Having a dog is messy.
Teaching your dog to put her toys away won’t help with that…
…But at least she’ll learn a fun new skill that’s super impressive to your friends, family, and Instagram followers!
You may be surprised at how simple this trick is to teach.
Like most multi-step tricks, it seems complex, and it will take multiple sessions over a few days, possibly weeks, for your dog to successfully start making baskets.
Then, you will need to practice this skill often to refine it.
What You’ll Need
First, you need to buy your dog lots and lots of toys. As you build up a collection, you’ll start to notice which toys get her attention, and which are easiest for her to carry around in her mouth.
Here’s some of Matilda’s favorite toys to grab and put away. She’s about 4.5 pounds, so these would be suitable for all dogs under 20 pounds.
Cow LOVES to snatch Matilda’s tiny toys. I think it’s because they’re so fun for her to toss in the air.
I worry that she may accidentally swallow one, but they’re juuust large enough that it seems like they won’t easily get caught in her throat. Still, if you have a dog over 25 pounds, these toys might be too small.
You’ll also need a toy basket.
The sides have to be low enough that your dog will not have to hop in to place a toy inside. Again, this is mostly a consideration for tiny dogs like Matilda.
You can also DIY a toy box using this cute tutorial from Dog Mom Days.
Teach Your Dog To “Fetch To Hand”
If your dog already knows how to fetch a toy and place it neatly in your hand, you’re almost ready to teach her to put the toy away in her toy basket.
If she drops toys at your feet, you’ll just need to refine the skill.
If she doesn’t fetch at all, don’t worry! Just refer back to How To Teach Any Dog To Fetch Like A Retriever.
It’s best to start practicing this skill before you move on to putting toys away. That way, your dog is already pretty close understanding what you’re going to ask of her.
If you need to neaten up her fetch, start by placing the toy on the floor just in front of her, and opening and closing your hand as though to say “gimme,” just as you would with a child. Some dogs register this right away, others may need help.
Make it easy for your dog to drop the toy at least close to your hand. You may need a few sessions to work your way towards a really targeted retrieve.
Sit Behind That Toy Basket
Once your dog has been on a “fetch to hand” kick for a few minutes, grab the toy basket and place it in front of you.
Toss the toy, and as your dog returns with it, hold out your hand over the toy basket. Whether the toy lands in the basket, next to it, in your hand, give your dog a treat and say, “good!”
Repeat, but this time, pull your hand back at the last second so the toy lands in the basket. It might not. Close enough! Good dog.
That’s the gist of it right there. Practice, practice, practice.
At first, getting the toy close to the basket earns your dog a treat.
Gradually up the ante. You can say “try again!” or just toss the toy again if you prefer not to use a no-reward marker.
When it comes to refining the skill, your dog should get no more than 3 try-agains in a row. Your dog needs to keep “winning” to stay motivated, or she might get frustrated. Training should always be fun!
Always finish a training session with a win.
If your dog starts getting frustrated, she might sniff the floor, huff at you, or even scramble around frantically as though she’s resorted to trying anything to get that treat.
Step Away From The Basket
It’ll be clear to you when your dog has learned that you’re not looking to have the toy put in your hand, rather, in the basket.
This is when you’ll add a cue like “put it away” or “clean up.”
Then, you can try this with the basket next to you. You may need to put your hand out over the basket again to help her target.
With enough practice, your dog can learn to pick up her toys and put them away when you’re a few feet away, or even across the room. Keep learning!