How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Garbage

Medium
4-10 Days
Behavior

Introduction

You come home from a hard day at work, let your pup out of her crate, and run into the other room for a moment before starting dinner. What could go wrong? By the time you get back to the kitchen, the garbage is strewn from one end of the house to the other--you name it, coffee grounds, last night's chicken bones, tin cans, and goodness only knows what else. Your young dog is sitting happily in the middle of it all with a half-eaten drumstick, which fortunately you are able to wrestle out of her mouth before she has a chance to swallow, but who knows what else she has ingested!  

Not only do you now have an awful unsanitary mess to clean up, you have to worry about what your dog might have eaten that could harm her before you discovered her.  Many garbage items like cooked poultry or fish bones can choke a dog, or scratch the lining of their esophagus or digestive system and cause serious, even fatal damage. Tin cans and other sharp objects can cut your dog’s mouth, toxic items in the garbage can be ingested and make your dog sick or even cause death. Keeping your dog out of the garbage is critical, not only for your sanity, but for your dog’s health.

Defining Tasks

Some steps to avoid having your dog raid the garbage are common sense. For example, make sure your dog is not hungry, make sure she is not bored, and does not have access to the garbage when you are not present, or perhaps even when you are. Keeping household garbage in a closed cupboard, or in a room that your dog does not have access to, which can be accomplished with child gates or closed doors, may be advisable. However, you cannot control your dog's environment all the time, nor their access to household or other garbage. Therefore, training your dog not to get into and eat garbage is important to keep her safe, and your house clean. Also, training your dog not to eat garbage transfers to other situations where you can direct your dog to leave items you do not want her chewing on, such as when you come across unknown food sources on walks, other dogs' toys or bones, or poop. Teaching your dog to leave garbage alone can take several days of vigilance and supervision but is well worth it.

Getting Started

You will need to ensure that your dog only has access to garbage when supervised so you can prevent her from getting into the garbage and being rewarded for that behavior. Put the garbage out of reach of your dog during the training period. You may want to purchase a commercial deterrent device such as a noise maker. You will need treats to use as rewards while teaching your dog to avoid the garbage on command, and plain treats to use as bait if you are teaching a generalized 'leave it' command. Consistency and patience are important to achieve success and there will be a significant time investment on your part.

The Claim the Garbage Method

ribbon-method-1
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Supervise
Ensure that your dog only has access to the garbage when you are present to supervise and “catch her in the act”. You may need to use barriers or close the garbage away when you are not present.
Step
2
Block
When your dog approaches the garbage, insert your body between the garbage and your dog.
Step
3
Push away
Push your dog away with your body, firmly.
Step
4
Use verbal command
Loudly say “leave it” or “off".
Step
5
Reward 'away' behavior
When your dog backs off, you can reward him with attention. Avoid punishing a dog that has already got into the garbage, as she will not associate it with the “dumpster diving” and punishment will only confuse her.
Recommend training method?

The Negative Association Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Set a trap
Purchase a commercial deterrent that makes a loud noise when touched, or create a homemade “booby trap”. For example, rig a line attached to a stack of tin cans that, when interfered with, will trip, spilling cans and creating a large crash that will startle your dog. Alternatively, supervise your dog surreptitiously, and have a loud noise maker you can deploy if your dog investigates the garbage.
Step
2
Allow trap to spring
When your dog interferes with the garbage she triggers the trap, or causes you to activate the noise maker.
Step
3
Create a negative association
The loud noise frightens your dog and causes her to jump away. It also notifies you, if you are in another part of the house, that your dog has approached the garbage.
Step
4
Repeat
Over a period of several days and repeated incidents, your dog should come to associate approaching the garbage with unpleasant consequences.
Step
5
Establish
Eventually, your dog will avoid the area the garbage is in altogether in order not to trigger the trap. Be sure to reward your dog for ignoring the garbage receptacle. This may not be a good method if your dog is extremely anxious or nervous, as being frightened may exacerbate anxious behaviors.
Recommend training method?

The Leave It Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Present hand with treat
Hold a treat in your closed hand and hold your hand out. When your dog sniffs, licks, paws at, or approaches your hand say “leave it” firmly and calmly.
Step
2
Reward 'leave it'
Wait until the dog stops investigating and attempting to reach the treat in your hand. Say “Yes” and open your hand to offer the treat. On some occasions, hold the treat out in a closed fist, and let her investigate, and give her the treat without saying “leave it”, to establish it is only when you give the command that she needs to leave it.
Step
3
Put treat on floor
Start putting the treat on the floor, and giving the 'leave it' command. Use a plain piece of kibble or a biscuit. When your dog obeys the 'leave it' command, reward her with a much better treat, like a piece of hot dog or chicken.
Step
4
Add difficulty
Move the game around the house or outside and leave treats in planned places. When your dog discovers them, give her the 'leave it' command. Reward with a treat when she obeys, then move to just offering praise and attention.
Step
5
Apply to garbage
Use the 'leave it' command when your dog approaches the household garbage, or any garbage you come across on your walks. Firmly establishing the 'leave it' command should result in your dog avoiding the garbage. Be sure to praise her as a reward for leaving the garbage alone.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 11/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Sibyl
Australian Cattle Dog
3 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Sibyl
Australian Cattle Dog
3 Years

