How to Dog Proof Your Trash Can

It smells like garbage to you, but it might smell like a four-star dinner to your scavenging dog. If you want to get your dog to leave your garbage can alone, learn to dog-proof the can itself and train your dog properly to stay away from it.


[Edit]Picking a Good Trash Can

  1. Pick a can with a heavier lid. Instead of a plastic trash can, use a heavier metal can with a lid for your garbage. Small plastic cans are easy to tip over, even if they're hard to reach and relatively clean. This can make that garbage pretty tempting for your dog.[1]
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    • Metal cans don't have to look industrial. Lots of sleek, modern looking metal trash cans are available at most home goods stores. These are difficult to tip over and look great in your kitchen.
  2. Weight the lid if necessary. The lid of the can is the most important part. If your can already has a lid and your dog can still get into it, you might consider weighting it with something on top to keep things in place.
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    • Use a heavy book, a break rotor, or a couple of plates on the top of the can. That thing won't move.
  3. Think about a can with a lockable lid. Lots of trash cans are available with closeable lids, operated by foot pedals, or little latches that you can open quite easily. They can get pretty fancy. If your dog's tenacious about nosing open the trash, even if you've got a lid on it, these can be a great dog-proofing mechanism.[2]
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  4. Get a motion-activated opening trash can. The high-end of garbage technology is the motion-activated can, which will only open with the wave of a hand or a touch in the proper spot. If you want to make sure your trash can outsmarts your dog, this is the way to go.
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    • The downside is that these can be pretty expensive, and are still always susceptible to tipping. They're usually a bit heavier, but if you have a really big dog, it's probably still able to knock it over.
  5. Don't forget about the bathroom trash cans as well. Some dogs are big fans of tissues and other hygiene products that end up in your bathroom trash, and these trash-diggings can sometimes go unnoticed for longer. Make sure these trash cans have lids as well, or are placed high enough so your dog can't get to them.
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[Edit]Taking Care of the Garbage

  1. Put the trash can in an inaccessible location. If you want to keep the dog away from the trash can, keep it away from the dog. Put it under the sink where a dog can't get at it, or in a side room or closet that you can keep closed. If you have a very small dog, put the can up higher on a stool.[3] If your dog is large, put the can in an alternative location, such as:
    Dog Proof Your Trash Can Step 6 Version 2.jpg
    • Coat closet.
    • Washing room.
    • Front room or mud room.
    • Garage.
    • Outside.
  2. Secure your trash can to the wall. If you have a really big dog, it's sometimes necessary to fix the garbage can to the wall so the can can't be knocked over. Use a sturdy metal can and fix it to a beam in a fixture or a wall in an appropriate location.
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    • Sometimes, it's helpful to do this in an out-of-the-way location, since it looks kind of weird to have an unmovable garbage can in the middle of your kitchen.
    • Put it in a closet adjacent to your kitchen.
  3. Take your trash out more regularly. A smelly garbage can with lots of food in it is going to tempt even well-trained dogs. Take your garbage out as soon as the can gets full, instead of letting the can sit and stuffing the trash down.
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    • Consider taking things such as meat wrappers, leftovers and other pieces of garbage with very attractive scents immediately to the garbage bin outside, instead of putting them in the kitchen trash can.
  4. Always dispose of toxic substances properly. Some bigger dogs are just good at getting into trash cans, even if the dogs are well-trained and even if you take good care of your garbage. If you fear that your dog might consume something that will harm it, dispose of those materials properly.
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    • Batteries, paint, oils and other nasty substances should always be taken directly to collection points. Read this article to find out more about getting rid of toxic substances.

[Edit]Training Your Dog

  1. Teach your dog to avoid the trash can. Maybe the best way to dog-proof your garbage can is to train your dog to stay away from it. Be firm and react swiftly if you see the dog nosing around the garbage can. If you see your dog approach the can with interest, say "No" or "Off" firmly and grab the dog by the collar and lead it elsewhere.[4]
    Dog Proof Your Trash Can Step 10 Version 2.jpg
    • Prevention is key. If a dog gets in the garbage can once, it's likely to happen again. It's important to react swiftly when you see your dog start to nose around the garbage can.[5]
    • Spraying a bitter apple or other spray with a nasty taste into the dog's face is sometimes effective. These are harmless and relatively cheap sprays and can be found at most pet stores.
  2. Never rub the dog's face in the garbage. Punishing the dog after the fact will only teach the dog to be afraid of you, not to associate the mess on the floor with its behavior. If you come home to a mess on the floor of the kitchen, it's too late to do any training. Clean up the mess and come up with another prevention plan.[6]
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    • Shock-collars or pads and muzzles are not recommended as a training method to make dogs avoid the garbage can.[7]
    • It's also good to avoid pulling things out of the dog's mouth. This inadvertently teaches the dog that it needs to compete for food, and will make it scavenge more. Encourage the dog to leave the item and reward the dog for obeying, instead of taking it from the dog forcefully.
  3. Use an environmental punishment. Most dogs wait until you're not around to thieve the trash. This makes it much more difficult to keep a dog away from the trash can, but you can do a little planning to make it less likely that the dog will investigate the garbage while you're gone.
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    • Try stacking a few cookie sheets or other lightweight but metallic kitchen items on top of the garbage or on the counter by the garbage can. These items will make a loud sound if the dog disturbs them while investigating the garbage can.
    • Check local pet stores for motion-activated devices that will trigger a blast of compressed air if anything comes near the garbage can.[8] The devices are safe but can startle sensitive dogs.
  4. Associate the garbage can with a loud sound. It can be effective to associate the garbage can itself with something you dog doesn't like. If your dog gets nervous around loud sounds, clip a clothes-pin or other little clip on the inside of the trash can, so it will make a loud popping sound when you open the garbage. Commercial mouse-trap-like trainers are also available at pet stores.
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    • Stack things like newspapers underneath the garbage, or use other items that make noise to scare the dog away.
    • Some dogs may still investigate the garbage can, or even become even more attracted to the can if it makes a sound. Use this technique only if your dog is jumpy around loud sounds.
  5. Feed the dog elsewhere. Sometimes, dogs will come to associate the kitchen with eating, just as you do. People eat there, the dog is fed there and the delicious-smelling garbage is also there. It's no wonder the dog roots around. To eliminate this connection, feed the dog outside or in another adjacent room of the house.
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    • This can be somewhat of a hassle. But if the dog doesn't ever make it into the kitchen, it's likely that your dog will never get into the garbage can. Make the kitchen a no-dog-zone.
  6. Put up room dividers to keep the dog out of the kitchen. If you have a small dog, sometimes it's much easier to just make the kitchen an inaccessible place, instead of trying to train the dog to stay away from the garbage. Use small room dividers in the doorways to the kitchen and keep your dog away from the trash can.
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  7. Spray the trash can with citrus. Dogs are often repelled by the scent of citrus. Mix a few tablespoons of lemon juice in warm water with a cap full of vinegar. Put the liquid into a spray bottle and spray the bottom of your trash can each time you take out the trash. After you replace the bag, spray the inside of the bag as well.
    Dog Proof Your Trash Can Step 16 Version 2.jpg
    • Rotten meat and other nasty garbage smells will quickly overpower the citrus scent. Use citrus spray in conjunction with other methods, including changing your garbage more regularly.
    • Some people like to regularly use basic Lysol disinfectant spray on the trash or in the can, to mask the odors and keep animals away as well.
    • "Dog repellent" sprays are commonly sold commercially. Sometimes these are quite expensive and don't work particularly well. Read the ingredients and find out what's in the spray before you buy.

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