Get OUT of the TRASH!

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Got a trash digger, or a counter surfer…or *gasp.. both?

I get a lot of complaints, dogs that steal anything and everything out of the trash can and dogs that steal anything and everything off of the counter.  And, of course the dog that is an opportunist and does BOTH.  But this could be a deadly problem if the wrong thing is consumed!

Actually, I have one of these naughty dogs!

In my dog’s defense he is 12 years old on prednisone and phenobarbital, both of which make him feel hungry ALL the time.

So What Can You Do?

It was the CAT!

If I have a young dog that steals either out of the trash or off of the counter first he needs to LEARN not to steal.

I know that sounds funny, he should KNOW not to steal things right?

If someone put your favorite treat out in front of your nose, and you were hungry would you take it?

Dove chocolates sitting out on the counter, or Cheetos (Cheetos always works for me) could you walk by and resist?

Probably YOU could resist because as a human you know that if you didn’t pay for it; it’s not really yours.  You have powers of reasoning and ethics and have probably been taught manners by someone; mom or dad.

When you were 4 would you have walked right past your favorite treat without taking it?  Probably not!  Well, until one of your parents backhanded you!

But your parents probably hid the things that you would have stolen, or put them up too high for you to reach.  And, when you started climbing up to steal things, they were there to educate you or punish you for bad behavior.

So why is it that we “expect” our dogs; who don’t have powers of reasoning to walk right past his favorite things?

Imagine for a Moment….

Who Hasn’t Wanted to Steal or Hoard Food at Some Point?

Your dog is blissfully walking through the kitchen when he smells one of his favorite things… chicken bones in the trash can.  Remember that his nose is about 100,000 times more powerful than yours.  This must be like walking past freshly baked cookies.

So there he is, with this temptation alone in the kitchen without any powers of reasoning or knowledge that taking this tempting treat is wrong.  What do you think he is going to do?

Most likely he is going to take it.  In his mind it’s not “stealing” because he doesn’t understand this concept, he is hungry so he is going to take what is available.  If he didn’t do this in the wild he would starve to death!

First!

Teach young dogs what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

If you have a dog that is going to steal things while walking through the kitchen, he probably shouldn’t have the privilege of walking through the kitchen by himself!

I have a new puppy.  I wouldn’t leave chicken bones on the counter or within his reach and then let him wander alone in the kitchen!

Like a good parent, I would put them up and away from his reach at first!

Then, I would teach him with him on a leash and the distraction controlled.  Meaning that I walk my dog into the kitchen with him on a leash and the food distraction easily controlled; I would not use bones (because this could be scary if my dog was faster than me) and I would make sure the distraction is far enough away from me that my dog is not likely to win and grab the food.

If you have a dog that is a trash stealer and not a counter surfer, then put the food in the trash.

AND, set your dog up for a training experience.

When he goes to take the treat, TEACH him leave it! For more on that click here.

He should know the command “leave it” first and then you can set treats on the counter or in the trash and work on teaching him that what is left out is not necessarily his.

Next

Understand that training will likely work while you are home or around, but is not necessarily full proof when you are not there to control the situation.

Again, I think if you leave steaks out on the counter to thaw (and your dog can reach them) and you leave him out while you run an errands your expectations of your dog are awfully high!  If he leaves them alone, you are golden; but if he steals them and eats them all you are setting him and yourself up for failure and possibly a very expensive vet bill!

Thank You to Pet Behavior Associates for this Adorable Photo

And

Going back to my older dog that is on steroids and anti-seizure medication, both of which make him feel like he is constantly dying of hunger; I can teach him to leave it (which he knows) as much as I want.  But due to a medical problem he is really unable to say no in the face of food.

So, I lock the pantry and keep food off of the counters and the trash outside.

It is my job as a dog owner to keep him safe, and in order to do that I must either crate him (which I am not going to do at 12) or I make his environment safe for him.

It’s work!  And, it is disturbing when he steals food, grabs the crock pot and breaks it, or sneaks into the pantry, but I love him and I know what his limitations are!

If in doubt treat your dog like a toddler and put up dangerous medications, foods and other things he might steal!

