How Do You Keep a Dog Out of the Trash: 9 Simple Tips That Work

dog sitting in a pile of trash

As many pet parents know, dogs are curious creatures. Sometimes that curiosity gets the better of them and they start digging around in the trash can. Who can blame them? The interesting smells wafting from your garbage are enough to make the most well-behaved dog's mouth water. You can take some simple steps to keep your dog out of the trash can. Some ideas, like composting, can even be part of creating a zero-waste kitchen and helping the environment. Here's what we'll be going over in case you want to jump ahead:

Whether this is a new behavior or your dog has had a long love affair with the contents of your garbage, there has to be a reason they are doing it. Let's start with some of the most likely reasons your dog has decided to start digging through your trash cans.

5 reasons why your dog is getting into trash

small black dog laying in a pile of trash

Your dog’s dumpster diving creates a huge mess that you will have to clean up, and there can be extremely dangerous foods or other toxic materials in your trash. If your dog eats something they aren't supposed to, that could mean a very sick dog and some expensive vet bills. Your dog doesn't just dig through your garbage to be a jerk and make a mess. That’s why it is important to figure out why your dog is getting into the trash can so you can stop them before they get hurt.

  1. Curiosity: Dogs explore the world with their noses; since they don't have hands, they interact using their mouths. As we said, dogs are naturally curious animals, and your smelly trash can piques their interest.
  2. Hunger: Even if you feed your dog enough food, they still might go in search of some extra treats in the trash. If you are putting your food packages and scraps in the garbage, they will be able to sniff them out.
  3. Boredom: Dogs need mental stimulation as much as we do. If they aren't getting enough attention from their owner, they might also use getting into the trash as a way of getting that attention.
  4. Anxiety: Just like humans, dogs can suffer from anxiety and dogs can show this by becoming aggressive or destructive. Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety and react by getting into the trash can or destroying furniture.
  5. Not getting enough exercise: Just like mental stimulation, dogs need to be stimulated physically, or else they find other ways to fill their time. If they are getting enough exercise, they are less likely to be bored or anxious.


How to keep your dogs out of trash: 9 simple ways that work

Not only can it be frustrating as dog owners to deal with the inevitable clean-up that results in your dog's trash habit, but the contents of our kitchen trash can make our pets sick. Your dog can get into foods that should be off limits to them as well as harmful chemicals, broken glass, and other items that should be kept out of your dog's reach. You might have to hide the trash can out of reach or use a dog-proof trash can to keep them safe. Thankfully you can break this bad behavior by using a few of our helpful tips to avoid the mess and keep your dog safe.

1. Compost your food scraps

person putting food scraps into a compost bin

Dogs are attracted to interesting smells and a good example of this is the food scraps in your trash can. Keeping your food scraps out of the garbage bin not only keeps your dog out of the trash can by eliminating the smell that goes along with rotting food, but it is great for the environment. Composting at home reduces the amount of food waste you send to the landfill and can save you money on fertilizer for your plants. So it's good for you, your dog, and the planet! You just need a good compost bin and you can get started.

Try Lomi: Lomi is a food recycler that sits right on your kitchen counter and breaks down your food scraps into nutrient-rich dirt for your plants. It's a simple and quick way to keep the smell of your food waste out of the garbage bin.


Lomi by Pela



Lomi allows you to turn food waste into plant-ready nutrients in under 24 hours. Boost your plants while reducing your waste.


2. Use a strap or a lock on your trash cans

metal trash can with a bungee locking mechanism on top

Whether your pooch is getting into the trash can in your kitchen or a larger outdoor trash can, you might want to invest in some sort of locking mechanism. This might be something simple like a bungee cord or you can purchase a more heavy-duty strap or lock to keep out even the most determined dog. The bonus is that these straps or locks can help deter other pests, like bears or raccoons, from getting into your outdoor garbage bins.

Try encased trash can lock (2 pack): This locking mechanism works best for outdoor trash cans that are 30-50 gallons. The tension design keeps dogs (and other pests) out, but is easy for humans to open.

3. Use Ammonia

a person holding a spray bottle

Dogs, as well as other animals, hate the smell of ammonia. So by pouring a tiny amount into the bottom of your trash can or spraying it on the bin, you should be able to keep your dog from messing with it. Use caution when using ammonia since it is highly toxic and only apply it in a well-ventilated area.

Try Austin's 00051 Clear Ammonia Multipurpose Cleaner: Simply splash a bit of ammonia in the bottom of your trash can or fill a spray bottle with it and spray on the trash can as needed. If you are using it outside, make sure to reapply it after each rain.