I cannot keep my clever girl out of the garbage, both kitchen and bath. I keep reading firstly make sure she isn't hungry. She's well fed and a healthy weight, plus we compost everything we can and disposed of food goes straight out to a bin which she doesn't have access. We try to remember to close the bathroom door and there's a child proof lock on the cabinet door the garbage sits behind. She'll wait until she knows I'm busy or distracted. She sneaks off, opens the doors and has also figured out how to work the child proof latch. She tears up wrappers and eats paper goods and cotton swabs and popsicle sticks, etc. I worry about her eating something that can hurt her (and I am really sick of cleaning up garbage). She's doesn't have any other behavior issues, unless you count eating bees. She's active. We play fetch with a frisbee and an old volleyball, her favorite. She "works" in the garden with me and follows boundaries and has learned the difference between weeds which she helps pull. She gets a new chew toy regularly and follows commands like "leave it" even if it's food, as long as I'm in the room. I just cannot keep her out of the garbages. Tonight she heard me get up for a drink and hid under the bed with a paper roll and I found she had gotten into both garbages while I was watching a movie. I was so upset I yelled at her and locked her in her crate, which I never do because I don't believe crates are punishment and I usually reward her for hopping into it. I know logically it won't keep her out of the garage either I'm just at my wits end. She might be smarter than I am.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Theresa, At this point, since the behavior is dangerous and she is great at breaking into areas where the trash is, I would use a deterrent. Often teaching an e-collar avoidance is what I would recommend since she is so persistent. You could also place something like a magnetic toddler door alarm on the cabinet where the trash goes under, so that when she opens the cabinet door, the magnets detaching from each other will cause the alarm to sound. To use an e-collar, you would hide a camera, spy on pup from another room, and correct on an "act of god" level on the remote training collar whenever pup starts to get into the cabinet. "act of god" is a remote collar term that simply means that the level is higher than a working level and is done when no person or other animal is present so pup associates the correction with what they were doing at the time, and not just with your presence, so pup will avoid the behavior even when you are not there. This will need to be repeated several times with each trashcan, while also keeping the trashcans put away so they aren't visibly tempting still. Before using any remote training collar, you will need to determine pup's "working level" also, which is the lowest level pup can feel the collar at, to help you determine what a good '"act of god" level would be for pup too. This type of training is also called avoidance or extinction training. In addition to teaching pup to avoid that cabinet with the trashcan, I would also proactively practice a Leave It command with trashcans you sit out, rewarding pup with treats and acceptable things pup loves for ignoring the cans, walking past them, and leaving trash even placed on the floor alone. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Nerka
Mutt
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Nerka
Mutt
3 Years

My dog Nerka has a few very bad behaviours. One of the ones that I cannot seem to stop, is her love of foraging for food. She is always on the prowl for anything potentially consumable. When I turn my back in the yard, I find she has run off to eat my neighbour's garbage. When we are on a walk in the woods, she looks for dead animals. When we are travelling by car along the highway, she is on the lookout for human feces at rest stops. I continuously and successfully apply the 'leave it' command to treats or her dinner at home, but when I try to use it with any of these other 'food sources' (gross!), she does not respond or even acknowledge my existence. She gets into an impenetrable trance until she is physically pulled away from the 'food source'. Then she puts her head down as if to say "I know I wasn't supposed to do that but I couldn't help it". Sometimes I have had success at keeping her with me and away from known 'edibles' that she likes when I am aware of them beforehand. I have to use treats and lots of praise, however most of the time she will still run away later to track this 'treat' down (in some cases HOURS LATER!). How do I correct this behaviour? I would like to be able to walk her off leash but clearly she cannot handle that much freedom. I am concerned she will eat something that will make her very sick, or end up getting beaten up by a grizzly bear or mountain lion fighting over a dead dear (we live where all of these animals are very common).

