Teaching Your Dog to Put Toys Away
Dog toys can begin to take over your living room pretty easily.
As a way to make your life easier, give your dog mental stimulation, and create a stronger bond with them, work on training your dog to put her own toys away.
Choose a Box
Find a box or basket to keep your dog’s toys in, if they don’t have one already. It should be large enough to hold all their toys, but short enough for them to easily reach their head into. You should also choose a place to keep the box at this time (on the floor, of course). You should try to keep training near where the box will stay, so that they recognize not just the box, but the area where they need to take their toys. Consistency is key!
Place the basket between you and your dog, and call them to you. Give treats (and click, if using a clicker) as soon as their head is over the basket. Continue this pattern until your dog offers the behavior readily.
Once your dog is used to having their head over the basket, throw a toy and have them bring it to you, keeping the basket between you and your dog (or just hand your dog a toy over the basket, if they aren’t good with fetch). Give them treats for holding the toy over the basket.
Getting the Toys in the Basket
If your dog knows the “drop” or “give it” command, tell them to release their toy over the box and treat them when it falls into the basket. If your dog doesn’t know “drop,” then wait to see if they drop the toy in the basket; treat when the toy gets into (or even near) the basket. You want to them to associate the toy being in or near the basket with getting what they want!
Attach a Cue
Next, start tossing toys away from the basket and, after your dog runs after them, calling them back to you and waiting for them to drop the toy into the basket. Continue to give treats when the toy gets in or very close to the basket. At this stage, or perhaps even earlier, start using your chosen command for them to put their toys away. Good, short options that are easy for them to recognize are “clean up” or “toys away.” As they drop the toy in the basket, give them the cue and a treat.
Be sure to practice with different toys in different parts of the room so that your dog can understand that the cue applies to more than just one toy, in one place. In dog training, this is known as “generalizing”: this is how your dog learns to obey commands in a variety of situations. It also reinforced the training concepts you have taught so far.
Once your dog is performing the sequence of events correctly about nine out of every ten times you practice it, you can begin backing off the treats, allowing them to obey correctly 2-3 times before giving a treat. Over time, they will do it without being given any treats. However, rewarding hard work with treats and affection will always help reinforce concepts and make for a happy pup!