Next time you clean the house, don’t feel like you have to do it all yourself—you can get your dog involved!
For this fun trick, you’ll be teaching your dog to clean up their toys from around the house and put them into a toy box. Most dogs enjoy any opportunity to play with you or having a job to do, so getting them involved in spring cleaning is a win-win for everyone. Putting toys away is not only cute and helpful, but it’s even a skill that you can use towards your dog’s Trick Dog titles.
What You’ll Need
The goal of this skill is for your dog to pick up their toys as cued and to bring those toys one at a time to a designated toy box. To get started, you’ll need:
Dog toys: Chances are you probably already have a lot of these lying around your house.
Treats: Have small pieces of dog treats ready to reward your dog for a job well done as you are teaching and practicing this new skill.
Toy box: You’ll need to have a toy box or area where you want your dog to bring toys. A box or bin that doesn’t have a lid will be easiest to start with, though you can eventually add a lid that your dog needs to push open and close if that’s your preference. If you don’t have a toy box, you can make one easily with a cardboard box, large Tupperware container, or any other tote or box you might have around the house.
How to Teach Your Dog to Clean up
Here’s how to get your dog involved in your clean-up:
Step 1: Make sure your dog is comfortable retrieving toys on cue. While the game of fetch is second nature for many dogs, not all of them are natural retrievers and so it’s a skill you’ll need to teach them. If your dog isn’t sure about picking up or retrieving toys, a good first step is to teach fetch using these step-by-step instructions. When your dog is able to retrieve toys, it’s time to start teaching them to put toys away into the toy box.
Step 2: Position the toy box under your dog’s face, or lure them to stand over the box. Hand the toy to your dog and then ask them to “drop.” When they do it and the toy falls into the toy box, give them lots of treats and praise.
If your dog doesn’t already know the drop cue, bring the treat in front of their nose as they’re holding the toy over the toy box. When your pup releases the toy to get the treat, praise them. After a few sessions, you’ll be able to introduce the verbal cue of “drop” and fade out needing to put a treat near your dog’s nose (you can just treat after they drop the toy).
Step 3: Practice handing your dog their toys right over the toy box so that when you cue the drop, the toys fall directly into the box automatically. At this point, you can start to introduce a verbal cue specific to putting toys away such as “toy box.”
Step 4: After a few repetitions, you’re ready to start adding distance from the toy box. Hand your dog a toy, or encourage them to pick up a toy located next to or near the box. When your dog has the toy in their mouth, use your “toy box” cue to ask them to put the toy in the box. When your dog drops the toy in there, give them lots of praise and treats. If they miss the box, just go back to handing your dog the toy over the box to reinforce that the idea is to put the toys in it.
Step 5: Once your dog is successful at picking up toys near the box, you can start to increase the difficulty of the activity by asking them to get toys from farther away. As your dog becomes more experienced with the trick, you can also ask them to start putting two or more toys away before you reward them. With a little bit of practice, your dog will be a cleaning champion!