A great toy training trick for your dog

Buying your dog toys, and spending time playing with them, can be fun. However, what do you do once a play session is over and the toys are scattered all over the house?

If your dog has mastered the basics of training, you can train your dog to clean up after himself! After learning this trick, he should be able to recognise his toys and put them away after he has finished playing with them. The best way for your dog to learn is to teach him how to ‘tidy’ up his toys using a dog training game. This will be fun for him as well as educational, and it will not be a lesson he easily forgets.

In this article, we will take you through a step-by-step guide on how to teach your dog how to clear up after himself using plenty of treats and some fun.

1. What you will need

In order for your dog to effectively learn how to clean up his toys, there has to be specific place where he puts his toys away. This is usually known as a ‘toy chest’ and the aim of this dog training game is to make him familiar with it.

Make sure you choose a chest that is large enough to comfortably fit all his toys, so that there is no danger of his toys spilling over. Once you place the chest in your house, try not to move it. Moving it may confuse your dog, as he won’t know where to find it!

For this game, you will also need a range toys. To begin with, use a range of toys your dog is familiar with and that he can easily identify as his toys.

adorable puppy holding red ball in mouth
dog with colourful tug toy in its mouth

2. Teaching him how to fetch

The first step of teaching your dog to clean up in this dog training game is to teach him how to pick up a toy. If your dog has learnt the command ‘fetch’, this should be simple enough. Simply point to the object and say ‘fetch’ and your dog will obediently pick it up.

If he has not learnt, however, follow the given steps:

- Put his favourite toys on the floor. Hold out a toy and let your dog sniff it.

- Put the toy back on the ground and say ‘fetch’ in a firm voice.

- Once your dog understands that he has to pick it up, make sure you reward him with lots of petting, praise and maybe a treat.

- Repeat this several times and with different toys so that he understands that he must pick up a toy when you say ‘fetch’.

3. Teaching him how to put his toys away

Once your dog has mastered the art of picking up his toys, you must show him how to ‘tidy’ them away as part of this dog training game.

- Put all the toys out on the floor. Keep a handful of dog treats with you. Place a single treat in the empty toy chest.

- Point to a toy and command your dog to ‘fetch’. He will pick up the toy, as he has been taught.

- Call your dog towards you. He will come, the toy still in his mouth.

- Point to inside the toy chest and say the command you’ve chosen for this dog training game. This can either be ‘drop it’ or ‘clean up’. ‘Clean up’ may be a better command, as your dog can easily associated it with clearing away his toys.

- Your dog will not understand what you mean at first. However, he will look inside the box (where you are pointing) and see the treat. He will try to get the treat, and the toy will fall from his mouth into the box.

- Once the toy is in, praise your dog so that he knows this is good behaviour.

- Repeat the process with another toy and another treat. Your dog will come to the toy chest hoping to find more treats and will deposit the toy in the box in the process.

You will need to practise this over a few sessions. In time, start to reduce the number of treats you give your dog – give him only one treat for every two toys, and then only one treat for every three toys, and so on. Once you’ve practised this enough, you should be able to give him only one treat after he’s cleared up all his toys.

shetland sheepdog with his toy in his mouth
Jack Russell and his toy

4. Learning toys by name

Once your dog has mastered the dog training game of putting his toys away, you should teach him how to identify his toys by name. This means you can ask him to put away a particular toy by calling out its name and asking him to ‘clean up’. This is more effective than simply pointing to the toy.

- Give your dog’s favourite toy a name. You should use this name at all times when referring to the toy. As always, make sure you have a pocket full of treats.

- Pick up the toy and call your dog. Say the toy’s name and shake it, so that he knows the name is associated with the toy.

- If he touches his nose to the toy or sniffs it, reward him.

- After repeating this process several times, place the toy on the ground and say its name. If your dog sniffs it or takes it in his mouth, reward him.

- This exercise may take some practice and patience, but soon your dog will be able to pick up the toy when you say its name.

5. New toys

Your dog should now be able to properly tidy away his toys after playing. Remember to repeat this dog training game for any new toy you introduce: your dog should be able to know its name, fetch it and put it back in the toy chest at the command ‘clean up’.

Not only will this fun trick be impressive, but having a tidy dog can make playtime all the more fun!

dog with ball looking up

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