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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 apparel for you and your dog to the most delicious treats, we’ve got you covered. (The treats are for the dog only, but we won’t tell if you take a taste). Ready to start teaching your dog some basic commands? Here are seven basic must-have items for training your dog.
1. 6′ durable lead
Chances are you already have a leash for your four-legged bestie, but for training purposes, you’ll want one that’s at least six feet long and lets you get a good, solid grip. Of course, you can take your pick of any of the colorful options available at your local pet-supply store. But if you want to dog train like the professionals, consider a high-quality leather leash. Leather is durable, flexible, comfortable to hold, and strong enough to withstand even the hardest puller. Timber and Tide’s full grain leather lead is “trail-tested” and ready to rock as you teach your dog how to walk politely on leash.
2. Collar (or harness)
There are a lot of collars in the world, but most positive reinforcement trainers recommend a simple, flat-buckle model with metal hardware for basic training class. Metal buckles tend to be more durable and secure than the popular plastic clip buckles, which can wear down over time, and pop open with sudden pressure.
Note: dogs with narrower heads, like greyhounds and whippets, may need a martingale collar, which tightens (but doesn’t choke) and prevents them from backing out of the collar. If you have a flat-faced dog like a pug or bully, or you want something a little more secure, consider a harness. Our guide to leashes, collars, and harnesses may help you make up your mind!
3. Training belt/treat pouch
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. Some models have zippered pockets for your phone, keys, and poop bags, so you can head out for a training session with everything you need securely at your waist.
Clicker training is a popular and effective method of positive reinforcement training that uses a clicker to “mark” desirable behavior. It’s not the only way to train a dog, but it’s a good one. You can pick up a clicker at any pet supply store, but if you want the best—the Cadillac of clickers—go with famed trainer Karen Pryor’s i-Click brand.
5. Training treats
Of course, you can’t train without treats! Okay, some dogs are less treat-motivated than others, but in my experience, a tasty reward yields best results in training. For a classic, throwback training treat, try freeze-dried liver, which comes in convenient treat-sized cubes.
Many 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. Of course, you’ll need to experiment to figure out what kind of treat your dog likes best.
6. Training guide
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.
7. Graduation cap
Okay, this one’s just for fun, but imagine the amazing photo shoot you and your dog can have after you “graduate” basic obedience class!
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. Happy training!