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Whether you’re taking a brand new puppy to K-9 kindergarten or teaching your old dog a few new tricks, the basic tools for training are the same. From appropriate gear for you and your dog to the most delicious training treats, we’ve got you covered.
Ready to start teaching your dog some basic commands? Here are seven basic must-have items for training your dog, recommended by the experts.
7 Essential Dog Training Supplies and Gear
Chances are you already have a leash for your four-legged bestie, but for training purposes, look for one that’s at least six feet long and allows for a good, solid grip.
You can take your pick of any of the options available at your local pet-supply store, but if you want to dog train like the professionals, trainer Annie Grossman of School for the Dogs, one of NYC’s most respected dog training centers, recommends something light.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, there should be such little tension on the leash that something that flimsy could suffice. For this reason, my preference is usually to use a leash that feels invisible—in other words, you want it to be as lightweight as possible.”
There are a lot of collars in the world, but certified dog trainer Shoshi Parks recommends a few tried-and-true styles: a simple, flat-buckle model such as this durable, double-thick nylon collar from Hamilton; a harness and collar combo that gently discourages pulling; or a Martingale collar, which tightens (but doesn’t choke) and prevents dogs from backing out of the collar.
Note: Dogs with narrower heads, such as greyhounds and whippets, generally benefit from the Martingale style. If you have a flat-faced dog like a pug or bully, or you want something a little more secure, consider a harness.
Regarding the proper fit, according to the Humane Society of the United States, “a flat collar should fit comfortably tight on your dog’s neck…the rule of thumb says you should be able to get two fingers underneath the collar.”
Check out our guide to leashes, collars, and harnesses for more information about these various types of training aids.
Clicker training, as explained here in our article by Shoshi Parks, is a popular and effective method of positive reinforcement training that rewards your dog with a click, immediately followed by a treat, when they perform a desired behavior.
This inexpensive clicker from Premier has a built-in finger strap to keep it securely in hand as you train with your pet.
(For more clicker options, see our article, The 6 Best Training Clickers According to a Professional Dog Trainer.)
You can’t train without treats! Okay, some dogs are less treat-motivated than others, but most tend to respond more quickly and enthusiastically to a tasty reward.
Small, meaty, or stinky bits are a great choice because they’re either naturally appealing or small enough to dole out often without over-feeding.
Some trainers recommend having treats of varying “values” (i.e., more- and less-delicious options) to vary the rewards you offer for different types of behavior. Your dog will let you know which flavors they favor, but string cheese and cut-up hot dogs are a safe bet!
Sure, you could jam your pockets full of meaty bits to reward your dog throughout the training process, but you’re gonna end up with some pretty stinky pants!
A training belt or treat pouch will keep treats handy in a washable, stink-resistant pouch. Most importantly, they help you reward your dog quickly on the spot, serving to reinforce positive behavior.
This style from Paw Lifestyles has a zippered pockets for your belongings and a built-in poop bag dispenser, so you can head out for a training session with everything you need securely at hand.
If you’re interested in seeing more treat pouch options, see our article, 14 Dog Treat Pouches to One-Up Your Walks and Training Sessions.
There are a lot of dog training guides in the world, and if you work with a professional trainer, they’ll likely recommend some literature for you.
For basic obedience training, as well as targeted behavioral modification, you can’t go wrong with anything by Zoologist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) Patricia McConnell. McConnell is a leader in the field of positive reinforcement training, and her books offer clear, engaging instruction.
For more dog training manuals and guides, see our article about the best dog training books here.
Okay, this one’s just for fun, but imagine the amazing photoshoot you and your dog can have after she “graduates” from basic obedience training!
Training is one of the most important activities you and your dog can do together. It’s not just about behavior; training also helps you and your dog bond.
For a basic training primer, check out our companion post, The 7 Most Important Dog Training Skills.