There are 49 Comments

  1. amber lindsay says:

    I have a 5 month old male boxer puppy and i am scared of a little habit he has that i cant seem to stop and it is disgusting if he has an accident in the house and i dont catch it in time he will pick up his poo and either play with it or eat it i have not had a puppy that has done that so can that hurt him and how can i stop him from doing it i dont want him to get sick thanks

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Dogs are dogs and a lot of them pick up this habit.

    Some because they were in dirty environments when they were puppies and learned to eat their own and other puppy feces and some because they may not have gotten enough to eat as pups.

    The best thing to do is to follow your pup around and catch him before he poops in the house!! AND go outside with him when he poops and clean it up immediately.

    Also make sure he is getting enough to eat!

    By cleaning it up immediately it breaks the cycle of thinking that what comes out is fun to them.

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  2. Amy says:

    I have a 2yr old Chug, we have had him for a year, that has within the last 3 months started opening the kitchen cabinet and getting in to the trash. We have tried a child lock but he can open the one we have. He only does it while we are at work. He isn’t alone he has a another dog to play with. Even if the trash can is empty and clean he still pulls it out and if we move the trash can to the laundry room, which he can’t get into due to a door, he still opens the cabinet. What can I do to correct this?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    There isn’t a lot you can do when you are gone.

    You can train for a behavior and hope that the training sticks and the behavior is broken. So you can set your dog up for training (pretending to leave or leaving for a few minutes)

    But ultimately you lose control when you leave. So I would recommend crate training until the behavior stops especially if it is dangerous.

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  3. Susan says:

    I have a customer who has a yellow lab that is a very well behaved dog with the exception of getting into the trash and the dog food. He has eaten through dog food bins and eaten through pantry and closet doors to get to trash and dog food. The owner started crating him while at work, which his dog did not seem to mind, but the owner felt guilty doing it. After hearing the problem I suggested that he put the dog food and the trash container in the crate when he left and let the dog have the run of the house. After all, I have never seen a dog break INTO a crate. It worked and although he says it looks kind of funny when he leaves in the morning, everybody is happier.

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    OD's mom Reply:

    This one is GOOD if you remember everything to put in it! OD pulls open the kitchen drawers so that he can pull himself up onto the counter, and then just wanders along. Starts in the minute I walk out the door. The other day a large dark chocolate candy bar fell off the top of the refrigerator and he sbatched it and ate it all, all while my son was painting the kitchen cabinets. All night Emergency Room stay after that one.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I once bought a “chocolate tier” it was 4 boxes of chocolates tied together as a present for a work present “exchange”.

    The cat knocked the chocolate off of the top of the fridge and the dogs ate it.

    My husband came home found the chocolate wrappers on the floor and thought I ate them (…really???)

    That too as a vet visit, but they survived!

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  4. Wynn Engel says:

    My pup is sheltie & boarder collie…He is deaf but he smells food and to train him to stay out of the kitchen has been tough….How long does their anxiety last…Cssper is 8 weeks old

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  5. Kathy Barker says:

    We have a female boxer bout 2 yrs old that had a problem with us leaving. We put her in a cage when we left the house up till the last month or so. then we left her out while gone she was doing great till a few days ago and she got into trash an chewed up a few things,has done it a couple of times! Would like to leave her out but to the cage she must go! What could of brought this on an can it be stopped>

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    She probably found something good in there!

    And, since it was so much fun, it will be harder to break her.

    Use a trash can with a lid that is hard to remove, or put it outside, or in a cupboard she can’t get to… Or crate her for a few weeks and try it again!

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  6. Erin says:

    My dog is 4 and he has taken up the habit of getting into the trash and getting stuff off the counter when everyone is sleeping. He lives with my parents as i am not allowed to have a dog where i am right now. He never used to be this way when i lived there and other than this he is a very good dog. does me leaving have anything to do with this change in behavior and if so is there any way to correct it without making him sleep on the porch like my mom is making him do?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Put the trash in a secure area, clean the counter, put the dog in the bedroom, or in a crate.

