Obedience training is one of the best ways to help your dog become a happy, healthy member of your family and your community. You can take that training a couple of steps further to the level of support or comfort animal or even an athletic competitor.
Obedience training has been a priority for all my dogs, including my 3-year-old pit bull mix, Princess Kuma Bear, and 5-year-old super mutt, Ghillie Dhu. Both were rescued from Houston, Texas and weigh in around 45 pounds. Because of the pandemic, both have developed some leash and fence reactivity — anxiety that makes them bark and lunge defensively at other dogs and some strangers. Although they do just fine inside the dog park, that anxiety has made it difficult to take them on-leash to public places like parks and trails. We use natural calming products daily to help, but further obedience and desensitization training have also helped lessen their reactivity.
Although Kuma does not have the calmer temperament to be an emotional support animal, training was a must for her because she is high energy and she loves to meet people so much that her instinct is to jump up and lick. My family and I work with her to behave appropriately, especially around strangers, friends and children.
Ghillie has an appropriate temperament but needs additional training to earn his American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen certificate, the minimum he would need to visit a school or nursing home. We are well on our way with Ghillie and are excited for him to reach that next milestone.
Labels and Definitions
Although there are a number of labels that can be assigned to those that are much more than pets, for example, emotional support, therapy, comfort or companion animals, only service animals that fit the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definitions and are supporting a person with a disability are technically covered under ADA language and protections. With further training, your dog might comfort hospital patients, provide stimulation for elders in assisted living or teach children compassion in their classrooms. No matter how far you get with your training together, you and your dog will have a stronger bond and connection.
1. The Hound Haberdashery
COLLAR & LEASH
Training your dog starts with a leash so you’ll have the most control of your dog in class, your yard, public parks and eventually more challenging locations like the hardware store, near a playground or in a nursing home. We love the beautiful, yet functional, leash and collar set from the Hound Haberdashery. Their satin-lined collars are available in three widths: one, one and a half and two inches and in a variety of stunning colors and designs.
Constructed with a polypropylene webbing interior, each collar is wrapped completely with flannel-backed satin lining for optimal comfort. You can choose a buckle in black plastic or silver-colored aluminum or the martingale style, which is a safer version of a choke collar that slides over their head but doesn’t allow them to back out of it. If you choose a metal buckle, you usually can choose from high-quality sturdy hardware in nickel-plate or brass. All have welded D-rings for leash attachment.
We loved the variety of fabric choices so we could choose colors and designs that were just right for our pups. There were so many options, it wasn’t easy to choose. Both the leash and collar have held up well over time as the material is easy to wash by hand with dog shampoo or other soaps.
2. Industrial Puppy Service Dog Vest
When training your dog in public spaces, or once you’ve “graduated,” you’ll like this well-rated vest. The public will instantly recognize that you’re in working mode, allowing you both the space and respect you both need and deserve.
This vest comes with a reflective “Service Dog” patch on each side. Ten other affordable reflective patches can be purchased separately and swapped out, including “Therapy Dog,” “Emotional Support Dog” and “Service Dog in Training” so you’ll have the patches that suit each situation.
You’ll like both the comfortable mesh lining and durable double-stitched nylon that’s weatherproof and easy to hand wash with a mild soap or dog shampoo. It comes in eight sizes and six attractive colors. Reflective front piping adds extra safety. The easy-to-use adjustable belly buckle makes it easy to put on and get just the right fit. An attached handle on the top enables you to have full control in an emergency. A welded D-ring offers sturdy leash attachment.
It’s important to properly measure your dog according to the manufacturer’s suggestions before you purchase to ensure you get the right size. Customers give it top ratings for value for the money, sturdiness and durability. Each vest comes with 50 cards that explain the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rights within places available to the public.
This versatile vest can also accommodate backpacks (sold separately by Industrial Puppy) to hold food, bowls or other items.
3. Zuke’s Naturals Training Treats
Most dog trainers recommend positive reinforcement training for the best success. That reinforcement comes in the form of treats. While you can use a wide range of treats, if you’re practicing as often as your trainer recommends, you’ll want to use lower-calorie training treats like Zuke’s to prevent their waistline from growing. Each soft, chewy treat has meat or peanut butter as the first ingredient and contains less than three calories per treat.
They come in seven yummy flavors: chicken, beef, rabbit, salmon, duck and peanut butter and oat. The other ingredients include quality wholefood fruits or vegetables, tapioca and turmeric, making them aromatic and superfoods for your pup’s healthy diet. They’re also made without corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or flavors.
These treats are also the perfect size as a positive reward. They won’t slow down the flow of training with excessive chewing but are large and tasty enough to motivate your mutt.
The treats stay fresh because each pouch, 6 or 16-ounce in size, has a convenient zip lock top.
If Zuke’s aren’t right for your dog, try one of these recommended by Spy.com.
4. Paw Lifestyles Dog Treat Training Pouch
When you work with your dog, you’ll need one hand for the leash and one hand for commands and treats. But the last things you want in your pockets are smelly training treats. This pouch will give you quick, easy access to your treats while also holding other items like a training clicker, keys, toys, waste bags and even your phone. Store them in two zippered pouches or in the front mesh netting. The lightweight nylon stands up to the weather and is easy to spot-clean.
Designed to dispense rolled waste bags, I like that you can tear off a bag with just one hand. A top drawstring can be cinched to keep the treats fresh when not in use and loosened when you’re in training action.
This pouch can be worn three ways: around your waste, across the body or clipped on your belt.
