When I left off last month’s Positive Pet Training Hop post (“Heel” and More), I told you that I’d been starting to teach Luke to put his toys away. The book I have (Clicking with Your Dog) actually said I should teach him to drop the toys in the box first. The problem is that I couldn’t get him to pick up or take a toy from me! There was no way that dog was putting a toy in his mouth when there were treats nearby. He’s almost too smart…he knew his mouth needed to be free for taking treats!
The original plan had been a two-step process, but I had to reverse the steps (which ultimately made it easier…you’ll see). Pick toys up, and then drop them in a box. Luke already knew his “Give” command, so I figured we were in good shape for step two….but first I had to get him to do the first step! I had consulted the book again for help in getting him to take a toy. The suggestion was to use “shaping” (reward small increments that lead to the desired behavior) to get him to pay attention to and ultimately pick up the toy. They suggested putting peanut butter on the toy to make it more attractive.
I started with a ball. The plan is to click and treat when he even looks at the toy, then steps toward the toy, and then actually touches it. Shaping is not always easy for me, because sometimes I think I miss subtle moves that should be rewarded. But we get there. I ultimately put coconut oil on the ball, because Luke loves that. But getting him to take the step from licking or nosing the ball to picking it up was HARD, and to be honest, I almost gave up.
But one thing I’ve learned with Luke is that just when I think he’s not getting something, he gets it. I actually switched to a stuffed toy because I thought he might be more likely to pick that up and that’s ultimately what worked. Finally he picked it up, click, treat….but then he wouldn’t do it again. Whenever we couldn’t move forward, we took a step back and ended on a positive note. I could always get him to do his “high fives” or “back up” if we needed to end well. If he even picked that toy up once, we would end there. Then the next session, he would seem to remember that, and the next time he’d do it right off, so we ultimately got there! Once he had it down, I added the vocal command “pick up”. I also point at the toy, since he responds well to visual commands as well.
One thing I noticed as we practiced was that he would pick the toy up and pretty quickly toss it aside, knowing his treat was coming. So I used this, and instead of using his “give” command to get to step two, dropping it in a box, I just put the box right next to him and the toy and we went through the same process. If he even touched the box with the toy before dropping it, click, treat, until eventually he had to drop it in the box before he’d get a click and treat. This step went more quickly than the previous. We moved the toys further away from the box, and practiced.
I used a large box to start, and then tried smaller boxes and started adding more toys to the mix. I knew that Luke was good at “generalizing”. In other words, even though he trained to a certain training location, toys, and box, I knew he could transfer that trick to another location, his actual toy box, and different toys. I had seen this when we trained him to close doors. We rarely worked anywhere but with the kitchen cabinets for that trick. Weeks after we had done that training, I took him in the bathroom, set the door halfway closed, and told him to close it. At first he re-opened it all the way. But just as he had learned in the kitchen, he went around the backside of the door and then closed it all the way! I had not taught him to do that with anything other than cabinet doors!
Not only will he do this upstairs with his toy box now, I can take him outside on the deck and he will put toys away there as well. We are still working on this trick. We have mostly let the clicker go…sometimes he starts out distracted and I’ll click for the first couple, and then put it down. I’ve started sometimes only treating him after he’s put 2 or 3 toys away. My ultimate goal is to get him to put all the toys away before expecting a treat. In the video I’m sharing below you’ll see that I have to give him the command for each toy and often point to it or direct him to it. I hope eventually I won’t have to do that every time either. But right now, he needs me standing there directing him most of the time. So it’s still a work in progress, but we’re having fun, and I hope you can see that in the video. It’s a bit longer than some, showing two different rounds of picking up several toys. I’m so proud of how well he’s doing!
The theme for this month’s Positive Pet Training hop is “improving our pet training skills”. Every time Luke and I learn a new trick, I think my skills improve. I’m learning to read him better and know what to expect. Most importantly, I am learning not to give up on him, and to do things differently if one way isn’t working. A few months ago we tried “roll over”, he didn’t get it, and I ultimately gave up and moved on to something else. I think it’s time to re-visit that one and see what happens!
We are joining the Positive Pet Reinforcement hop this week. It begins on the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. The hop is hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days. Please visit them as well as other blogs through the links below for more positive pet training tips.
