Below you will find some of the products I use regularly and like best for socialization and training. This is not an exhaustive list, but I do try to update it when I find something I very much like.
Full disclosure: Some links below are affiliate links. I pick the products first, then find a good place to buy them, and I never recommend useless gadgets just for the few cents of an affiliate link. If it’s recommended here, it’s because we’ve used it ourselves and like it!
We don’t require much to get started — a flat collar, a standard leash, treats, and maybe a mat. But there are a lot of choices for those!
Collar or Harness
This should be a flat buckle or snap collar; your local stores have these by the dozen, usually in nylon in every conceivable collar. Nicer ones are also available in leather of varying qualities, cotton, and hemp. (No choke or pinch collars needed.)
upscale at Pet Expertise | basic versions everywhere pet supplies are sold!
If you’re worried about your dog slipping a collar (such as with sighthounds or Dobermans, whose skulls are often no larger than their necks, or any skilled escape artist), consider a martingale collar, sometimes called a greyhound collar; it’s safer than a slip collar, but still secure in place.
If your dog is particular large or strong, we may recommend a front-attachment harness. There are several varieties on the market, with three here listed in rough order of preference. This relieves the effort required to hold your dog while you train a new behavior!
We recommend a four- or six-foot leash of leather, cotton, nylon, or hemp. Nylon is ubiquitous and cheap; however, it’s the hardest to grip and the cruelest on your hands, so if you have a large or strong dog, consider one of the other options. No retractable or chain leashes, please; they will make training more difficult for both you and your dog.
My quick test: What is the snap made of? If it’s brass, the rest of the leash will be well-made, too. If it’s stainless steel, the rest may or may not be of good quality. If the snap is of indeterminate metal or not labeled, the rest of the leash is also likely to be of poor materials. I’ve seen cheap snaps break open in public; it’s not worth the risk.
Need a long line? They’re on Amazon, too.
Treat choices are as individual as your dog! but there are some general guidelines to keep in mind when selecting treats.
- Tiny. As a general rule, if your dog needs to chew it, the treat is too large. It should be just big enough to taste, pea-sized or smaller.
- Attractive. It doesn’t matter what it says on the bag, if your dog doesn’t want to work for it, it isn’t a treat!
- Healthy. Quite a lot of commercial dog treats are made of rather unhealthy stuff, which can result in a smelly or ill pet after training. Read the ingredient list and consider whether you’d be comfortable feeding this in quantity.
- Tiny. Again, this is a key attribute! We train frequently and generously; it’s important to use tiny pieces.
There are many good options, but we often use and recommend Bravo! Training Treats or Wet Noses Little Stars, tiny and healthy and delicious as well as a good value.
Wet Noses Little Stars on ClickerTraining.com
We recommend and carry the KPCT i-Click, an easy and ergonomic clicker with a softer sound than the more common box clicker. We don’t know of any place less expensive locally to buy i-Clicks other than wholesale, but they are also available at ClickerTraining.com and at Amazon. There are many, many clickers on the market! (Note: if you’re not buying a brand you know, try to buy clickers in person. I’ve found several have sharp sounds which hurt my own ears, which I wouldn’t inflict on a more sensitive dog, and some have poor manufacture and a small built-in delay to the click, bad for training. Click before buying!)
Matwork quickly becomes a favorite of many clients, human and canine! You may use almost anything for your mat – a bath towel, a rug, or a carpet square. Portability and washability are my key traits. If you want something more official, perhaps for public training, consider this value-priced mat at Amazon or this Mutt Mat at ClickerTraining.com.
These items aren’t strictly required for training, but you’ll really appreciate having them.
Handy not only for class but for managing treats, bags, and more on neighborhood walks. There are dozens of treat bags on the market, but only a few are really ergonomic and durable. My favorites are the Terry Ryan or Karen Pryor Training Treat Pouch.
Collapsible Water Bowl
If you’re going to be away from home more than an hour, you may want a water bowl with you, and a collapsible version is much more convenient! I love these.
Puzzle Toys & Chews
You won’t need these during class, but they’re awfully handy to entertain a bored dog at home! Or to encourage and reinforce quiet behavior on the mat, during dinner or movie night, etc. Note that most people tend to pick a size too small for safety; err on the larger side!
Kongs and Squirrel Dudes can go in the dishwasher if necessary, but do not run a heated drying cycle, as it will damage the material.
Kong Stuff-a-Ball at Amazon
Kong Wobbler at Amazon
I have tried so many dog beds, from cheap $20 versions to a fancy-schmancy $300 model. These Big Shrimpy beds are hands-down the best I’ve found – comfortable, durable, and affordable. They’re not the cheapest, but they’re definitely the best value compared to replacing beds over the years. Plus, exchangeable covers means less cost when they do need replaced, and mine haven’t yet after over a decade of use. Bonus: I just throw them into the washing machine, no fuss.
Carriers & Seatbelts
My own dogs tend to ride in crates for car travel, but there are good seatbelts on the market, too. Be sure to get a model which is actually crash-tested — many dog seatbelts are not! And many crates will not withstand the force of a significant impact.
I had a client whose car blew a tire at high speed and flipped multiple times. She ended up in a wheelchair for several months; her dogs, in good quality seatbelts, were fine. Restraint matters for them as much as for us!
Ruff Tuff Kennel on Amazon Solid one-piece construction makes this a stronger, safer kennel choice.
Studi Pet Carrier at Amazon This is my favorite small carrier. It’s comfortable for the pet and for the human to carry, it’s well-ventilated, it’s soft and adjustable to difference spaces, and it buckles into a car seatbelt for car transport. I’ve carried three 8-week puppies on cross-continent or international trips in my Sturdi bag!