5. HDP Collapsible Agility Training Tunnel
Once you have basic obedience in place, like walking on a leash and “sit,” your smart, active dog might like parkour or agility training. Offering Kuma challenges helps her avoid boredom and makes her cleverness and strength shine. We hope it will also keep her sharp as she ages. There are a wide range of agility tricks to teach your dog but a great place to start is with a tunnel. Practice with a tunnel builds confidence gradually. It can also serve as a place to snooze or get out of the rain.
Waterproof, 210 rip-stop nylon with steel rings help this 24-inch diameter tunnel extend up to 18 feet. It will stay put when you sink the metal stakes in the metal grommets that line the sides. All fit in a handled, nylon carrying case.
6. Fat-Cat Fish Freeze-Dried Wild Salmon Snacks for Dogs and Cats
HIGH VALUE TREATS
You know that moment when you recall your dog and they ignore you because they’re tired of training, they see a rabbit or they’re just feeling sassy? That’s when you need to get out the power treats, also called high-value treats, that they just can’t refuse.
For our dogs, they’re these wonderfully pungent Fat-Cat Fish Salmon snacks. We love that they are human-quality, high-protein, single-ingredient wild, not farmed, salmon that’s caught in Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The freeze-drying process makes them last well without added preservatives. The 1.25-ounce zippered packaging (also made in the U.S.) keeps fishy odors from escaping. Our dogs will recall just from hearing us open the zip lock pouch.
Made by a small, family-owned pet food company based in Bellingham, Washington, the makers have over 75 years of experience in the fishing industry. We also like that Fat-Cat Fish also gives back. Their Feeding the Hungry program donates human and pet food to U.S. Food Banks by shipping more than two million meals to food banks in the Western States where they do business. They also donate cash and pet food to animal shelters through The Humane Society of the United States and have donated treats to Rescue Bank to help pet owners during natural disasters. We don’t leave home without them.
7. Doggy Do Good Compostable Dog Poop Bags
DOG WASTE BAGS
To be a responsible pet owner, and to protect our waterways, it’s important to carry pet waste bags when you’re on the road. Because pet waste is biodegradable, we only use biodegradable dog poop bags that are home-compostable, meaning they don’t require industrial-level heat and pressure to degrade.
Watch out for brands that greenwash, packaging their products to appear to be eco-friendly when they are not. Doggy Do Good bags are certified home compostable within 6 to 123 months by OK Compost & TÜV Austria, and the Biodegradable Products Institute in Canada. Made in Royal Oak, Michigan, these are compostable because they’re 38% vegetable-based while remaining thick (0.8 ml.) and leakproof to contain contents and odor.
They are available in 60, 180 and 360-count packages, all with 10 bags per roll. Rolls are perforated for easy tear away and each bag has handles for easy tying. The rolls are a standard size that fit most dispensers. Outer packaging and roll cores are made from recycled cardboard.
We feel good about spending our money with Doggy Do Good because they are members of 1% for the Planet, meaning they donate 1% of profits to animal welfare and environmental nonprofits. They also donate products and profits to reputable animal rescues and no-kill shelters.
8. ChuckIt! Paraflight Flyer Dog Toy
Your dog will tire of training without good, long, enjoyable breaks. Ghillie likes to nap in the sun. Kuma, on the other hand, needs to let out her pent-up energy. Her favorite activity? Fetch, of course. We alternate the Sport Fetch Ball Launcher or this durable nylon fabric dog frisbee. She catches it better than plastic or rubber and we get to practice “wait,” “drop it” and “sit” without the expectation of a food reward. This play also makes her forever puppy energy calmer in the evenings. Or try one of these ten other top-rated frisbee options.
9. The Top 10 Training Books
Unless you’re a professional dog trainer, taking a leveled series of obedience classes is a great choice. We used dog trainer Amber Todd of Embarking Dogs in Bellingham, WA. But you can also learn and practice a number of training exercises presented in top-rated videos and books. Choose one of these ten dog training books to help get you started.
10. The Sniffspot App
RENT HOURLY DOG TRAINING SPACE
If you don’t have a good-sized yard to train in or you’re finding it to be too distracting at the park, the Sniffspot App is your answer.
Like renting a cottage for vacation, the Sniffspot gives you access to thousands of hosts willing to rent out their backyards, or their back 40, by the hour so your dogs can get their training time and zoomies too. When you make a reservation, you have the space to yourselves and hosts often offer extras like swimming pools, snacks and beverages.
Each listing includes photos and details about the spot, like the property size, type of fencing and whether you can see or hear other animals. You can read reviews about the spot by past visitors before booking your appointment and you’ll have the chance to leave a review after your visit. Luckily, there are Sniffspots all across the U.S. and around the world so you can often find several to choose from no matter where you go. For a couple of years, we’ve been using Sniffspots for new environments and extra exercise. We’re also hosts.
The hourly rate of each spot is set by the host and varies based on amenities and the size of the spot. Once you create your account on the app or your desktop computer, you can make reservations of variable length and change them if needed. You can get a discount on your first reservation and every dog after the first plays at 50% off the standard rate.
About the Author
Lorraine Wilde has had at least two cat and two dog companions in her home for the last 35 years. Lorraine owns and uses each of these products except where noted. Before each purchase, she evaluated customer and professional reviews, the safety and health of the ingredients and materials of each product, and each company’s product research and development.
Lorraine has only the highest standards for her pets and her family. She also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science with an emphasis in toxicology. She does this work to help consumers make healthy, informed and environmentally conscious choices to protect their pets, their families and our planet.