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  7. Angell says:

    My puppy is 3 months old we got him at seven weeks and everytime he comes in the house from playing outside he goes straight into shark mode (what we call it) he goes straight to the stove sniffing then under the kitchen table sniffing then he will come back to the stove and just sit there if im cooking. What is the best way to stop this behavior. We crate him when we are eating dinner because he will be right under my 3year olds feet the whole time waiting for him to drop something.We also have a 4 year old american bull dog and everytime i go to wash dishes she runs into the kitchen thinking im going to give her something. I tell her to go lay down she will walk out and then come right back. We go through this about 5 times before she finally stops coming in there. Any suggestions on this would help to. Thanks

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would teach them to go lay on a dog bed somewhere, or even in the kitchen by you.

    I like my dogs being around for dinner time because this is a very “social” time for dogs but I expect them to lay under the table or on a dog bed next to it.

    The other thing I noticed about your post is that you aren’t enforcing the “go lay down” if your dog is doing this 5 or more times. That means the command means nothing or “not much” to your dog.

    Work on having your dog “go lay down” or “get on your bed” several times a day so that your dog learns the meaning of the command.

    If you only use it when food is around then it may be difficult to comply with! And if you give the command be prepared to stop eating and go take your dog to her bed or stay there with her for a while, same if you are washing dishes.

    Otherwise the dog learns that the command is conditional and you won’t actually care or enforce it under “food” conditions.

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  8. Mike White says:

    My dog get’s into the trash when I am not at home. I live in a class A RV so I do not have a lot of room. She has gotten in my friend’s trash when I was outside helping him and she was inside.

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  9. Sharon says:

    My dog is almost 10 years old and has taken to both the trash and other available as they appear. We have learned to never leave anything out while we are not home. She waits till we leave for work to do this. We were locking the trash in another room while at work but recently decided to buy a new trash can with a lid that you step on to open. She has been opening the top and putting dents in the metal with her teeth. I am running out of ideas since my space is limited in that I don’t have a pantry or a place the trash can go besides the bathroom. I have even tried putting hot sauce (sirachi sp?) around the edge of the top and she still does it. I would go hotter but I worry about her safety. Please help if you can!

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  10. Kim says:

    I have a 4 year old rottweiler who was VERY difficult to housebreak/train. Well she has been really good for the last couple years and we have not had to crate her at all. But the last week she is getting into the trash at night while we are sleeping. I mean trash in little pieces all over the house! And she does not do it while we are at work, only when we are sleeping. My question is, why is she regressing like this? She has not done this in years! My boyfriend just got her crate out of the storage and I don’t want her to have to sleep in there again!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    She may need to, its safer than getting in the trash.

    She may be hungry or bored… try more exercise and locking her in your bedroom at night may help.

    [Reply]

  11. Pattie says:

    I have a 9 month old Shepard/husky/wolf mix he jumps on the counters not to steal food I don’t leave food out but anything he can get in his mouth he takes and runs with it. It’s just not the counters he steals everything, even in the family room. I do crate him at nite and when I’m gone short of keeping him tied to a pole when his with me I can’t leave him run free in the house. Also he loves to chase and bark at the cats, and steal the stuff animals of the girls bed. every thing is a toy to him, he doesn’t want his toys.

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  12. Cindi says:

    I have a 12 year old Samoyed/Chow mix dog who raids the garbage can every time I leave the house. She knows what LEAVE IT means and will leave it whenever told if someone is around. However I can tell her LEAVE IT before I leave the house, she will not. And within 30 seconds after I am out the door she very calmly walks over to the garbage can, gently pulls it away from the wall, knocks off the lid and strews everything all over the floor. I have tried everything I can think of to get her over this. I have put mouse traps in the can and on the closed lid. Tried hot sauce, bitter apple dog spray, and nothing works. And yes, I have video taped her doing this. I end up having to put the garbage can in the bathroom with the door closed. Any suggestions what I can do to solve this daily problem?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read the article

    [Reply]

  13. Hi! I have 1_1/2 yr old Dachshund and he decides in middle of night while everyone is sleeping that he wants to go into the bbathrooms ONLY and knock over the trash. Funny but not funny. Anyway, he doesn’t eat the trash, knocks it over and comes back to bed. What can I do beside close the doors? He leaves it alone during day. I have taken him showed him and spanked…this method doesn’t work! Pleas help!!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Of course it doesn’t work! You are expecting him to remember what he did hours ago and relate it. Punishment doesn’t work great on kids either, but at least they can weigh options.

