Dog next to knocked over trash can

8 Ways to Keep Your Dog Out of the Trash

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Many dog owners find themselves searching for ways to keep their dog out of the trash after experiencing every dog owner’s worst nightmare. Few things are more frustrating – or more concerning – than coming home to find your garbage can knocked over and last night’s dinner along with all kinds of other trash strewn and shredded across the house.

Many dogs realize what they have done and might give their most convincing guilty face and sad puppy dog eyes, while the more outwardly mischievous dogs revel in the mess they have made with pride and excitement. There are several reasons why your dog might get into the trash including boredom, curiosity, and hunger. However, the trash can be a dangerous place for a dog, and dog owners should do everything they can to prevent their from dogs making a garbage romp a habit and ensure they can’t ever get into the trash in the first place.

Why You Should Keep Your Dog Out of the Trash

Dog looking sad or feeling sick

Not only is cleaning up the trash mess your dog makes an inconvenience, but your dog could get sick or injured from getting into the trash. When a dog eats old or rotten food from the trash, they are also ingesting harmful bacteria which can cause an upset stomach leading to vomiting and diarrhea – other messy inconveniences no one wants to clean up!1

This form of gastroenteritis is also known to many as garbage gut.2  Some of these harmful bacteria and other organisms can release toxins, making dogs even more sick and dehydrated. Dogs who have gotten into the trash could also get pancreatitis which is inflammation of the pancreas.3 Like gastroenteritis, pancreatitis can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration, but can be more severe and include abdominal pain and be bad enough to require hospitalization for treatment.4

Some items dogs consume from the trash might not be able to be digested. Items such as fabric, corn cobs, bones, diapers, or literally anything else, could become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract and cause a blockage. While some abnormal items could pass, items that cause a gastrointestinal obstruction must be surgically removed.5 This is dangerous for dogs and expensive for owners.

Many items in our trash are poisonous to dogs. Some of the most common toxins found in the trash can are chocolate, grapes, coffee, xylitol, chemicals and detergents, onions, garlic, and more.6

Not only can ingesting poisonous or harmful items from the trash make your dog ill, but some objects found in the trash could also injure your dog. Pieces of glass, sharp pieces of plastic, disposable silverware, and other sharp items could cut your dog or cause internal injuries if they are chewed on or swallowed. Some items might even be a choking hazard and cause an obstruction in a dog’s airway or esophagus.7

If your dog is sick from eating something in the trash can or you are worried about a toxin, obstruction, or other harmful substance that your dog ingested, take your dog to the veterinarian right away. If your dog has ingested something toxic or potentially toxic, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control on your way to your vet.

8 Ways to Keep Your Dog out of the Trash

Now that you know how important it is to keep your dog out of the trash can, here are some tips to help keep your dog out of the trash.

Prevent Boredom

Naughty dog sitting in trash strewn about on the floor

A common reason dogs will find themselves rummaging through the garbage can is because they are bored. Make sure your dog receives plenty of enrichment to keep his or her mind stimulated and to keep your pooch busy.8 Offer safe chews and toys such as Kongs and other toys that you can put treats inside. Turn on the television for a distraction if your dog enjoys watching it.

If you know your dog will be unattended for some time or gets bored easily, take them for a long walk, play fetch, or go for a visit to the dog park to provide your dog with some play time beforehand. Tiring your dog out as much as possible will help ensure he or she is napping instead of playing in the trash.

Provide Enough Food

If your dog gets into the trash because he or she is hungry, make sure you are feeding enough food at mealtimes. Maybe your dog needs to be fed twice a day instead of once, needs more food, or requires more appropriate food to keep them full and satisfied.

If you are leaving the house before your dog’s mealtime or are gone for longer than usual, make sure your dog is fed before you leave or you provide dog appropriate treats to keep their hunger at bay and keep him out of your trash. If you are worried that your dog isn’t getting the necessary nutrients to keep him satisfied, consult your veterinarian.

Get a Dog Proof Trash Can

If your dog can get into your trash can, it might be time to upgrade to one that is dog proof. Make sure they are large, sturdy, stable, and have a locking or secure lid to keep your dog out. Avoid small trash cans and those that are lightweight and easy to topple over.

Hide the Trash Can

If your space allows, put your trash can in a hidden or otherwise secure area. This could be in a closed pantry, in a cupboard or cabinet, under the sink, or some other covered place where your dog doesn’t have access to it.

Lock the Trash Can

Put child or pet safety locks on trash cans or find trash cans that come with a locking mechanism to keep your dog out. These can be found online or at your local hardware store.

Confine your Dog

It sounds pretty obvious, but keeping your dog in an area where they don’t have access to a trash can will physically prevent them from getting to it. Keep your dog in a large kennel if he is kennel trained, a separate room with the door closed, in a room or area with baby or pet gates up, or a separate floor or another part of the house.

Train your Dog

Owner correcting their dog

Even a well-trained dog might not be trusted not to get into the trash, but it can be a start. Ensure your dog can listen to basic commands such as “no” or “leave it.”9

The best way to make sure your dog knows the trash is off-limits is to catch your dog in the act of getting into the trash. It is hard to discipline and make your dog understand what they are doing is wrong if the deed is already done and you come home to a mess.

Train your People

This one may also seem pretty obvious, but be smart about your trash and make sure others are conscious about the trash and the dog. Don’t put meat or other good-smelling food into the trash and leave your dog unattended with access to it. Take out your trash often and don’t let it overflow.

Keeping your dog out of the trash is important not only for their health and safety, but also for your sanity!

Article Sources

Pet News Daily uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Oxford Veterinary Hospital. Trash Can Dangers For Your Pet. Ovhnc.com. Published August 14, 2017. Accessed March 23, 2021.
  2. Grossen J. Garbage Gut. Pacificveterinaryhospital.com. Published November 9, 2018. Accessed March 23, 2021.
  3. DrBarchas.com. Dietary Indiscretion (Garbage Gut) in Dogs. Drbarchas.com. Published November 10, 2008. Accessed March 23, 2021.
  4. Ward E, Panning A. Pancreatitis in Dogs. Vcahospitals.com. Accessed March 23, 2021.
  5. Merck Manual Veterinary Manual. Gastrointestinal Obstruction. Accessed March 23, 2021.
  6. American Animal Hospital Association. What are the most common household toxins for pets? Aaha.org. Accessed March 23, 2021.
  7. Huval D. My dog eats everything! The potential complications of ingesting a foreign body. Aspenmeadowvet.com. Published November 19, 2014. Accessed March 23, 2021.
  8. Gibeault S. Bored Dogs: How to Recognize Doggy Boredom (and Help!). Akc.org. Published April 24, 2019. Accessed March 23, 2021.
  9. Gibeault S. “Leave It”: Training Your Dog to Ignore Items From Dropped Food to Bicycles & More. Akc.org. Published November 22, 2019. Accessed March 23, 2021.
Dr. Amanda Jondle
Dr. Amanda Jondle, DVM practices small animal medicine, surgery, and integrative medicine. She is a graduate of Iowa State University Veterinary School.