How to Teach Your Dog to Put Away Toys

Behavior & training
Teach Dog to Put Away Toys

At my house, we call this trick “Clean up!” It looks pretty fancy, but, in many ways, it’s just an advanced form of fetch. Practice each step as long as necessary before making it more difficult by adding distance as well as number and kinds of toys.

Step 1: Stand or sit with your dog’s toy box between your feet, then start playing fetch with his favorite toy – encouraging and rewarding him for putting the toy in the toy box upon returning.

Once that behavior is consistent, do the same thing with other kinds of toys. For example, my dog quickly understood playing this game with a plush toy, but she was stumped at first about putting food-delivery toys or balls and such into her toy basket.

Step 2: Move a short distance away from the toy box, and play fetch with a variety of toys – cueing the dog to put each one in the toy box before running after the next toy you throw.

Step 3: Scatter toys around the room, not too far from the toy box. Encourage your dog to fetch each item and return it to the basket. This may mean running to each toy with your dog and racing him back to the toy box to add excitement.

My dog got so excited that she would fling the toys too hard, and they bounced back out of the toy basket. I did not reward those tries since the toy did not remain in the basket. She figured that out pretty quickly and began holding the toy down with her front foot to make sure it stayed in the basket. In her mind, it’s all part of the trick of cleaning up. It’s so cute that I never fixed her mistake.

Step 4: Scatter toys throughout the house, and ask your dog to clean up. Really advanced dogs who’ve played “Find it!” games, where they hunt around for scents, stashed treats, or favorite toys, can eventually learn to search the entire house for toys and return them to the toy basket.

Personally, I never upped the ante like this, but I’m sure it would be very funny for you and fun for the dog – not to mention an impressive trick to show off to family and friends when they visit.