Ask Inger: Dogs And Getting into the Trash

Hi Inger,

What’s the best way to combat stubbornness? Roxy, our seven year old pitt bull mix is a great girl, but very stubborn. She does what she wants when she wants. She has even been known to be spiteful, i.e. If we leave the house and she doesn’t like it, she will go through the trash and leave it all over the house.

She’s done this many many times. We now have a gate keeping that area closed off, but we would like to find out how to prevent these kind of actions as well as other stubborn moments.

An additional question I have is about socialization. I regret to say that Roxy wasn’t socialized very much as a puppy (with other dogs that is, with humans she was constantly socialized).

We want to make it possible for her to play with other dogs, how do we go about it? Roxy in general has been good playing with male dogs and puppies, but not really with other female dogs. What should we do if we’d like to socialize her more?

Also, as for our new puppy, how do we begin the process of socialization with him?

Thank you for your help and advice!

Chris and Megan

Hi Chris and Megan,

Thanks for your great questions! Firstly, I must say that I couldn’t help but notice your trash can in the picture. It is wide open, without a lid or cover to cover the trash! Trash cans without lids make it super easy and tempting for dogs to surf through for leftovers. It might be helpful to invest in a more secure trash can for the kitchen.

Having said that, it still not acceptable for her to get into things. However, it’s important for you as the dog owner to understand where that kind of behavior comes from and it’s NOT stubbornness or being spiteful. Usually when dogs get into garbage, counter surf, or destroy (especially when their owner leaves) can be from separation anxiety.

Sometimes when a new puppy is added to the family, a competition over chew bones might manifest, leading to destructive frustration. You may not even realize it’s happening!

A helpful thing to consider, is to try not to use trigger words upon leaving the house. Create a new ritual where you make sure the dogs are exercised, each have a chew bone, and put music on before leaving. Try using the baby gate to occasionally separate the dogs,rather than the the garbage. A new garbage can with a lid will stop the pattern of being able to get into the trash. The first time she got into the trash may have been for a snack or frustration, after that it can become a bad habit.

You don’t need to do this forever, just for a while during the training process. It’s important for your new pup to learn a little independence too which will give  Roxy her time. They can still see each other through the gate, yet each have their own quiet space and chew bones. Mello music will set a zen tone, mute out other sounds and trigger chilling out, rather than play or getting into trouble.

As for socialization, there are so many factors which create a “lack of socialization” in a dog, that it’s hard to pin point how to guide you without knowing more information. Age, past experiences, adding other pets into your home, and how you’ve handle socialization in the past can affect success. A great place to begin in general is on a hike, not in your own home. Hiking with her on a leash allows her to see other dogs in passing and is relatively controlled.

The movement of being able to walk past another dog (on a leash) while being in the “command of heel” and being praised, while she is, will give her a positive experience because you will be driving the car, so to speak. Basic training helps a lot with socialization because the process of reviewing the basics (heel, sit, stay and come) will communicate trust which will aid in her excepting other dogs over time.