What Color is Your Dog?®

"Up Close"/ Season 1

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Teaching Your Dog to Stay Out of Trash

Dogs getting into the trash or getting into other places that you don’t want are behaviors that can really develop and manifest into major behavior problems. The main reason these unwanted behaviors occur is that the owner simply never corrected the dog for them in the first place. Sometimes you want to put yourself in your dog’s place. Why does the dog go into the trash in the first place? He goes in there to eat. Because he has found out that over time that this has become a very reinforcing thing, he will continue to repeat it over and over. Remember that the completion of the bad behavior is what is reinforcing to an animal. This makes him feel good because he got what he wanted which was the trash in the garbage can. It doesn’t matter whether it was to eat the trash or just tear it apart either. Just getting to do it is rewarding enough to him.

There are three things you want to remember in attacking this problem, and these things are common in dealing with many behavioral issues regarding an animal getting into an area you don’t want him in.

  • EXTINGUISHING THE BEHAVIOR - The first thing is you want to think about is you want to extinguish the behavior, and that means get rid of it 100%. This is going to take consistency with everyone who has contact with the dog. You need to have a game plan that everyone is taking seriously, and it is really important that everyone living in the house is following that game plan. 
  • PHYSICAL CORRECTION - The second thing you need to do is send a message to the animal that the behavior is not acceptable. This correction can be a variety of differnt things. It might be nothing more than you saying the word "No". This means that ideally you want to set up a situation where the animal is able to go into the trash. Yes get into the trash!! In order for your animal to understand, there is an exact time that is essential the animal should be corrected, and it is just as he begins the behavior. If you think about it from his point of view, he needs to be corrected for thinking about going into the trash. This sends a message to him that just as he is getting into the trash that this is not acceptable. Timing is very important here. The mistake that some owners and trainers make is correcting the animal either BEFORE or AFTER he gets into the trash. By correcting the animal just before he gets to the trash, in his mind he might have though he was corrected for being near the trash can. If he was corrected after he was at the trash can eating the trash, in his mind he was corrected for eating the trash. What we want to do is send a clear message to the dog that the idea of getting into the trash is what is NOT acceptable. This is  why the timing of the correction is so important.
  • The third thing involves PREVENTATIVE TRAINING. You do not want to give the animal the opportunity to get into the trash when you are not home. This involves making sure the dog is never in the area to get into the trash when you are not there.

In all situations where you are attacking a problem, you need to be consistent.