How to Train Your Dog to Pick Up Toys

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You’ve already taught your dog to sit, stay, shake, roll over, and play dead. Now what? There are plenty of lesser-known tricks that keep Fido stimulated, especially if he’s already mastered the basics and can keep up with your commands.

One great trick is training your pooch to put away his toys. This not only strengthens your bond with him, but it also keeps your home spick and span.

Before you can begin this exercise, your dog must know the “take it” and “drop it” training cues. If he doesn’t know these already, you’re in luck, as these can be taught fairly quickly.

“Take It” Command

For the “take it” command, hold your dog’s favorite toy in your hand and shake it to excite him. Just before your dog can grab the toy out of your hand, say “take it.” When he does, reward the behavior with a treat or pat on the head.

“Drop It” Command

To teach him the “drop it” command, he must already be holding the toy. Have his favorite treat in your hand and present it to your dog. Say “drop it” and, when he does, mark it and give him the treat. While he may be hesitant to drop his beloved toy, if you use an extremely enticing treat, such as a piece of cheese, he will gladly let go of his bone in exchange for an enticing snack.

Once your dog has successfully learned how to take the toy and drop it nine times out of ten during a practice session, you can begin the next part of the training exercise.

Why Teach Your Dog This Trick?

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Why should you teach your dog to clean up his own mess? There are plenty of reasons why, including:

  • It expends energy
  • Keeps the house clean
  • It’s mentally stimulating (which will tire him out)
  • Gives him a job to do (is he bothering you when you’re trying to relax? Just tell him to go pick up his toys!)

Set Up

In order for your dog to properly learn this trick, you will need:

  • A box of his favorite toys
  • Clicker (optional)
  • Treats

Teaching Your Dog to Pick Up Toys

Step One: Targeting the Box

Get his toy basket and place it right next to you. Pick a few of his favorite toys and toss them. For consistency, always keep the basket in the same spot of the house as this will make it simpler for your pooch.

Put his toys right beside the basket and sit beside it. Touch a toy and tell your dog to “take it.” Then, hold a tasty treat in your hand to lure the dog over to the basket. When your dog takes the goodie, line his head up with the basket and say “drop it.”

Reward your dog lavishly when he drops the toy into the basket. Also, remember to put a few treats into the basket as this reinforces the importance of the box.

Step Two: Proofing

You want to ensure that your pet understands that he must put the toy in the box in order to get his reward. Once he is dropping the toy in the basket almost every time (you should be looking for 80 percent or more), move the box about a foot away from you and see if he still drops the toy in.

If he does so successfully eight out of ten times, continue to move the box further away. If not, move the basket closer to you again.

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Step Three: Picking Up Stationary Toys

Once you have your dog successfully targeting the box, stop tossing the toy. Instead, lay the toy near the box. If you have proofed the box enough, your dog will know that putting a toy into it will get him a treat.

If he doesn’t do it, you may need to toss the toy a bit, slowly building up to a stationary toy.

Step Four: Using a Cue

Once your dog gets picking up a non-moving toy down pat, it’s time to add your cue. Some cue ideas you can utilize include:

  • Pick up toys
  • Tidy up
  • Clean toys
  • Clean house

Say the cue as your dog drops his toys in the basket.

Remember, that this is a trick and suppose to be fun for you both. If you or your pet is getting frustrated, stop and do another activity. It may take a couple of your weeks for your dog to get it, but it’s definitely a great trick to work on when the weather is too nasty to go play outside.

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