4 Ways to Keep Your Dog Out of the Trash and Avoid Garbage Gut

how to keep your dog out of the trash

It’s a messy affair when a dog gets into the trash. Messy not only literally, but also figuratively if it ends up putting our dogs at risk.

My Trash Raiding Story

Back when we started raising our first indoor dog, there was an event that will stay in our minds forever. Our puppy was left alone the house and what we saw when we got home was nothing short of cinematic. In what appeared to be a piece of modern art, a trail of dirty clothes from the hamper met with a trail of trash from the kitchen.

I should probably mention that those trails stemmed from two opposite ends of the house and met in the middle. There was a fair amount of meshing near the middle where they met. While that may have been an early show of ‘talent’ from our dog, it wasn’t that fun at the moment. The clean up was a nightmare: sorting trash and clothes back into their proper places took longer than expected.

It’s just another of those dog parent things. Your dog gets into the trash at some point in their lives, and the result may not be as harmless as a modern art installation in your home.

Why Does Your Dog Raid The Trash?

As we’ve mentioned on last week’s post, dogs are instinctively scavengers. When put in perspective, it’s not that much of a surprise that you’ll find them with their noses in the trash like a wild raccoon.

The trash is a mine full of leftovers and other dubious material that may appeal diet-wise to our dogs (like tissues). Even when it’s not the trash, some dogs eat anything and everything they find. So the garbage can with vaguely food-like smells coming from it is calling to be explored.

Like most negative behaviors, trash raiding will continue as long as your dog feels ‘rewarded’ by it. Finding any remotely edible finds in the trash can be considered as rewards at that. Intervention is important because there are certain risks that can happen if your dog’s trash raiding doesn’t stop.

It should be no surprise that bacteria thrives in our trash cans. Their smell alone gives us an idea of how much bacteria exist in them. So if our dogs get into the trash, they are putting themselves at risk of getting bacteria in their own systems.

What Happens When Your Dog Gets Into the Trash?

If your dog gets into the trash and ends up ingesting something that is toxic for them, they may get a case of Garbage Gut. Garbage Gut, also known as Garbage Toxicosis or Dietary Indiscretion, happens as a result of ingesting spoiled food or garbage that has bacteria on it.

Garbage Gut manifests itself similar to food poisoning in us humans. A dog that has raided the trash recently and gotten Garbage Gut may show the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Signs of discomfort like panting, whining, etc.
  • Audible stomach gurgling or other intestinal noises
  • Flatulence
  • Depression
  • High body temperature

In rare cases where Garbage Gut is not addressed quickly enough, it can even progress to shock, seizures, or death.

Dogs Prone to Garbage Gut

While any dog can get Garbage Gut if exposed to garbage, soiled food, or even fecal matter with bacteria in it, there are some dogs which are more at risk.

  • Small and toy breeds
  • Outdoor dogs
  • Puppies and young dogs with ages below 5 years old
  • how to keep your dog out of the trash

Treating Garbage Gut

If your dog is showing symptoms of Garbage Gut after an incident of them getting into the trash, take them to the vet immediately. If you are unable to reach your vet or set an appointment within the next 24 hours, take your dog to an animal hospital instead.

While most cases of Garbage Gut are mild, the listed dogs who are most susceptible to it can be affected more seriously. Treatments will vary depending on the severity of symptoms, but it otherwise follows this pattern: Evacuation, Detoxification, Medication, and Observation. 

Dogs who are already vomiting rarely need the help of emetics to evacuate the toxins from their system, but they may still be given activated charcoal to absorb the remaining toxins in their body. They will then be re-hydrated with IV fluids, which also function to cleanse their kidneys.

Other medications may also be given if needed to speed up their recovery, and the vet will likely want to observe them overnight for continual fluid therapy.

How to Prevent Trash Raiding

As with most dog problems, prevention is better than cure. Luckily, there are several measures that you can take to avoid your dog getting into the trash whether you’re away from home or not.

Some may say that booby traps work well, but we don’t recommend it because they can cause anxiety in dogs. Teaching your dog to be fearful instead of simply knowing their bounds is not GoodDoggies approved.

1. Keep them fed

Again, while feeding your dog on a schedule and enough may not be enough to keep their scavenging instincts at bay, it could help. The fuller your dog is, the less likely they are to go sniffing around and raiding the trash.

2. Hide your trash

Keep the trash behind closed doors. Or in this case, behind cabinets. There’s also no such thing as overreacting by using childproof locks on cabinets or trash bins. Until your dog is trained to keep their nose out of the trash, don’t hesitate to restrict access to areas of the home with trash cans in them.

If for convenience’s sake you need to have trash cans where your dog can reach them, make sure to keep them securely covered with tight lids.

3. Distract your pooch

If your dog gets into the trash out of boredom, keeping them occupied and distracted would help. Get them a heavy duty chew toy for when you’re away, or engage them in play or walks if you’re around.

4. Train them well

Much like counter surfing, trash raiding can be prevented with some handy training commands that will teach your dog what’s off limits.


So your dog gets into the trash. No biggie, it’s a common problem for dog parents. But because there are certain health risks that could result from trash raiding, it’s important to know what to do when it happens. Better yet, use these tips to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Want access to hundreds of dog training videos from a pro? Check out Doggy Dan’s website

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