m considering graduating to a Scat Mat to keep the cats away from my betta tanks!