Ask The Trainer
Ask The Trainer: Tipping Over The Garbage Can
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Q: My 5-year-old Basset Hound/Dachshund mix has lately been knocking over the metal garbage can when we aren't home. I have sprayed (at different times) Tabasco, Bitter Apple and other deterrents on the garbage can but he is still knocking it over. It is new and clean and we dump the trash twice daily, so I can't figure out what he is trying to get. There isn't anything in it and he still knocks it over. I now put the can on our kitchen counter, but it is very unsightly. Appreciate your help!
A: The answer to your interesting question involves important factors in how animals — including your dog — learn to do things, why they persist, and when they quit.
Most dogs who tip garbage cans probably learn the behavior more or less by accident. "Mmmm — I smell something good ... Now, where is that coming from? I think I'll go closer ... Ah, it's coming from right up above this object! I'll just stand on my hind legs and — " Crash, the can tips over; your dog is briefly startled but then attracted again by that same good smell; and sure enough, "WILL YOU CHECK OUT THESE CHEESE RINDS AND SLIGHTLY RANCID FAT? Holy cow, is this my lucky day, or what?????"