How To Train A Dog To Pick Up Toys And Put Them Away


How To Train A Dog To Pick Up Toys

How many times have you been walking around your house with a dog holding their favorite toy, only to see the toy laying on the floor minutes later?

With these 5 simple steps, you’ll be able to train your dog how to pick up toys and put them away in no time:

  1. Create familiarity with a ‘toy box’
  2. Build the habit
  3. Tidying toys when not playing
  4. Add a cue word
  5. Adding multiple toys

Oftentimes our dogs go rogue and try deciding when playtime starts and ends. It’s up to us to show them how to properly start and finish playtime. That way we don’t have to constantly bend to pick up toys scattered all over the house.

In this post we will also include a video so you can visualize what it looks like putting these steps to action.

Let’s dive in.

Getting Started

To get started, you are going to need a few helpful supplies:

  • A few of your dogs favorite toys
  • A Basket specific to storing your dogs toys (this basket should only be used for your dogs toys)
  • Treats or a clicker for rewards

In addition to these supplies you will also need to have patience with your pup. This is an advanced training command so make sure your pup has already learned a few basic commands and tricks before moving to this.

For example, your dog should already know how to fetch a toy. If you haven’t trained your dog to fetch consider reading this article on how to train your dog to fetch. For this article, we are going to assume your dog already fetches.

Now, this trick is multi-layered so making sure you only progress through each step when your dog is ready will be crucial to success. You want your dog to have mastered each step before moving on. If he’s struggling it’s ok to go back and repeat a step. Just keep practicing and being consistent with the training. Patience, repetition, and consistency are key to succeeding.

Let’s dive into how to train your dog to pick up toys!

Steps to Training Your Dog To Pick Up Toys

Step 1: Create Familiarity With The Box

Put the box near you, and place a treat inside the box. Next you are going to want to find your dog’s favorite toy and start a game of fetch.

When your dog approaches you with the toy, point towards the box. Avoid using verbal cues at this point. Now either your dog will drop the ball in the box to get the treat or they will notice the treat and drop the ball outside of the box.

If they successfully drop the toy in the box, give them lots of praise.

Now toss the toy again to repeat this step but this time only drop a treat in the box when they drop the toy in the box.

If your pup does not drop the toy in the box, say nothing. Just toss it again, and try again. Place the box directly in your dog’s line of retrieval to help him drop the toy in the box.

Step 2: Build The Habit

We want to make sure our pups understand the toy must go into the box in order to get rewarded.

This will be a repetitive process until they fully understand that toys in the box are a good thing. You are aiming for an 80% success rate or better.

Once you are confident your pup understands and can do it 8/10 times, move the box a little further away from you. If they still got it when the box moved further away, continue to test, moving the box further away.

Do not move the box until they have successfully completed the task 8/10 times. Remember to ALWAYS reward them for completing the task.

Step 3: Tidying Toys When Not Playing

At this point your dog should have a great understanding of the box. Instead of tossing the toy, try laying it on the ground near the box.

If you have built the habit enough in step 2, your dog will know that putting the toy in the box will get them a treat/reward.

If they do not put the toy away, then you may need to toss it a little bit, and slowly build towards a stationary toy.

The goal is to get your pup to pick up the toy without it being used for fetch or play and to put it in the box.

Step 4: Add A Cue Word

Once your pup can pick up a non moving toy and put it away, it’s time to add your cue word. All you have to do is say your cue as your dog drops the toy in the box.

Use a word like:

“Clean Up”
“Clean House”
“Tidy Up”

It’s up to you what cue word you want to use. You want to do this enough times that your dog understands that your cue word is linked to dropping toys in the box.

This will take time for them to get so keep at this daily until you can say your cue and they will put the toy away.

Step 5: Adding Multiple Toys

Since you already know the process for getting your pup to put away one toy this will be easy!

What you will do in this case is put out two toys instead of one. Then say your cue word and wait for them to put the first toy away. At this point, DO NOT REWARD.

Wait for them to think about why they have not been rewarded. This will cause them to search for something else they need to do. It’s likely that they will just go pick up the other toy and drop it in the box.

If they do, reward them! If they can’t figure it out, try putting the second toy close to the box or tossing it a bit (just like in step 2 & 3).

At this point you can continue to add more and more toys. Your dog should understand he has to pick up ALL toys before he gets his reward.

Here is a video walkthrough by Dr. Sopia Yin demonstrating how to do this. Keep in mind she is using a treat dispenser instead of giving the toy to her pup manually.

Tips And Tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to help with learning how to train your dog to pick up toys and put them away.

  • Use high value treats! The higher the value the easier it will be to train them.
  • Keep the toy bin in one spot in your house to avoid confusion. You want them to know exactly where the bin is and to have easy access to it.
  • Your dog does not understand what a “clean space” looks like. They likely enjoy having toys all over the place so be patient with them.
  • Repetition is the essence of learning. You must be consistent with your training and do not give up. Once they have mastered this you will never have to clean up their toys again.
  • Enjoy the process! This is bonding time, and the more you enjoy this process the more they will as well.

Final Thoughts

We hope that you now know exactly how to train your dog to pick up toys and put them away. It may take some time but in the end it’s entirely worth it.

Not only will you bond with your pup but if they can learn this, they’ll be able to learn almost anything! Dogs love having purpose and jobs to do. They will love you for teaching them this, plus they’ll become smarter and more helpful too. Talk about a win-win situation!

Alec Littlejohn

Founder and Reviewer at Pawscessories. He is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! He grew up in a family of vets and to this day he helps out around the family clinic and shares his learnings on Pawscessoires. Learn more about Alec's story here

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