This is a picture of the mess I found upon returning home one day. Little dachshund, Taz had helped herself to the garbage! I have to say that yes, I was shocked and overwhelmed with the enormous mess – but more importantly, I was scared and concerned about what Taz might have eaten. I know certain foods can be harmful (even toxic/fatal) for dogs, and knowing, for example, that this day’s garbage contained coffee grounds, I knew Taz could be in serious danger from becoming ill.
It’s Not Just the Mess
It’s important to learn how to keep the dog out of the garbage not only to prevent a huge mess, but for their health and safety. I once had a beagle named Daisy. I caught her red-handed one day getting into the garbage. I heard the tipping over of the can, the rustling of the garbage bag…I snuck out to the kitchen and as soon as I yelled, “Daisy!”…GULP…she swallowed a whole piece of chicken. I scolded her and cleaned up the mess and didn’t think much more of it.
Later that evening, she began coughing. It continued all through the night. The next morning I took her to the vet. Turns out she had a two-inch long chicken bone lodged HORIZONTALLY in her throat! The vet was able to give her a mild sedative and remove the bone with large “tweezers.” He said if that had been unsuccessful and she had swallowed the bone, it would likely have resulted in surgery, serious illness, and possibly even death.
Dogs Can Die From Getting into the Garbage
I watched Taz getting into the garbage on the back patio one day while I was mowing the lawn. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I never would've believed what she did. There was a large black garbage bag sitting on the patio, full of garbage. Next to it was a large, plastic recycle bin. As I mowed the grass, I noticed Taz eyeing up the recycle bin. I could actually see the wheels turning in her little head - she was trying to figure out a way to get into it! I watched her as she actually pulled on the large black garbage bag - tugging, tugging, tugging - until she got it close to the recycle bin. Then she used the garbage bag to climb up onto the recycle bin - and wah-la! She had full access to the bin!
I thought this was hilarious, and I couldn't have been more proud of my little midget. Honestly, can you believe how smart she is? But then something happened that made me realize that this is a very dangerous thing, dogs getting into the garbage. Taz pulled a large, empty potato chip bag from the bin and proceeded to try to get crumbs from the bottom of it. She put her head completely into the chip bag and could not get her head out. She began to panic and was frantically running around the patio. I stopped the mower and rescued her. I admit this is quite comical, but truly - what if she had been home alone when she did this? What if she had suffocated? Dogs have died this way.
Tips for How To Train a Dog to Stay Out of the Garbage
Keep the trash can out of reach of the dog. Put it up on the counter, out in the garage, or even just under the kitchen sink with a child-proof lock on the cupboard.
Add weight. If you have a small dog, the solution might be as simple as adding weight to the bottom of the trash can. You can use actual weights, or something like sand, kitty litter, or a brick. If the dog is too small to reach into the garbage can, and too small to knock or tip the can over, this is an effective tip.
Purchase a garbage can with a lock on it. (Click HERE)
Put up baby gate to close off the room where the garbage is. (Click HERE).
Give the dog something else to do. When you're away, try hiding treats around the house for the dog to find. Or else purchase a Kong Toy - rubber dog toys that have a treat stuffed inside - my doxy chases hers all evening!
Don't set your dog up to fail. Honestly, if you have chicken bones, scraps of meat, or any kind of sniff-able food in the garbage can, the dog is going to be tempted to try to get it. Don't get mad at your dog if YOU are not smart enough to realize that and get the garbage out of his reach.
For More Help
For more information and help with this and other dog behavioral issues, visit this fantastic video based dog training website, The Online Dog Trainer. They offer a $1 3-day trial! You can read my review of this website HERE.