How to Train Your Dog to Pick Up Things

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A mainstay of most service dogs, the ability to assist the handler by picking up dropped items is always handy. Additionally, it can be used as a precursor to a retreive for those dogs who don't take to retreiving natually.

Things You'll Need

  • A soft article (something interesting like a sock or toy)
  • Lots of treats
  • Lots of patience

Place the object on the floor and instruct the dog to "get it". Keep directing the dog's attention to the object until he/she looks at it. Once they have looked at the object, reward with praise and/or treat.

Repeat step 1 until the dog is regularly looking at the object when you point and use the command.

Now the current behaviour is molded into the desired behavior. Start by requiring more and more involvement prior to rewarding/treating the dog. First, make them move their head in that direction prior to rewarding. Then wait until they actually touch the object. Then wait until the pick up the object a few inches off the ground. Finally, wait to reward them until they place the object in your hand.

Now switch objects. One very usable object that you should always have with you is the end if the dog's leash. This way, if you ever drop the leash while carrying something, you can have the dog hand it to you without having to put down what you are carrying.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use lots and lots of praise.
  • Another good object to use is car keys. Remember that most dogs object to picking up metal at first (although they can be trained beyond that), so make sure you have some sort of fob/key chain that is easy for the dog to pick up.
  • Expect the dog to pick up lots of things around the house once this behavior is learned. Continue to "trade" each object for a treat. Not only does this improve housework, but you are sure the dog is not eating anything he/she finds on the floor because they would rather trade it for praise and a treat than eat it directly.
  • Obviously this is more functional in larger dogs, but small dogs can learn this behavior as well.
  • Do not allow this game to degrade into the typical "can't catch me" game. Make the dog place the object directly in your hand.

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