How can I teach my dog to clean up her toys?

I have a reasonably intelligent mini pin and she loves to play with toys… Probably too much, as she has a bad habit of getting each one out of its bin one by one and scattering them everywhere. I think it’d be a nifty and useful trick to teach her how to clean up her toys, that is, return them to the bin. How would one go about teaching this trick? How would I break it into simple steps for her to follow?

She can do most of the standard tricks (sit, lay-down, high five, take a bow, play dead, etc). She also seems to know what “go get your toy” means, and “drop it/leave it” as well. I know I’ll have to tie those into the process, but any tips on how to fill in all the gaps and tie it all together with one command?

You sit next to the bin and throw a toy. She goes to get it. Give her a command like “bin” (we use “bucket” because it’s cuter). Let her see you putting a treat in the bin. She has to drop the toy to eat the treat. If she drops it in the bin, treat! If she doesn’t (as in, she drops the toy outside of the bin), put her toy back in her mouth and guide her face into the bin.

This of course works best if the bin is small enough for her to reach in to.

That might work, I’ll have to try it when I get home. The problem is, she gets ridiculously excited whenever she sees a treat, to the point of ignoring her toys completely.

I’m going to try this with my daughter.

Yeah, just tried and she pretty much forgets her toys exist once she sees or smells a treat. Any ideas?

Patience. This is going to take time and lots of repetition.

I dont know if this is helpful, but perhaps get a bin large enough to have the minpin go in and teach her to go in and drop the toy. Then put all her toys in the new large bin and try and get her to do your bidding.

I can tell! I think we’re going to have to take it baby steps at a time and first focus on her fetching a toy when a treat is present.

One of my dog’s favorite pastimes is the evening “Toy Parade”. She gets each toy out of the toy box and brings it to me to throw once or twice, then she gets another, and so on, until the toy box is empty. I have no delusion that she can ever be taught to put them all away. This one has resisted all efforts (treats, praise, whatever) to teach her to roll over, something I have always been able to teach all my other dogs.

Try it without the treat.
When she drops a toy back in the bin on command, you pet her, fuss over her, tell her “what a good doggie you are”, etc. Then take out another toy and throw that for her. She will learn this game real fast, and will willingly play it with you for hours.

Give one treat at the end, after all the toys are put away, to signal that the game is over for tonight. Then you get up and go elsewhere. If you don’t teach her a signal for ‘game over’, she will keep you playing it all night.

You should try “clicker” training, it is well suited to teaching complex behaviors.


Related fascinating video:

How to train a cat to operate a light switch

Perhaps instead of giving her food as a reward, you could try a few cuddles and “good doggie.”

Dogs usually like any kind of positve re-enforcement, they like food better, but they respond to anything positive

Ahh yes, I never thought about clicker training. I’ll have to pick one up!