Garbage Digging Dog

by Keri K. on September 30, 2010

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No more garbage foraging for Mo

No more garbage foraging for Mo

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.

Zones Barriers

Zones Barriers

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!
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Keri is a lead catalog designer for Drs. Foster and Smith and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Stout. She shares a small home with her husband, two Chinese Crested dogs, two cats, two ferrets, several reptiles and amphibians, and 30-some gallons of freshwater planted aquariums. See more articles by Keri K.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheryl Jones September 30, 2010 at 10:05 am

Our English Shepherd, Megan, loves to get “food” any way she can. We learned not to leave things out on the counter at all. She’ll eat any food item – 3 pounds of hamburger including the styrofoam, entire sleeves of saltines, a loaf of bread she somehow retrieved from the sink. Once she opened the cupboard to retrieve a tube of freeze-dried liver and pulled off the lid. Luckily, I caught her carrying to her bed before she devoured the whole thing. We have taken to putting the garbage can in the far corner of the back kitchen counter where she can’t reach it. Our latest dilemma is the cat litter and cat food. I have tried all manner of things to keep Megan out of the cat’s stuff – including putting things where I thought they were out of reach – but she always figures out a way to get it. In my efforts to outsmart her (futile, I’ve decided) I made the litterbox so inaccessible that the cat couldn’t get it. I don’t want to keep her out of the basement altogether since that’s her safe place during thunderstorms but I would like to keep her on one side. So a gate arrived at my house yesterday. I’ll give that a try. My makeshift barriers didn’t work. Hopefully, this one will!

Keri K. September 30, 2010 at 10:29 am

Hi, Sheryl. I am lucky that Mo is too short to go “counter surfing!” However, one of our cats is notorious for going after anything left out. He loves to chew on plastic, no matter what is inside… he’s ruined english muffins, tubs of butter, bags of birdseed and cat litter, fish food, treat canisters, whatever he can get his paws on.

Mo is also a little too interested in the litter box. My husband finally cut a hole in the bottom of the laundry room door so only the cats can access it. Indoor pet doors can be a great thing! I’m also really happy with our swing gate installed at the steps. We’d been fighting with an old pressure-mount baby gate and things like sheets of cardboard for too long… a nice gate can be expensive, but once it’s installed life is so much easier.

Sheryl Jones September 30, 2010 at 1:17 pm

In case anyone is interested, this is the gate I got. http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3307+15021+18111&pcatid=18111 Once it is installed I’ll let you know how it works.

Rosemary September 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Our solution to the cats and dogs getting into the garbage was a Simple Human trash can. It cost us about $90, but it has been well worth it over the years. It has a removable inner can that you put the bag in, and a very heavy, tight fitting lid that opens with a foot pedal. Our foot pedal broke a few years ago, because my husband tried one too many times to open it with a cat sittting on the lid, so now we just lift the lid with our hand. Unless the trash is overflowing, and pushes the lid up, nobody (four-legged, that is) can open it. It’s also very hard for the dogs to tip over.

If the dog like the litterbox, try one called Clever Cat. The opening is in the top, making it hard for the dog to get to, but easy enough for the cats (unless you’ve got a calustrophobic 20 pounder).

Sheryl, at least your Megan seems to restrict her eating to food. My Rat Terrier, Lucky, ate a tube of Zinc Oxide diaper rash ointment. Also a whole bottle of Immodium tablets. We are talking about a bottle that had almost thirty tablets, of which we located only five. He also climbed onto the dining room table to get a chocolate Easter bunny.

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