4. Try a deterrent spray

small dog standing next to a chewed door

If you are looking for something a little less toxic, try using a product meant to keep your dog from chewing. Most of these products contain bitter apple or some other flavor that dogs find gross so that they won’t chew on things. A few sprays on your trash can should keep your bored or curious dog from messing with the trash can.

Try Grannick's Care Dogs Bitter Apple No Chew Spray: This spray is completely harmless to dogs and you can even spray it on their skin to stop them from chewing hot spots. It works great for both teething puppies and older dogs who like to get into the trash.

5. Place your trash can out of reach

dogs standing up with their paws on top of a baby gate

This is one of the simplest ways to keep your dog out of the trash can. Simply tuck your trash can under the sink or into the pantry where you can keep the door closed and keep your dog away from the trash can. If your dog likes to get into the bathroom trash, keep the bathroom door closed. Some dog owners use a baby or dog gate to keep their dogs out of an area that doesn't have a door. You can even try out a countertop trash can as long as your dog is unable to reach up onto the counter.

Try Auto Close Safety Baby Gate: This baby gate is tall and strong enough to withstand even the strongest husky but has a convenient gate so you don't have to step over it. You can use it to keep your dog out of the area you keep your trash can when closing the door isn't an option.

6. Keep your dog entertained

dog using a dog treat puzzle

One of the main reasons a dog will get into the trash is boredom. To make sure your dog is getting enough mental stimulation, try giving them a treat puzzle or similar toy that can keep them busy and away from the trash can. Just don't leave your dog unattended with the puzzle toy, they aren't indestructible. Alternatively, you can also take your pup for a walk or go run around in the park to keep them from dumpster diving. Not only will this keep them out of the trash, but it will keep them (and yourself) a bit more physically active.

Try Outward Hound Interactive Treat Puzzle Dog Toy: This treat puzzle toy has 3 different types of treat hiding compartments to keep your dog engaged for quite a while. It's a great way to crush boredom and reduce anxiety in your pup.

7. Keep your dog well-fed

dog holding a food bowl in its mouth

If you notice that your dog is begging for a bit of your dinner or dumpster diving, they might not be getting the right nutrition or enough food. Make sure you are feeding them high-quality kibble and some treats throughout the day. You might even want to mix some chicken or beef broth into their dry food to make it a little more interesting than the garbage. Seek out veterinary guidance on how much your dog should be eating.

Try Halo Adult Dry Dog Food: This food has whole chicken and chicken liver in it, not chicken meal. It will fill your dog up and keep them out of the trash can.

8. Train your dog

woman using a treat to train a small dog

Sometimes the best way to get your dog to stay out of the trash can is to train your dog not to do it. For some with stubborn pups, this can be easier said than done. There are tons of videos and books on how to train your pooch or you can find a canine education center near you to help. Correcting their behavior is going to take time and patience.

Try Train Your Dog Positively by Victoria Stilwell: This book uses positive reinforcement strategies to solve common behavior problems including separation anxiety, excessive barking, aggression, housetraining, leash pulling, and more.

9. Try a dog-proof trash can

stainless steel trash can in a kitchen

So you have tried hiding the trash can, used deterrent sprays, and training didn't work! Even keeping them busy and active won't keep your dog away from the trash. What can you do? Many dog owners find that using dog-proof trash cans can help significantly in keeping their pup out of the garbage. Many of these dog-proof trash cans have foot pedals, locking mechanisms, and other features to keep your dog out of your trash bags. These trash cans are usually made of durable materials that keep your trash inside and your dog out. Check out our list of the 11 best dog proof trash cans!

Try iTouchless 13 Gallon Pet-Proof Sensor Trash Can with AbsorbX Odor Filter: This stainless steel trash bin is designed specifically for keeping dogs out with its motion-sensor lid and optional lid lock. It is a heavy-duty trash can that cannot easily be tipped and is tall enough that your pup can't access the lid.

Try Lomi - the best way to handle your food waste and keep dogs out of trash

person putting food scraps into electric composter

To your dog, your trash can is a treasure trove of delicious smells and tastes. One way to keep your garbage a little less interesting to your dog is turn your food scraps into Lomi Earth. Users love how it keeps smells out of their kitchen and their trash bags, which helps keep their dogs out of the trash. It's a great way to keep the mess off your kitchen floor and your pup from eating things they shouldn't.

No matter the method you choose for keeping your dog out of the trash, it is important to break this bad habit. No method is 100% foolproof, but these tips should help keep your dog safe and the contents of your trash bag off of the floor.

Written by: Sarah Kendal