Teaching your dog to "Clean up" her toys

It's cold and neither we nor our dogs really want to spend much time outside. We are lucky to have a guest post from Michaela Grief, CPDT, (a wonderful dog trainer over at Opportunity Barks) with a great idea to keep you both busy indoors teaching your pup to "clean up" after herself!! If your house is anything like mine, there are usually dog toys EVERYWHERE. Remember - mental exercise/training is just as valuable as physical exercise.

If you’ve ever grumbled about cleaning up tumbleweeds of fur or the innards of de-stuffed toys, you know your dog makes housecleaning a longer business.  So, why not put that scoundrel to work for you, for once?  If your dog already knows how to retrieve and drop a toy, you can shape that into a “Clean Up” trick.  Here’s how:
  1. Prepare a cup full of tiny tasty treats and find a quiet area to work in.  
  2. Choose a low-sided bin or basket as a toy holder.  Your dog should easily be able to fit his head over the side of it.  
  3. Scatter a few favorite toys within reach of the bin or basket.  Squeaky or soft toys may be a bit easier to start with for many dogs.  Make one of those toys “come alive” by giving it a bit of a shake or squeak to engage your dog’s attention.  As your dog goes over to check out the toy, tell her to “get it”.
  4. When your dog puts her mouth on the toy and/or picks it up off the floor, praise her and offer her a treat.  Repeat this step several times until she will happily go pick up the toy when you tell her to “Get it”.
  5. Next, ask your dog to “Get it” and as she picks up the toy, slide the bin or basket under her head.  When you tell her how clever she is and offer her a treat, the toy should fall into the bin or basket.  Praise her and offer a second treat.
  6. Once your dog is dropping the toy into the basket, it is time to get her to do this from a bit farther away.  Have your dog get the toy, but instead of sliding the basket under her, encourage her to come towards you and the basket.  When she approaches, ask her to “Drop It” or simply praise her and offer her a treat.  When your dog is able to do this easily, begin to insert the phrase, “Clean Up” before telling your dog to “Drop it”.  Soon, you can stop saying “Drop It” altogether, and simply use the “Get it” and “Clean Up” phrases.
  7. Gradually increase the distance that you ask your dog to travel in order to “Clean Up” a toy.  As your dog gets better and better at this trick, start to wait for two or three toys to be dropped in the bin before praising and treating your pooch.

Be patient, and train in short, frequent periods.  This trick can take a few days or weeks to perfect with your dog, but that’s just fine.  In the meantime, your dog gets some mental challenge and exercise during frozen Winter days.  

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published