Everything happens for a reason and when it comes to dogs being nuisances or getting into trouble, that reason may be a lack of enrichment. Enrichment means meeting all of your dog's needs and giving them the time and space to perform natural behaviours in an appropriate way.
For months I've been using a small garbage bin under my desk and most days there's a protein bar wrapper or two in there. Everyone is free to access the bin at any time but no one ever has. Until last night. I was watching TV and heard some rustling noises. I looked up and saw that Hazel had one of those wrappers.
I wasn't mad or annoyed, I was surprised and felt a little guilty. Why? Because I knew that Hazel's behaviour was a direct result of her needs not being met. The behaviour wasn't the problem, but the item she selected was. As her guardian, meeting her needs might be the most important job I have and I missed the mark.
Instead of leaping into action and hollering "NO! or "LEAVE IT! " when our dogs get a hold of something "bad", we can pause and ask questions if the item doesn't pose an immediate danger. What are they actually doing? And what's the likely reason for the behaviour? Especially if it's out of character for them to get into things.
What Hazel was doing was licking and shredding the wrapper. Why was she doing it?
Licking and shredding are normal, healthy canine behaviours. As are foraging and scavenging. It's very likely that while Hazel was foraging, she came across the wrapper and decided it was valuable enough to scavenge.
Looking back at the last day or so here was what I noted.
Next I went online to reorder cheese bones and made a note to replenish my supply of cheap stuffies. I also adjusted my schedule to take her for a hike.
It's unfair and unethical to be mean to your dog because you don't like the choices they make. It's not their job to manage their environment. It's yours. So now that the garbage bin has become a viable option for reinforcement for Hazel, I have to move it or take my wrappers to the kitchen garbage.
If Hazel's needs are met, she spends her evenings going between chewing a cheese bone, asking for pets and napping. If she isn't able to access these activities, she's going to be a dog and do dog things like poking around the basement looking for things to satisfy her needs and make her feel good.
Enrichment isn't giving your dog a Kong stuffed with peanut butter and kibble in their crate so they can "relax". It's not putting some yogurt or pumpkin on a lick mat to "calm" them to stop them from bugging you. And it's certainly not handing them a plastic puzzle with some liver treats so they can "mentally stimulate" themselves.
Enrichment requires that you truly get to know your dog. Learn how to interpret what they do and why they do it. Not just what they like and dislike, you know what they NEED and how to deliver it. In return you get less nuisance behaviour and less "bad" behaviour over all.