Updated: Nov 29, 2019
You've seen that look.
The one the dog gives you when you come home. You are sure he has done something wrong so you look around the house to see what he has gotten into or done that you would not approve of. In our way of anthropomorphizing dogs we think they are showing remorse for what they have done. But in actuality the dog is only showing signs of fear that he might be punished because you have arrived home. How can that possibly be?
Dogs do not associate cause and affect like we do. They have only a one to two second window to associate something they have done with either a positive reinforcement or a negative reinforcement. The old adage you must catch them red handed applies here! If you do not catch your dog in the act of doing something they don't know how to associate whether it is a good thing or not.
Most likely your dog made the mess he made within 30 to 40 minutes of when you originally left him. So if you left your dog for over 40 minutes or even just 10 minutes then your return would be well after the 1-2 second time frame for letting your dog know getting in the trash is a bad thing. At this point your dog has no idea you are upset about the trash, only that when you come home you get really mad at your dog and they have no idea why.
So you may think your dog is showing remorse however, he is actually trying to think of a way to keep you from getting mad when you return to the house. The best way to prevent your dog from getting into the trash when you are not home is to secure the trash can or secure the items you do not want you dog to get into. Another great way to help your dog be successful when you are not home is to crate your dog. This way your dog is safe and your things will be protected from any unwanted behavior while you are gone.
If you are going to be gone all day then it is best to secure a room or have a larger kennel for them to run in. But for shorter periods for leaving your dog a crate is a perfect place for your dog. They can feel safe and you can be sure they will not get into anything.