By Ketan Panchal*

No matter how you are training your dog, you will need a few pieces of equipment to help facilitate the process. This includes a collar, a standard 6-foot leash, a long leash, treats, a treat bag, a clicker, and some sturdy walking shoes (for you). Additionally, there are a few items most owners will find helpful for training their pet, if not outright essential. This includes things like a crate, a training mat, a muzzle, and more. There are a handful of training tools you should always avoid. This primarily includes aversive tools that will cause your pet pain or distress, such as prongs or choke collars.   

While some types of dog training equipment are optional, there are a few things just about every owner will need to teach their dog the basics. 

1. A dog collar: A dog collar is one of those obvious items that you already know dogs need — whether you’re training your pooch or not. Why are collars so essential? Well, for one, they can hold your dog’s ID tag to ensure you’ll be contacted if your dog gets lost. They also offer an easy way to attach a leash for walks, and they provide an easy hand-holding option when you need to grab your dog (whether to keep them out of danger or prevent him from running away).

2. Standard leash: A leash is essential for allowing your dog to enjoy the great outdoors! Dogs love to go on walks, and a leash is what allows your four-footer to stroll safely alongside you. Leashes come in all kinds of different lengths, materials, and patterns. A 6-foot nylon leash is the standard (and very affordable). Just note that a retractable leash is not great for training. These tools can cause very serious injuries if you grab one in a panic, and they don’t allow your dog to get as much feedback from you through the line. Plus, retractable leashes kind of encourages pulling since your dog gets used to feeling that constant low-level tension on the leash line. So, if you’re having pulling problems, definitely ditch the retractable leash and opt for a no-pull harness instead.

3. A long leash: Long leashes are some of the most helpful tools owners and newbie trainers often leave out of their training toolbox. Long leashes sometimes called long lines are lightweight leashes that come in several ultra-long lengths, ranging from 20 to 100 feet in length or more! Long lines are fantastic for giving your dog the sensation of off-leash action while still keeping him in check, and they’re powerful tools for working on your dog’s recall or off-leash manners. Plus, they give your dog tons of freedom without requiring him to be perfectly trained.

4. High-value soft treats: Good dog training is all about rewarding your dog for desired behaviour. Reinforcing the behaviours you want means that your dog will do them — instead of those behaviours you aren’t so crazy about — more often! While you can use a variety of reinforcing rewards in training (such as scritches, praise, and toys), high-value treats tend to be the easiest to use and yield the best results for most dogs and no, your dog’s kibble is not good enough for most training work. You need special, tasty, novel treats to keep your dog’s attention and make what you’re asking him to do worth the effort.

5. Treat pouch: A treat pouch is one of the main essentials to keep the best, highest-value treats. You probably don’t want them stinking up your pant pockets (and trust me, it gets even worse if you forget the treats are in there and toss your jeans in the wash). Treat pouches provide an easy, convenient way to store treats and dispense them to your dog in a rapid-fire fashion, which can be important when working on difficult skills, precise training commands, and agility work.

6. Mind stimulation toys: Brain games are a great way to have some extra fun with your dog each day. Mentally stimulating activities like brain games enrich our dogs’ lives by giving them something meaningful to do and because these activities alleviate boredom, they can decrease the likelihood of our dogs developing behavioural issues such as excessive chewing or barking. A Simple nose work game to find the treats will keep your dog mentally stimulated, and it’s a fun way to let them hone in on their natural sniffing and scavenging abilities. Be patient when you train your dog. Training your dog is not easy. Your precious puppy will likely display plenty of behaviours you don’t appreciate — like chewing your favourite shoes (it’s a stereotype for a reason) or barking hysterically at your neighbours. The point is, that your beloved little best friend will likely drive you crazy at some point in the training process. Bet on it.

* Certified professional dog trainer & dog behaviourist

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