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October 22, 2009

Allow me, please, a brag. In just a few clicker sessions, Lilly learned a new trick we call CLEAN UP. We were inspired by this video of a ridgeback putting away his toys. Lilly got the idea in just one session, but she tossed the toys into the basket with such oomph that they bounced out, which was against the rules. She caught on fast, though, and began holding the toys down with one paw, which is just about the cutest thing.

I’m thrilled to report that we overcame the issue of Lilly not generalizing the behavior from soft toys to food-delivery toys. Once I really honed in on rewarding her for interacting with a Kong, she got it in about five clicks. That’s it.

From there, she easily transferred the behavior to other non-plush items. In fact, one night when she kept missing a dirty old tennis ball because the lighting in the kitchen was low, she tried picking up her stainless steel food bowl to put in the basket. If that isn’t a solid generalization, I don’t know what is.

I shot this video below myself, while clicking and trying to give treats, so you have my apologies for the roughness of it. I gave up on treats and just clicked for the last few toys, and Lilly gives her opinion on that at the end. She also decides to play at bit at first, but that’s fine with me.

And, yes, I know I’m likely talking too much, but she is still learning toy by toy. Eventually, I hope to cue the entire CLEAN UP with just one verbal cue, but for now, I cue each one and cheerlead as necessary. As one of my early trainers said, “It’s a good thing you have a dog with a big vocabulary.”

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. Hi Roxanne

    This is FABULOUS! I’m very impressed with both you and Lilly. She’s a sweetie. You inspire me to shape more behaviors with Sadie.

  2. That’s awesome! I’m so impressed with Lilly–and with you. And as others have said, I sure wish this technique worked on kids. I’ve got a preschooler with a severe allergy to putting away his toys.

  3. Wow. As others have said, I had no idea dogs could do that! My dog is much more talented at barking at cars versus cleaning up. I wish you could come train my dog.

  4. Roxanne: That is awesome. I especially love Lilly’s happiness at the end with wild tail-wagging and barking. I think that she loves clicker training too!

  5. We probably did 6-8 short clicker training sessions over the last week or two. Making the transition from soft to hard toys did only take 5 clicks, once I focused on teaching her that. Lilly catches on very fast. When she was a baby, I taught her to rollover in about 10 minutes.

    Dogs are VERY important in kids lives, especially boys. I’d give a thumbs up to the idea, but I’m not a people mom … just a puppy mom.

  6. Thanks. Dogs can do a lot of things. They are very smart, and once you tap into their innate ability to learn and know how to communicate in a way that makes sense to them, the rest is just takes patience (and timing). There is new data that says dogs learn 40% faster via clicker training than from simple praise or other kinds of rewards.

  7. Now … *that* would be a trick, if I could get Ginko to do this. I haven’t done nearly as much clicker/shaping work with him. His concentration is crap, compared to Lilly.

  8. This is incredible. I never knew that dogs could learn something like this THAT fast. My kids are desperate to get a dog but I tell them that when THEY can keep the house clean for 6 months we’ll get one. Ha! We can’t keep it clean for 6 minutes around here.

  9. The video inspired me to train my dogs to do this (only you’re much better at the clicker timing!). Lilly is so so smart. Did you teach clean up to Ginko as well?

  10. That’s what I like — a useful trick. Now you have to teacher Lilly to put dirty clothes in the hamper, dishes in the dishwasher, and so on.

  11. Great job! I started Marge again with non-plushies the other day, but didn’t get too far.

    I love Lilly’s big tail wags at the end. She looks mighty proud of herself.

  12. I am so impressed! Never would I have imagined a dog would be capable of doing this. Kudos to the trainer. I have a friend who would love this video and will tell her about Champion of my Heart tomorrow.

  13. That is the cutest thing! Now if I could get my kids to do that…. Seriously, what a great job you did teaching her this. You’re so much more of a devoted home trainer than I will ever be!

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