    Dogs do what feels best at the moment, if you can’t break that moment in time or set up for training… then you should probably put up the trash to break the habit.

    [Reply]

  14. serena says:

    I have a 6 yr old English Bulldog who has taken up getting into trash and eating anything edible that is on the floor. We have tried putting anything and everything everything in front of the trash and he barricades his way through it. He has never had this habit until recently, he wouldn’t even go near the trash can. I have asked other people who have bullies and they don’t have this problem. I don’t know what to do. Any advice would be appreciated.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read the article

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    He needs to be monitored, kept on a leash and taught what to do and what not to do… or you need to put the trash up

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    In order to see a change you must be willing to make a change and I do not mean crating; that avoids the issue.

    as the article states you must set the dog up for training

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  15. andrew says:

    I have a 4 yearold dutch shepherd/staffordshire and he has been the best freakin dog ever, we could leave a steak on the coffee table and he wouldnt touch it, but recently hes started getting into the trash, and crapping on the floor. Hes never done either in 4 years, whats going on with him?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    My guess is something has changed either physically or behaviorally or environmentally.

    Check physically first. Anytime an older dog develops odd new behaviors and the owners say they haven’t changed anything then it is time for a vet check to make sure there is nothing wrong.

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  16. brittany watson says:

    My lab is 5 now ans all his life he has been a great dog, well behaved and never really did the whole getting into the garbage or anything like that. The last 4 months he has been getting into both of my garbage cans, peeing on the floor and my bed, I have had this dog all his life and he has never done this even as a puppy. Anything I can do to fix it?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read the article for the trash and see your vet for the peeing. Dogs can get bladder infections and bladder stones and it can make them need to pee often. Any time there is such a significant change in behavior like this it is best to see your vet first.

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  17. Cynthia says:

    i have a 7 yr old border collie mix. growing up my dog never went into the garbage. in the last 24 months hes been getting into the garbage and even eating parts of diapers (i know nasty) when we are gone and just this morning i found out he ate the last piece of apple pie that was on my counter. We try to give him as much attention as possible but its not always that possible with a 2yr old at home. any tips how i can get him to stop?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    He does need more exercise. Although hard to give dogs the attention they need when you have kids, they still need it! So take him for a walk or run or play retrieve games with him.

    And, any time a dog’s behavior changes for no real reason I suggest a trip to the vet. at 7 your dog is now considered a Senior and their health can change. Things like thyroid disease can cause food stealing etc. so make sure he has a clear blood panel and a clear check up before you decide to make behavioral changes

    [Reply]

  18. Emily says:

    I have a 3 yr old black lab. Every day when I gone, she gets into the trash cans. This has been happening since she was 1 yr old. Just last December I got a trash can with a lid and she still got into it. A month ago I started putting the trash can under a low table. I walk my dog 2 miles every day when I get home. I have been looking every where online for a solution. Please HELP!!!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    2 miles is probably not nearly enough unless you are full out running. A lab is meant to hunt in a field all day, so that is the kind of energy you are dealing with!

    I attack my dogs to a recumbent bike and let them pull until they are exhausted, and I also work on training so they are mentally stimulating (which is more exhausting than physical exercise).

    And, I have a dog that is on a diet. She is 45# and gets 1/2 of a measuring cup of food twice a day, she just has a slow metabolism, so I put the trash where she can’t get it because she thinks she is hungry all the time.

