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Have you ever wished that your dog could help you clean up? Perhaps you would like to be a good citizen and clean up the trash that you find while on a walk, but you would rather not pick up the items to place them into your trash bag. What if you could instruct your dog to help you and even show him which items to throw away and which ones to leave alone with just a couple of words and a little pointing with your index finger?
It is very possible to teach your dog to help you clean up. In fact, it might even be easier than you think. You just might realize just how much your dog loves to help out too.
This command's difficulty is somewhere in the middle, not being too difficult nor too easy. With regular practice, you can generally expect this command to take between one and three months to train. This command is actually a series of simpler tricks combined into one command. If your pup already knows how to retrieve, recognize items by name, drop things when told, or to place things in certain locations, then this command should be even easier for your buddy to learn.
While teaching this trick, if your buddy starts to pick up trash when you have not told him to, simply ignore him and don't reward him for doing it unless you've asked. It's fairly normal for your dog to pick up items on his own while he is learning to do this trick. After all, he is probably hoping to exchange the trash for treats, but he will need to learn through practice that he only gets treats when you tell him to pick something up.
To get started, you will need lots of tasty small treats, something to place them into, like a treat pouch or a small plastic bag, a trash receptacle, wadded up pieces of paper or something lightweight that is similar in size, a calm location, such as a your yard, a room in your home, or a calm sidewalk area, and a leash if you are training in an area that is not safely enclosed. If you are using the 'Click It' method, then you will also need a clicker. With all of the methods you will need patience, a positive attitude, and a willingness to have fun!
The Kick It Method
Get set up
To begin, you will need lots of small tasty treats, something to place them into, 'trash' such as wadded up pieces of paper, a trash receptacle, such as a small trash can, and a quiet location such as a room in your home, a yard, or a deserted sidewalk area.
Kick the trash
Go to your calm location without your dog and place pieces of wadded up paper on the ground. After the area is ready, bring your dog over and when you get to the trash, point to it and tell him to 'Clean Up' in an excited tone of voice. Kick the trash around a bit until he gets excited about it and bites it or picks it up.
As soon as Fido grabs the trash, praise him and trade him a treat for it. This will reinforce the behavior that you want and help him realize that he's on the right track.
Repeat the entire process until your buddy will consistently pick up a piece of trash and give it to you when you tell him to 'Clean Up' and point to it.
Add a receptacle
When your pup will reliably bring you trash, then grab your trash receptacle. When he comes over to you with the trash, place your hand over the receptacle so that your dog will place the trash into it while he is trying to place it into your hand. As soon as it falls into the receptacle, praise your pup enthusiastically and give him a treat right away.
Practice throwing trash away
Practice having your pup throw the trash into the receptacle until he can do it reliably. When he will bring the trash right over to the receptacle, gradually move your hand out of the way so that he is choosing to place the trash into the receptacle and not just into your hand.
Move the target
When your buddy can throw the trash away without your hand in front of it, gradually begin to move the receptacle further and further away from yourself. Do this a couple of inches at a time until he can pick up trash that you point to, bring it over to the receptacle, and throw it away while you are standing several feet away.
The Click It Method
To begin, grab a clicker, a few pieces of paper, a small trash bag or a small trash can or a basket, and lots of small tasty treats, and something to carry them in. Go to a quiet location, such as a bedroom, your yard, or a deserted sidewalk space. If your dog is outside in an unenclosed area, you'll want to grab a leash as well.
Create some 'trash' by wadding up pieces of paper or other lightweight, similar sized items. Place the trash onto the ground in the area where you will be training. Once this is done, go get your dog and bring him over to that area.
Point to trash
When your dog arrives at the trash, point to the trash, tell him to 'Clean Up', and encourage him to sniff it, pick it up, or carry it. As soon as he touches it or puts his mouth on it, click your clicker and give him a treat.
Keep encouraging your pup to touch or pick up the trash while clicking and rewarding him as soon as he does so. As he improves, only click the clicker and give him a treat if he holds the trash in his mouth for at least three seconds. Work up to the three seconds gradually.
Add a trashcan
When Fido will consistently pick up the trash when you tell him to, grab a trash bag and place it next to you. Instruct him to 'Clean Up' the trash, but when he picks it up, place the trash receptacle underneath his mouth and command him to 'Drop'. If he doesn't know 'Drop' yet, hold a treat to his nose when you use the command so that he will let go. When he lets go, click and give him the treat.
Repeat throwing trash away
Practice having your pup drop the trash into the trash receptacle, clicking your clicker and giving him a treat as soon as he does so. Repeat this until he will consistently drop the trash into the receptacle without you having to show him a treat first.
When your buddy will pick up the trash, bring it over to you, and drop it into the receptacle, then gradually move the receptacle away from yourself. As he improves, gradually move it further and further away and simply motion towards it with your hand, rather than holding your hand over it. Practice this until your pup can pick up trash without you having to be close by.
The Pick It Up Method
To begin, grab lots of small, tasty treats and something to place them into. Grab a trash receptacle and a leash if you choose to practice this in an unenclosed area. Once you have gathered your supplies, then go to a distraction free location, such as a room in your home, a backyard, or a quiet sidewalk spot.
Before you bring your dog into the area, place your pieces of 'trash' on the floor with about a foot or two between each piece. Bring your dog over to the area, and when you reach the trash, point to it and excitedly tell your dog to 'Clean Up'. If he does not pick up the trash, pick it up with your hand and toss it a short distance or wiggle it around on the floor.
As soon as your dog grabs the trash with his mouth, praise him and trade a treat for the piece of trash. He will soon begin to drop the trash on his own if he knows a treat is coming.
Continue pointing to the trash and then tempting your pup to pick it up by tossing it or wiggling it around with your hand while you tell him to 'Clean Up'. Continue praising him and trading him a treat for the piece of trash in his mouth. Do this until you can consistently walk up to a piece of trash, point to it, tell him to 'Clean Up', and he will pick it up and bring it to you in exchange for a treat.
Add a trash receptacle
When you dog is bringing the trash back to you reliably, then grab your trash receptacle and hold it in front of you when your dog comes over. Place your hand over the trash receptacle so that he will drop the piece of trash into the receptacle while trying to drop it into your hand. As soon as he drops it, move your hand out of the way. When it goes into the receptacle, praise him and reward him.
Practice having your dog drop pieces of trash into the receptacle. When he is doing it consistently, gradually move your hand out of the way so that he is no longer trying to place it into your hand. When he can do that, gradually move the receptacle away from your body so that he is bringing the trash over to the receptacle and not to you. Congratulations! Your pup can throw away trash.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 05/24/2018, edited: 01/08/2021