How to Keep a Dog Out of the Trash

What do you get when you pair a canine super sniffer and a nose-high container filled with pungent delights? In many households, that combination almost guarantees scavenging. Unfortunately, the instinctive drive to raid the garbage bin can be both messy and dangerous.

Wondering how to keep a dog out of the trash? Read on for some of our favorite tips and tricks!

Why Do Dogs Like Trash?

Dogs are natural foragers and “opportunistic eaters,” which means they’re programmed to consume food items any time they discover them. Of course, a dog’s concept of what’s considered food is drastically different from ours, which is why the stinky, moldy stuff in the trash can is fair game for them. The reasons for a dog getting into trash can include:


It doesn’t matter if it’s gristle from a steak or spoiled yogurt. If it’s edible and available, your dog is probably going to help themselves.


Ever had a dog chow down on sandwich wrapping? Even if it’s minimally food-like, if there’s a food-like scent on it, many dogs will attempt to eat it.

Past Success

If your dog gets into the garbage can and manages to score an entire plate’s worth of delights, there’s a good chance they will now consider the waste bin the equivalent of a food slot machine.


While there might not be anything that we consider edible in a bathroom trash can, they offer temptingly different aromas and flavors for dogs to sample.


Dogs with too much time on their paws often find their own ways to stay occupied. That can include raiding the trash can.

Dogs Getting Into Trash: Risks to Consider

Learning how to keep a dog out of the trash is important because it’s a surprisingly dangerous hobby for a number of health reasons. No reaction is ideal when it comes to dogs eating trash, but the best case scenario would be a run-of-the-mill upset stomach that clears up after a bout of diarrhea. There are, however, more serious health consequences to worry about. 

Dogs who consume high fat foods, such as fatty meats, dairy, or greasy fried foods, can be at risk of developing pancreatitis. For some pups, just one serving of the wrong kind of food is enough to trigger an attack, which means that a post-Thanksgiving trash raid could result in a trip to the emergency vet.

Some foods are toxic for dogs to eat, such as grapes, dark chocolate, onions, garlic, nuts, and items containing artificial sweeteners, like candy and jams. The same goes for discarded medications that might be found in a bathroom trash can.

Overeager garbage can raiders are also at risk of intestinal blockage and perforations. Garbage presents a number of potential hazards, including packaging, bones, string, dental floss, and discarded clothing, like old socks. These items present a serious health risk if they become lodged, and removing them could require surgery.

How to Keep a Dog Out of the Trash

Dog getting into the trash can

Since one successful garbage raid is often enough to kick off a lifetime of attempts, it’s best to manage the garbage situation around your home to prevent your dog from developing a habit. 

Follow these helpful tips for keeping your dog out of the trash:

Dog-proof your trash can

Investing in a sturdy, dog proof trash can with a lock or heavy metal lid will make it challenging for your dog to get to the bounty. If a new trash can isn’t an option, try weighing the can down with a paver in the bottom of it to make it hard to knock over, and put a brick on the lid to keep it securely in place.

Remove temptation

Similarly, completely cutting off your dog’s access to the trash can is a simple way to prevent the problem. Putting the can under the sink or in a pantry removes the temptation. 

Take out the trash

Another simple management technique is emptying your trash frequently, so there’s nothing good to get.

Practice place training

It can also be helpful to encourage behavior that’s incompatible with trash can foraging, like practicing place training with your dog while you’re prepping food. This involves helping your pup to learn that they need to remain in one spot like a bed or mat while you’re chopping veggies and throwing the scraps in the trash.

Brush up on ‘leave it’

You can also tidy up your dog’s “leave it” cue. If they try to crowd close to the trash as you work, you can encourage them to back away from it. 

That said, raiding the trash can is highly reinforcing for dogs. This means that they might keep it up when you’re not around, even if you’re diligent with training exercises.

Dog and Trash Can: Final Thoughts

If you’ve got a dog getting into trash on a regular basis, try not to get discouraged. Remember that it can take a while to address this pesky behavior.

No matter how hard you work at it, this hardwired foraging behavior can reemerge at any time. You might think you’ve got it licked, but that one time you leave your powder room trash out in the open might be enough to reawaken your dog’s programmed “see it/eat it” behavior. 

Like all canine behavior challenges, the easiest strategy is managing the environment to prevent the behavior from occurring. 

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