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How to: Train Dog to Pick up Toys

Train Dog to Pick up Toys

Are you someone that finds themselves spending ages cleaning away after your dog and putting their toys away? Dogs are just like kids in the way that they take out every toy they have and leave them all over the house to make a huge mess that someone has to clean up.

If you’re tired of cleaning up after your dog then why not get them to clean up after themselves? It’s good for both you and your dog because:

·         Cleaning expends energy

·         It makes him think which can also make him tired

·         It gives him something to do. If your dog won’t stop bothering you then get him to do something else by commanding him to pick up his toys.

It can be a little complicated to get your dog to do this, and it’s best if your dog is already good at fetching. If your dog isn’t much of a fetcher then teach him to pick up the toys first. This does make the process longer though. We’ll be assuming your dog is already good at fetching in this article.

What you Need
·         A box for the toys

·         Some of your dog’s favorite toys

·         A clicker

·         Treats

Train your Dog to Pick Up Toys

Step 1; Target the Box

Start by putting the box nearby because your dog is used to bringing things to you and then toss the toy. If your dog needs a cue to go fetch then use it, but there’s no real need to.

When your dog fetches the toy and starts to bring it back you need to point at the box. There’s no need for verbal cues just yet. If the dog takes the hint and puts the toy away then use the clicker or say “Good” and put some treats in the box to show the dog how important the box is.

If the dog fails to put the toy in the box then don’t say anything. Just throw the toy again and give it another go. This time you should place the box between yourself and the dog to give him a stronger hint the toy belongs in the box.

Step 2; Proofing

Now you need to ensure that the dog understands that they get a treat when the toy goes in the box. After he starts dropping the toy in the box at least 80% of the time you need to move the box a few inches away from you to test if he will still use the box.

If your dog still uses the box 80% of the time you can move the box a little further away. If not then just bring the box in a little because he wasn’t ready for the change just yet. Don’t forget to put the reward for your dog in the box!

Step 3; Picking Toys up off the Floor

After you’ve trained your dog to target the box you need to stop throwing the toy. Now you just leave the toy on the floor near the box. If you’ve done everything properly your dog should be able to tell he’ll get a reward if the toy goes in the box.

If he hasn’t gotten the message just yet then throw the toy a little bit to move him towards a stationary toy.

Step 4; Adding the Cue

After your dog is picking up and packing away stationary toys you’re ready to introduce a verbal command such as “clean up”, “clean house” or “pick up toys”. Of course you can use any verbal cue you want. Those are just some suggestions.

Step 5; Add More Toys

Your dog should be cleaning up on cue now so it’s time to add toys. Start out by giving your dog the cue and then rewarding him for cleaning up one toy. Then put out two toys and don’t reward him until he’s put both away. Your dog will likely look for something else that needs to be done in order to get that elusive reward. With luck he’ll be smart enough to realise he needs to put the other toy away; at which point you can reward him handsomely.

Keep adding toys one at a time. By the time your dog is cleaning up six or seven toys at once he should have grasped that he needs to pack away all of his toys before he can get his reward.

If your dog isn’t grasping picking up that second toy then put it closer to the box or throw it a little like you did when you first started training him. If you have a treat dispenser such as the AutoTrainer then you can put that in the box so that the training goes smoother.

The point is that the dog should enjoy performing this trick. You can take a little break if your dog begins to get frustrated. Give them a break before going back to the training. Keep in mind this is also an advanced trick that can take a few weeks to master. It’s definitely a good trick for your dog to know though and is a fun way to spend time with him when the weather is too bad to go outside.

For dog behavioral training this handy little tool will make it much, much easier. Designed on the principles of operant and classical conditioning, once you’ve started clicker training, you’ll never go back. I promise.