Top training tools and cool gear for your dog.
As a child, I hated playing outside. Even when we lived in picturesque Hawaii, my mom would send all the kids outdoors to play and I spent the time whining at the front door. Years later, my newest dog Louie does the same thing. He does his business as close to the front door as possible, then dashes back inside. Before him, my beloved pitbull Lulu did the same thing.
As a homebody, I can’t blame either of them for wanting to stay indoors. But plenty of pooches actually enjoy having fun in the sun with their owners. Unfortunately, this also tends to be a time when plenty of dogs get away. Louie likes to play “keep away” outdoors, and I pass more than a few loose dogs during my commute. Proper identification gives lost pets a better chance of returning home safely. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes that about 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters each year, and about half of those pets were picked up by animal control.
I asked a few of our favorite trainers to share their top dog training tools and gear. Add these to your shopping list.
Get a sturdy leash: Do a quick inventory of your dog’s gear and make sure metal attachments on leashes still get the job done. You don’t want to find out that a leash has passed its prime during a long walk — or a run-in with the neighbor’s cat. Professional dog walker Benetta Green of Gone to the Dogs pet care in Atlanta also avoids retractable leashes when walking a client’s dog.
“They are very difficult to control,” she says. “I’ve seen people who expand them out and let the dog have their freedom and, all of sudden out of nowhere, there comes a bigger dog and you don’t have the time you need to pull the dog back. I know people like the retractable leash but you have to be aware of what’s around you as well.”
I’m partial to leather leashes because they wear well over time. Certified professional dog trainer Amber Burckhalter of K-9 Coach in Smyrna, Ga., introduced me to the Mendota leash, a clever collar-leash combo that tops my list of favorites. One end has a looped handle, while the other serves as an adjustable collar. This multitasking leash gets frequent use at my house during bathroom breaks, but Burckhalter says the Mendota works great for dogs that tend to slip out of their collars. The rope-style leash features an adjustable leather attachment that makes it one size fits all. You can find Mendota leashes at most pet supply stores. Amazon.com offers a variety of colors with prices starting at $10.64.
Kong Wobbler: On a hot summer day, fill Kong’s rubber Wobbler chew toy with healthy treats and freeze. “Put the dog’s food in it and they have to knock it around for the food to come out,” Burckhalter says. “That’s additional exercise for [dogs]. They also love it because they don’t typically get a lot of mental exercise.” Wobblers range in price from $16.99 to $21.99 based on the size at PetSmart stores.
Sturdy collars: Check your dog’s collars to make sure that they aren’t worn out. It may be time to replenish the stock. “My dogs go through collars really fast,” says Burckhalter, who recommends the award-winning collars from EzyDog. These doggie essentials feature stainless steel D rings, reflective piping and neoprene linings typically used for wetsuits. As added protection, Burckhalter goes a step further. “I take a Sharpie and write info on the inside of their collar. If they did get away and their tag came off they are still marked.”
ID tags: ID tags are cheapest and easiest way to keep pets safe — as long as the information is up to date. Basic metal pet tags are available at pet retail chains and can be customized inexpensively. Lulu’s dog tags always served as an early warning device, alerting me when she is getting into mischief. In my home, silence was not golden.
Take an inventory of your dog’s gear.