Born Free Master Elements: Part 3 Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind

Welcome back to class for the third and final installment of Born Free’s Master Elements Series. If you haven’t read them already, you can take a look back at Part 1 and Part 2.

It’s important to remember why training your dog is so critical. Dogs’ ancient ancestor, the wolf, receives a lot of mental stimulation while surviving in nature. Although dogs don’t need all of the skills wolves develop, they do need mental stimulation to be healthy and happy.

Putting away toys

In our second Master Element Series, we learned how to train your dog to identify toys by name. Now we’re going to take it a step further and train your dog how to put their toys away.

The first step is to train your dog how to follow the “take it” and “drop it” commands.

  1. Excite your dog using their favorite toy.
  2. Just before they grab the toy, say “Take it.”
  3. Be sure to reward and praise them when they take the toy.

For the second part, we’ll assume your dog has a toy in their mouth already.

  1.  Say “Drop it.”
  2. When they do, follow up with a treat and praise.

Once your dog can perform those two commands over and over, you can move to the next step.

  1. Find a basket where you want your dog to store their toys.
  2. Place a few of their favorite toys near the basket.
  3. Touch a toy and say, “Take it.”
  4. Then, with a treat in your hand, lure them toward the basket and give the “drop it” command.

As always, remember to reward your dog when they perform the command. As you practice, consistently move the toy farther and farther from the basket. After your dog succeeds with the commands, start to reward them with only one treat per three toys they put in the basket, and then say, “Clean up” or “Toys away” instead of “Take it” and “Drop it.” Remember, repetition is key.

Job skills

Many dog breeds are naturally skilled at specific jobs. To tap into their innate job-performing instinct, find a game that mirrors the type of job your dog was bred for, e.g. if you have a retriever, play a game of fetch if you have a terrier play a game of hide-and-seek with their favorite toy. Dog’s find fulfillment exercising their natural abilities!


Assuming your dog has mastered the obedience commands and other skills covered in Part 1 and 2, you can move on to teaching her how to count. A command your dog will need to already know is how to speak, or rather bark, on command.

Follow these steps to bring out the mathematician in your pup:

  1. Start in an area free of distractions with training treats.
  2. Ask for a speak and reward, so they understand how this is going to work.
  3. Teach “speak one” and hold up one finger. This should be the easy one as your dog should be used to responding to the word speak with one bark. Reward and repeat.
  4. Teach “speak two” while holding up two fingers. Your dog should bark once but wait to reward them until they give you a second bark. Repeat this until your dog gets used to barking twice to receive a treat.
  5. Repeat the same process for higher numbers, but don’t forget to go back and practice from one.

Be patient and expect this to take a few different training sessions. Remember, consistency and practice is key to teaching these advanced techniques.

Thank you for joining us on our three-part Born Free Master Elements series. Training is important for a happy and engaged dog. Along with spending quality time with your dog, it also brings you both closer — offering more ways for you to communicate with each other. Good luck and happy training!