Rugby James says
I’ve wanted to comment since I read this post, but didn’t have time! Great job sharing your experience and process. Your photos are always so very good! I think you’ve inspired other owners to try something fun with their own dogs this week! Well done!!
I hope I have inspired them! And we just have so much fun with it. My sister was over the other night and Luke put all of his toys away before getting his treat – he put on a good show! Luke and I are trying to decide what his next trick will be, but we’re going to work on a couple of behavioral issues for a bit before we get back to tricks.
As you could see from my last reply, you are not the only one that doesn’t always have time to comment, so I totally understand that, and appreciate it you making it over to do so. 🙂
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
way to go luke that is awesome.
That is impressive! I like the way that you’re getting used to adapting when something doesn’t start out as you’d hoped.
I have learned so much patience since starting training with Luke. I should have done this a long time ago with other dogs, it’s been as good for me as it has for him. 🙂
Groovy Goldendoodles says
I find that simply amazing – I am so impressed when I see dogs do this. You’ve inspired me to try this again. Thanks
You’re welcome! Let me know how it goes!
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
I have the same problem as Emma’s Mom — the toys lay scattered about the floor until I clean the house — I should teach Ducky how to put them away. First I have to figure out how to make it a game that she will enjoy.
Luke is easy, since anything that involves treats excites him!
That’s a great achievement and something I hope to try with the poodles one day. Thanks for the inspiration!
You’re welcome! I hope you get a chance to try it, and have fun with it. Be sure and check out today’s post too, where I show the bloopers. It is really fun, even when they’re not getting it right. 🙂
Jackie Bouchard says
Wow, very impressive. I think he’s totally ready for rollover if he can do that! I still haven’t managed to get Rita to rollover so we gave up but maybe I should try something else.
When you are ready to use the dog’s favorite toys or your best leather shoes as training objects, guard against mistakes by putting the object under a clear plastic tub, on the other side of a baby gate, or out of reach with the dog on leash.
Wow – that’s a LOT of patience. I don’t know if I have it. But well done Luke.
Patience is something I am learning along with Luke learning his tricks! 🙂
Great job! Luke is so smart ????
Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) says
Luke is so cute! I love the “putting the toys away” trick! We back chained it a while ago and the girls love doing it!
Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady says
Wow, I think your doing great!!!!!! Better than me thats for sure. I haven’t even attempted to teach my huskies to put their toys away! LOL!
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
2 Brown Dawgs says
Very nice job. Now you will have to teach him the name of each toy. 🙂
I am slowly catching up and will probably go back and read. 🙂
Don’t think I haven’t thought of that, but I’m not sure I’m up for it. 🙂 Plus a lot of toys don’t live long enough to get named around here. 🙂
I’m glad you are getting back into the swing of things, and thanks for going back and catching up with all my posts, I appreciate it!
M. K. Clinton says
I just bought a clicker to begin an online training class. I am hoping to be successful. ☺
Oh, that’s excellent! I hope it goes well and that we’ll get to hear all about it!
I had the same difficulty with Honey. It took a long time to teach her to pick up a toy. And yes, she’s smart like Luke and knows she needs to keep her mouth free to get treats.
I haven’t practiced this with Honey since we moved but you and Luke are encouraging me to pick it up again.
I don’t have the bandwidth to watch the video quite yet. But I’m saving it for my next moment of free wifi.
When you do get a chance to watch the videos, don’t miss today’s either – I think you’ll enjoy the outtakes too. In the outtake video you really see how much fun both Luke and I have with it.
I think picking up toys would be a fun game to occupy Honey on the boat!
easy rider says
Luke can you please come to my crib… there are toys efurrywhere and my mom bought a giant bag with treats… she would need your help to pick up that toys (and some illegal treasures too) :o)
Save that bag of treats, I’m on my way!
Your buddy, Luke
Bailie’s obedience school trainer was big on dogs putting their own toys away. You are doing a great job, there, Luke. At our house, they just remain scattered about unless Mom is vacuuming, in which case, she picks them up and puts them away. Bailie is the only one who uses them, so she should be doing it, not Mom. Looks like a good project you have for yourself, Luke.
That’s how it was around here too, toys everywhere until time to vacuum. Some get picked up every morning and put up though, if they’re destructible and need supervised play only. I don’t think we could get Luke to put them up out of reach, so I guess we’re still stuck doing some clean up. 🙂