Darn, picked up something heavy the wrong way and put your back out again! Can't bend over to get your socks or keys (or anything else for that matter) off the floor? What if your dog could do it for you? Having your dog able to pick items up off the floor and bring them to you could be a game that's fun for your dog, or it could come in really handy and be super useful if you can't bend over! Some dogs even learn to identify and pick up items by name.
A Border Collie named Chaser is able to identify over 1,000 items by name and fetch them--now that's a smart and useful dog! While you may not need your dog to pick up 1,000 items, teaching him to pick up dropped keys, a wallet, or clothing items is not that difficult, gives your dog a job to do, which is good for his mental stimulation, and builds your relationship with your dog by working as a team. Plus, involving dogs in daily tasks is good for their emotional development.
Teaching your dog to pick up items you have dropped is not that hard for dogs that mouth naturally. It can be a little more challenging for dogs that don't, but there are ways to encourage and train mouthing behavior, and even a non-mouthy dog can be taught to pick up dropped items. Dogs can be taught at a relatively young age to pick up items off the floor with their mouths and bring them to you. If you teach a young dog, they should have developed good permanent teeth so that baby teeth are not ripped out or damaged. Remember that teaching the dog to let go of an item is just as important as teaching him to pick up the dropped item. Otherwise, his picking up behavior will not be that useful to you. You can even add names and verbal commands to common household items you want your dog to pick up off the floor, such as keys or socks, or teach a command to “pick up” whatever you point at. The dog should pick up the item, bring it to you, and then release it to you when asked to “give it”. You can make a game of this while training so that your dog finds it fun.
Start by using an item that your dog can easily pick up, like an empty toilet paper roll, a toy, or a small article of clothing. For dogs that are not “mouthy” you may need to teach them mouthing behavior with a narrow chew toy such as a small soft chew or rawhide stick, and transfer the mouthing behavior to a chopstick and then larger items. You will need lots of high value treats to reward the behavior you are developing and a clicker to capture the behavior is very useful. Teach your dog the 'give it' or 'drop it' command with a toy that they carry in their mouth prior to teaching your dog to pick up dropped items to make the behavior easier to develop.