The trash can might seem gross, but to Sparky, it’s full of rewards. All he has to do is knock it over and have a big scavenger hunt to find leftovers from last night and fun things to gnaw on. It’s important to keep your pal out of the trash. Not only is it a nuisance, but it can be dangerous. You'll need to baby-proof your house, give him other things to do, distract him when he goes near the trash and, of course, make some changes to make that trash can seem less enticing.
Whether your pooch is 6 months old or 6 years old, you need to baby-proof your house. The most basic step is keeping your doors closed -- this includes bathroom doors where you might keep a small trash can. In open areas like your kitchen, you might not have a door to hide the trash can behind. Keep it under the sink in these cases, but put child-safety locks on your cabinet doors. If you must have a trash can that’s out in the open, make sure it’s taller than your canine pal and comes with a tight-fitting lid. Even in this case, consider putting up baby gates to keep your pal out of the trash.
Some dogs play in the trash because they’re bored. This is why it’s critical to have other things for him to play with. Keep a variety of toys out -- squeaky toys, balls and ropes. Rotate them regularly. When you leave the house, pick up those toys that are easy for him to destroy and give him a special toy: a treat-filled rubber toy. This should give him something else to focus on besides your trash can. Fill up a treat ball with low-fat yogurt, peanut butter, pumpkin puree, kibble and pieces of biscuits, for example. If he empties it out within seconds, try freezing it overnight first to keep him occupied for a longer period of time. Lastly, take him for several walks throughout the day to get rid of some of his pent-up energy.
Sparky needs to learn that the trash can isn’t pleasant, maybe that it’s even a little scary. Keep several distractive devices around your house. Things like cans of pennies or spray bottles of water work well. While being as discreet as possible, when you see Sparky making a run for the goody-filled trash can, shake the noisemaker -- or squirt some water in his direction. You can even clap your hands. The point is for him to learn that when he starts sniffing around the trash, something startling happens. Ideally you’d give him something else acceptable to do, like offer him a toy to play with instead.
You can use several deterrents to keep your barking chum out of the trash when you’re not around or not looking. Pick up a bottle of bitter-tasting spray from the pet store. Spray it directly on the trash can at nose level, as well as on the lid. When he takes a lick, he’ll quickly figure out that the trash can is gross -- try hot sauce if bitter spray doesn't work. You also can place metal baking sheets across the top of the can. When Sparky jumps up, those baking sheets will come tumbling down with a bang. That should ward him off. For extra deterrents, leave a few soda cans filled with pennies on top of the baking sheets. He’ll start getting the hint that the trash can isn’t as pleasant as it once was.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.