With the number of dog training supplies available both in store and online it can be daunting to try to pick the best ones. Having the appropriate tools in your toolbox when working with your dog can make or break your training success. Your top item will be the best dog training treats, so we’ll start there.
Training treats for dogs
Food is not only your dog’s friend, but also your BFF for training. Use the term treat loosely, as food is food. More and more pet parents are swapping out kibble for alternative, human-grade foods, so why should treats be any different? Find foods your dog both likes and loves. Start experimenting! Commercial treats can be great but can be expensive and aren’t always readily available. So, head to your fridge and let the fun begin.
Of course, some foods dogs should never have https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/people-foods-avoid-feeding-your-pets but many fruits and veggies and other foods in moderation can be a great addition to your treat repertoire. You’ll likely find your dog’s faves might surprise you! Small pieces (about pea-sized) are plenty to satisfy. And since fruits and vegetables tend to be low in calories, no need to fret over weight-gain: simply adjust daily meals accordingly.
Some foods to try:
- Boiled chicken
- Sweet potatoes
- Plant-based hot dogs
Create a treat ladder for your dog. Lower value treats are toward the bottom of the ladder, higher value treats in the middle, and my-dog-will-do-anything-for treats at the top. The bigger the challenge, the higher the reward.
Dog not food motivated? You probably just haven’t found the right foods yet! Other possibilities include he’s used to free-feeding (stop doing this) or may not have healthy feeding habits and routines (start doing this).
Dog treat pouch
Your dog’s treat ladder, as described earlier, will clue you in on what type of treat pouch might suit you best. The most efficient pouches have multiple compartments for a variety of food stuffs so you can be ready for well-timed rewards. Magnetic closures are a nice bonus for easy access. Some pouches feature versatility with how they’re worn depending on the situation and what you’re training.
Many trainers even opt for fanny packs, as these lightweight easy-to-wear bags are affordable and typically also have multiple compartments for treats, whistles, poop bags and your phone.
$17.95. PetSafe Treat Pouch Sport
$14.99. ORIA Dog Treat Training Pouch
$14.99. Macrimo Dog Treat Pouch
Dog training harness
Even for the calmest of dogs, clipping a leash to a collar can put unnecessary pressure on the neck and spine. Wearing collars are fine for ID tags for example, but harnesses are typically safer (more difficult to wrangle out of) and more comfortable when fitted properly: a well-made well-fitted harness doesn’t chafe or restrict movement. Many harnesses come with a front and back clip for added support with leash walking training.
Evaluate your dog’s size, strength, walking style and your abilities when considering which type of harness to get. Larger dogs will need a more heavy-duty harness than a toy breed.
Affordable, comfortable and popular harnesses include:
A word on training collars: just say no. Prong, choke and e-collars are not only outdated methods of training, they are also proven to cause harmful lasting emotional and behavioral effects. Read these articles for more information:
Dog training leash
Leashes are about personal preference and style but must also be about safety and comfort. The ideal length is 5 to 6 ft to allow a little breathing room, but not enough to get tangled, and keeps him close when out walking and in higher traffic spaces. Additionally, many dog-friendly venues, outdoor areas and trails require dogs be on a 6-foot leash. Leashes come in a variety of materials; lightweight and strong are the most handler and dog friendly. Some also come with a traffic handle for super close encounters.
As with harnesses, choose a leash you can safely and effectively handle and that’s the appropriate strength for your dog’s size and activity level. Pay special attention to the clasp and ensure it’s a good fit for your dog’s harness so it’ll be safe and secure.
You might try:
And depending on your walking style and harness choice, double-ended leashes can be a great choice. These versatile leashes can clip on both the front and back of harnesses simultaneously and even allow the handler to go hands free. Many double-ended leashes also allow for comfortably walking two dogs at once.
Check out these popular choices:
$14.99. PetSafe Two-Point Control Leash
$43.99. Double Dog Leash Hands Free
Be careful of retractable leashes. Retractables can get tangled very quickly and are notorious for snapping back into the handler or the dog and causing injury. They also hinder the handler from maneuvering effectively and quickly when necessary, such as in crowded spaces, sudden changes in the environment and in vets’ offices and small spaces.
