How to Teach a Dog to Pick Up Items Off the Floor

By Ann Compton

Teaching a dog to retrieve items from the floor on command is more than just a trick. It can be a very helpful tool if you also teach your canine pal to pick up specific items for you. Teaching this skill is a three-part exercise. If you take your time and make it a game for your pooch, you'll be surprised at his ability to learn it.

Teach the Basics

Before you can teach a dog to pick something up and bring it to you, he must know the command, "drop it" or "give it." Start by teaching this if he doesn't know it. Work with one of his toys or an item that doesn't belong to him, such as an old piece of clothing. The object should be something that he will willingly pick up.

Encourage the dog to pick the item up, then hold a high-value treat up in front of him and give your command to drop the item. Use a happy tone of voice. As soon as he drops the item, give him the treat and praise him. Repeat this several times for a few days before moving on to the next step, so your dog has a solid understanding of the command. Make it fun by adding play time with the toy at the end of the training session.

Keep training sessions fairly short. Limit them to 10 minutes for an adult dog; less if your dog is a puppy. If your dog loses interest, end the session for the day. Always end on a positive note by giving a command that your dog will perform, then treat and praise him.

Building Layers

Once your dog knows the "drop" command, he should learn how to bring an item to you. Begin by building "pick it up" onto your "drop" command. Use a toy your dog knows for this, such as a ball. Place the toy a distance from you on the floor. Tell your dog to pick up the ball. Choose a command phrase that you'll use every time, such as "go pick it up." When your dog brings the ball to you, ask him to drop it. Treat and praise him. Once your dog understands this sequence, substitute another item the dog knows for the toy and work with him for several training sessions. End your session with some play time.

Identify Items

You may not realize how many items your dog already understands. He probably knows the names of several toys, cookies, dinner, walk and out. So it's an easy leap to teach him the names of specific items you want him to pick up and bring to you. Use a targeting command to do this.

Choose an item, such as your keys. Hold the keys in front of your dog in one hand. Have a treat in the other.

Give the command, "touch," followed by the name of the item: "Touch, keys."

Wait for your dog to come close to the keys or sniff them. As soon as he does, say, "yes!" and give him a treat.

Repeat this exercise until your dog identifies the keys.

Place the keys on the floor in front of you. Give the command, "pick up the keys." When your dog picks them up, encourage him to come to you with the "give" or "drop" command. Treat him when he brings it to you.

Repeat this exercise with as many objects as you'd like him to learn. Your dog will become faster at learning to identify items as you progress.