Q. I have two very well behaved and well mannered Black Labs. However, occasionally while my husband and I aren’t home, they will get into the trash. Is there any point in scolding them when I get home and find the mess? Or is the old adage about needing to catch them in the act accurate? — Steph E., Murphysboro, Ill.
A. Unfortunately, that old adage about catching your dogs in the act really is accurate, especially when doing something that seems natural to them (investigating a cornucopia of interesting odors) but is messy and annoying to us.
Even if you manage to catch them digging into the trash, making noise or scolding the dogs will have only a partial effect. After all, they’re doing something instinctive – making the best of a good opportunity to find food – so a good scolding will basically teach them not to go into the trash when you and your husband are around. As soon as you’re out of the house, they hop right back over to the bin.
The best solution is to make the trash as inaccessible as possible. This means moving the can into a pantry or under a kitchen cabinet, and securing the latch. Childproof latches should be installed on all floor-level cabinets to prevent break-ins; folding pantry doors can be secured with a short bungee cord. If possible, use a smaller can as well; it fills up faster and must be emptied sooner, lessening tempting odors.
In addition, give your dogs plenty of chew toys to work on so they’re not as inclined to go adventuring in the kitchen. A toy that dispenses treats as they play with it may also distract them while you and your husband are out.
Originally published nationwide the week of April 19, 2004.