    [Reply]

  19. walkermommy says:

    Hi I’m tasha and I have an 8 year old throwback Pomeranian and he’s been perfect I had him since he was 6 weeks old and he’s been in perfect housing and always had food to eat.. Now he’s almost nine yrz and he’s geting in the trash when I’m not home and eating old food I tried keeping him out the room and shouting doors but everytime I come home the doors open i can’t pit my trash out early cause of cats and stuff outside.. What can i do

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Go see your vet first and find out why he has a new behavior

    [Reply]

  20. paula says:

    HAVE A COCKER THAT WAS A RESCUE HE JUST TURNED 6 LOVE HIM BUT HE KEEPS GETTING INTO TRASH……. IM DOIN G MY BEST TO TEACH HIM THAT IS A NO NO NO NOTHING SEEMS TO WORK …….

    [Reply]

  21. Jordan says:

    I have a 11 month led yorkie terrier and she gets in the trash and she is not potty trained yet h
    She goes in the house in the same spot and she always goes in the trash when I’m gone or when she thinks no ones looking and I’m trying to train her but she won’t listen please help

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read the article

    and you can search for other articles in the search bar at the top of the page.

    [Reply]

  22. Fernando says:

    I have 8 year old springer spaniel (Rescued) who is my girl friends dog when we met 3 years ago and he is always eating and getting into the trash and doesn’t give a damn about if we are there or not, so what we had to do was gate him out of the kitchen area and close all the rooms to the house to make sure he doesn’t get to them. Occasionally he will get to something if we all forget, it’s just impossible everyday to remember to close a door and put every barrier up, sometimes sadly during dinner time we have to crate him because during dinner time he just hovers over us during meals. There have been times when just walking away during dinner preparation he eaten our dinner, so yes it’s very frustrating dealing with an animal like this and we have done everything. Another thing we noticed he is very clingy to my GF and she give in to his every need so I feel that contributes to his behavior.

    good luck! I know it sucks….:)

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    no dog should do this in front of you, that is lack of discipline.

    As far as leaving, yes if the motivator = food then it is rewarding to steal from wherever you get your meal. So putting things up or putting the dog away is the key, or you can set your dog up for training as mentioned in the article and teach him your expectations.

    I still put up all my food though, just in case

    [Reply]

  23. steve says:

    We have a lab/hound mix around 100lbs.(A rescue) best guess is he is 9 years old. As soon as we leave or turn our backs he is into the trash, chewing up the kids toys or *sneaking* upstairs. Where he knows is off limits. How do I know he knows? Because he hauls his butt back down stairs when we get in. We have a gate, however sometimes its left ajar in our morning rush. I get the impression he actually knows he is *breaking the rules* because of his body language when caught. Chew toys are devoured and ingested within minutes. We also have a female lab mix and she is much better behaved. HELP

    [Reply]

  24. Kimberly Reilly says:

    I’ve written to you before about my rescued Aussie, Louie. We have worked with him and worked with him and yes, there have been minor improvements, but he continues to steal anything he can get in his mouth. Since last week, he has destroyed my cell phone, the new TV remote, and the latest, my iPad! I realize most of the problem is my own, forgetting to keep things out of his reach, but these are non-food items! What is his fascination with them, especially since he ignores all the dog toys I’ve purchased for him to chew?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Probably because you handle them so often they smell like you.

    Yes, keep an eye on him. And, don’t leave him out in the house if you can’t. Crate while you are gone

    [Reply]

  25. Rowena says:

    I have a 9 year old American cocker and has had him for about 7 years for a little over a week he has started getting into the garbage when no one is home. Nothing has changed we haven’t did anything different.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You think nothing has changed…. but perhaps something has changed with his health and how he is feeling that you can’t see…

    I would take him to your vet.

    [Reply]

  26. Robin says:

    My two and a half year old Australian Labradoodle has started stealing papers..receipts, mail, etc off the kitchen counters and dining table. Nothing off the low coffee table. This has been going on for the past two months or so. Mostly in the evening if my husband and I leave, but this morning, it was while I was back in the bedroom. He rips them in shreds, but leaves them. He has been a perfect dog up til now. We have had him since 8 weeks old. How do we get our old Stanley back? Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    He’s undoubtedly bored and entertaining himself. These behaviors are fun for dogs. How often do you exercise him till he is exhausted? Dogs need mental stimulation and exercise and when you do that you will find a well behaved dog again.

    [Reply]

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