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kate, I would start by making sure she is getting the nutrients and calories she needs from her food, including absorbing them properly. I would ask your vet about that. I am not a vet. If pup is getting what she needs from her diet, then I would teach avoidance via a carefully used high quality remote training collar. First using low level remote collar training following your Leave It command when you are present, praising and rewarding pup if she disengages from the food when you tell her to or even after being corrected with the collar - you want her there also rewarding so she starts to understand that the correction was for not leaving it and not something random that happened to her. You would do this on pup's "working level". Once pup is consistently obeying when you are with her to give the command, then I would use what's called "act of god" training with the remote collar, where a higher level is used without you around when pup touches the offending item. Pup would have the background from training with you to understand that that item is off limits, but now pup needs to think that the item itself corrected her even when you weren't around, so those items are no longer enticing when alone also. Check out James Penrith from taketheleaddogtraining on youtube, to learn more about this type of training. He uses working level for off-leash obedience reliability, and "act of god" training to address livestock chasing behaviors. This should only be done with a high quality collar, like E-collar Technologies, Dogtra, Sportdog, or Garmin. Don't use something cheaply made with few levels. You want at least 40 stimulation levels, from levels pup can't feel to levels that you won't need, so you can find the level that pup responds too but isn't overly harsh for pup, and have reliable hardware for safety and effectiveness. Some dogs respond well enough to vibration and a good collar will have that option built in, but I suspect in your case stimulation will be needed for this to work. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Sauce
Pomsky
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sauce
Pomsky
7 Months

Keeps eating trash and litter out on walks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cierra, I recommend practicing Leave It at home, then also outside, then also on walks, to help pup learn not to pick things up on walks. I would also carry easy to eat treats with you, like freeze dried meat or liver treats broken into tiny pieces, in a ziploc baggie or treat pouch hidden under a jacket or shirt. As you approach something you know pup might want to pick up, tell pup leave it before you get there, then reward pup if they obey as you pass the object. If pup doesn't obey, have pup drop the item, then practice going past it again, this time jogging a little to help pup not pick it up. Reward when pup leaves it alone. Practice this several times over that object until pup is reliably leaving it alone; this helps pup learn how to leave things alone in real time, not just in training sessions. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Drop It – Exchange method: https://wagwalking.com/training/drop-it At this age puppies tend to love to put things in their mouth, so expect walks to be training sessions for a while right now. The training will actually wear pup out just as pup as a walk would have, so you will have a pup who is twice as tired when you get back most of the time. Don't worry about how far you are walking with pup if you need to do a lot of back and forth walking to train. Pup is still getting just as much exercise with their number of steps, and is learning important skills too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Little Bee
Mixed breed
8 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Little Bee
Mixed breed
8 Years

Whenever I put roach bait on the floors of my house, my dog chews up the roach bait and eats it. She only does this when I am not watching her, so I think she already understands that it's a bad behavior, but does it anyway. I tried showing her a roach bait, saying "leave it," and then giving her a treat, but that didn't work because she didn't sniff or chew the roach bait with me around. How do I train my dog not to chew roach bait when I'm not watching?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, sorry for the delay in reply: Hello, the fact that Little Bee knows it is wrong and has the opportunity to eat the roach bait when you are not home presents a problem for training. My first thought is to try and remove her access to the bait by putting them out of her reach or blocking the access path somehow, whether it be a gate, putting the bait under an overturned box with a small hole cut for roach access, etc. The problem is, there is a danger from Little Bee ingesting the plastic. If the pieces are sharp, there is a chance of injury to the intestine or stomach. So, best to remove access. But for trying to train her not to touch when you are not there, the best idea is to make it less attractive. Here are a couple of guides that describe methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/not-eat-cat-poop The Boundary Training Method. As well, the Environmental Correction Method may take a bit of work to get the set-up right, but teaching Little Bee to associate the touching of the bait with a scary noise may work: https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-counter-surfing. Good luck!

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Little Bee
Mixed breed
8 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Little Bee
Mixed breed
8 Years

Whenever I put roach bait on the floors of my house, my dog chews up the roach bait and eats it. She only does this when I am not watching her, so I think she already understands that it's a bad behavior, but does it anyway. I tried showing her a roach bait, saying "leave it," and then giving her a treat, but that didn't work because she didn't sniff or chew the roach bait with me around. How do I train my dog not to chew roach bait when I'm not watching?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, the fact that Little Bee knows it is wrong and has the opportunity to eat the roach bait when you are not home presents a problem for training. My first thought is to try and remove her access to the bait by putting them out of her reach or blocking the access path somehow, whether it be a gate, putting the bait under an overturned box with a small hole cut for roach access, etc. The problem is, there is a danger from Little Bee ingesting the plastic. If the pieces are sharp, there is a chance of injury to the intestine or stomach. So, best to remove access. But for trying to train her not to touch when you are not there, the best idea is to make it less attractive. Here are a couple of guides that describe methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/not-eat-cat-poop The Boundary Training Method. As well, the Environmental Correction Method may take a bit of work to get the set-up right, but teaching Little Bee to associate the touching of the bait with a scary noise may work: https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-counter-surfing. Good luck!

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