Long leash for dog training
A long line is a great tool for training your dog a variety of behaviors and shaping others. They allow handlers to work with their dogs from farther away to build reliability with behaviors from various distances. Long lines are also ideal for early stages of recall training to get the initial feel of being off leash while being able to practice these behaviors safely, since the handler still has a connection to the dog.
Although length and material vary depending on needs and preference, long lines are often 15 to 50 feet in length and made of rope, nylon or biothane. Some don’t have handles/grips, although they’re recommended for safety and versatility. Never allow your dog to run off with a long line as it can get tangled and become a safety hazard.
Some long lines to consider:
$36.99. Signature k-9 Biothane Long Line
All dogs should be trained to a muzzle. Whether it’s for vet or groomer visits, nail trims, emergency situations, pica (eating non-food items) or over reactivity or aggression, all dogs can benefit from being comfortable with wearing a muzzle should the need arise. Muzzles should allow for panting and drinking (no Velcro muzzles!) and fit properly and comfortably, which means it feels to your dog like glasses do to us: like they’re not there.
Quick tips for training your dog to a muzzle:
Whether puppy or adult, dogs love to chew. Chew toys are an essential part of helping puppies understand the no-teeth-on-people rule and helpful for giving them something to teethe and gnaw on instead of shoes or furniture! And bored and under-stimulated dog of any age is much more likely to fall into bad habits, so keeping a fresh and fun supply of appropriate chews is a win-win.
Food puzzles/toys are great especially for when you might be away, have company, or otherwise need a temporary positive distraction as well. But be safe about leaving your dog unsupervised with any toy and be sure he enjoys it per manufacturer’s instructions.
Be careful with rawhides as digestion can be problematic and splintering can be a safety concern with antlers. High-calorie “long-lasting” chews can be a choking hazard once they become smaller and possibly cause weight gain. Even softer chews can present swallowing/choking hazards, and marrow bones, hooves and other “real” chews can cause tooth fractures or worse. Always check with your vet before giving the green light on chew toys.
Arguably the most important cue for your dog to learn is to come when called. Since 99% of dogs won’t come 100% of the time, and there’s so much on the line with this cue the more help you can get the better. Training your dog with a whistle is one surefire way to make recall more effective. Whistles can also be used for any other cues making them very handy. They’re consistent, unlike our tone of voice/mood, and free up our hands for signals, rewards and belly rubs!
Read our article on how to use a dog whistle.
Whether it’s training relaxation and calming protocols, teaching your dog a place to go in stressful situations, providing a platform for training or the very versatile Go to Mat cue, a mat is a staple in working with your dog. And they’re highly portable for a variety of situations when you might need your dog to chill on his mat .
You can most definitely just use a household rug, but it should be exclusively for your dog’s training and use. If you’d like to opt for something more try:
Patience and humor
Last but certainly not least, the best tool is free and makes all the difference in your training. Approaching training with patience and humor not only facilitates effectiveness, but is also more fun! Training is a process, a journey, not an event or destination. Dog learning is just like human learning in that it continues throughout life. While certain tasks and cues and even sports and tricks can be learned and repeated, learning to live and thrive in our human world and still retain all the wonderful qualities that make them dogs is a delicate balance. Dogs look to us for answers, support, comfort and direction.
When gathering supplies, don’t forget that your most important asset is your relationship with your dog, so choose wisely.
Bonus tool: Training vests
Training vests get a lot of attention, and since there are several types let’s break it down:
For humans and are often made of durable, flexible and weather/water-proof fabric and have a lot of pockets for various training items. Some also come with an additional treat pouch. Typically used for a variety of outdoor uses, such as for sport, gun and hunting dogs.
Dog in Training vest
For dogs who are in training, works in progress, or who want to be clear about their need for space and patience (kind of like a student driver!).
Reserved for dogs who are working in a service dog capacity or in a service dog training program. According to the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog who has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. Not to be confused with therapy dogs or emotional support dogs.
Emotional support or therapy dog vest
Typically reserved for dogs who have undergone training for these roles and are functioning credibly in these capacities.