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X training tools for dogs (and what they do)

The essentials

  • The right tools make a difference — Having the proper supplies makes training easier for you and your dog!
  • They offer encouragement — Sometimes your dog might be unmotivated or downright stubborn. Training tools help motivate them.
  • Choose your tools wisely — Not every training tool is created equal and you’ll want to choose based on your dog’s training needs.

Dog training tools act as support for you when trying to make or break a habit. They help to ease the process and ensure things go smoothly by allowing your dog to better understand what’s expected of them. 

Plus, training tools can keep your dog safe during the training process like the use of crates, gates, and leashes. Let’s explore 14 of the most common training tools and how to use them.

Types of dog training tools

1. Collar/Harness

Dog training collars and harnesses offer incredible benefits when training your pup. For one, the type of collar you use can help shift your dog’s behavior. 

Harnesses are also great in supporting training, especially if you’re trying to curb leash pulling. Additionally, harnesses are great for pups who have or are prone to back or neck issues. 

2. Tug & fetch toys 

Playing fetch with your dog has multiple benefits including burning off their excess energy. Fetch also has the benefit of helping get your dog active and both fetch and tug of war can work as another reward when training. Such as, if your dog sits when they’re told or goes to the door when they have to go out, you can reward them with playtime.

Tug of war, while a favorite game with many owners, can sometimes inadvertently create more aggressive play on your dog’s part and can lead to more accidental biting. Practice caution and learn how to play tug the most effective, and safest way.

3. Leashes 

Leash training is an important skill that all dogs should have, especially since so many localities have leash laws or rules about leashing. Not only will this make walks more enjoyable, but having your puppy comfortable on a leash at home can also keep them out of trouble while they learn not to soil inside the house or bite furniture.

4. Chew toys

Calling all chewers! Chew toys are a fantastic option for redirecting your dog’s focus away from things they shouldn’t be gnawing on. Not to mention the fact that they’re extremely good at mentally stimulating your dog, which can help in curbing undesirable behavior. You may have to cycle through a few toys to figure out which size and material your dog enjoys most.

5. Treats

Positive reinforcement training can yield long-lasting results without undue stress and anxiety. When picking a high-quality treat for training, you’ll want to make sure it’s animal-safe and healthy like peanut butter. 

Treats during training don’t have to be large, they just have to get your pup excited about doing the desired behavior to earn them.

6. Lure stick

Lure sticks are a great reward and redirection tool to get your dog focused on you during training sessions. These are especially useful on walks if you have a reactive dog that has negative associations with people, vehicles, or other dogs. 

Simply hold the stick or pole out in front of your dog as you walk past the trigger and then lower it to your dog’s mouth so they can easily remove the treat inside. 

7. Dog gate

Gates don’t have to be a punishment to keep your dog out of places. In fact, they’re keeping your pet safe and restricting unnecessary access to dangerous or otherwise unfit spots in your home for them to explore. 

Dog gates can also be a help in separating them from others like cats, allergic relatives, or new carpets and other home renovations. Plus, creating a safe space for your pet is important as it helps build independence and lessens the likelihood of separation anxiety. 

8. Crate

Crates are versatile in helping train your dog. For example, crates can be used as a means for potty training as well as easing separation anxiety in your dog. When choosing a crate, make sure it’s big enough for them to fully stand up in and training becomes easier with crates that offer two doors! 

Crates protect your puppy or dog and provide a safe sanctuary. Think of it like their house or den within your house. As such, they should not be used for punishment, but as an adjunct to training.

Dr Bruce Armstrong

9. Clicker 

A pet training clicker is fantastic in showing your dog what type of behavior you want from them by positively reinforcing their behavior. There are tons of clickers to choose from, including handheld ones and even some that attach to leashes. Better yet, some leashes come with clickers built-in. 

We have handy tips for how to start using a clicker and why you should consider it.

10. Muzzle

Muzzles are handy for dogs that are reactive or those that love to snack on things they shouldn’t. And even calm dogs can become fearful, anxious, and potentially aggressive. They allow your pup to pant, drink, and bark and while they tend to prevent bad behavior, you’ll want to reward your pup for doing the proper behaviors with either treats or play.

11. Enrichment

Enrichment offers entertainment and an opportunity for your pup to use their instincts to solve puzzles and earn treats. These types of toys and games come in plenty of shapes and sizes from shuffle mats and snuffle balls to scavenger hunts. 

Mental stimulation is a great means of enrichment and it can also come in the form of playing fetch, reading with your dog, or setting up a comfy spot for them to watch the world outside their window.

Enrichment should be provided 1-3 times daily depending on normal activity levels and desires of your dog. For most very active breeds so they don't get bored with routine, playing fetch for 15-20 minutes may be sufficient.

Dr Bruce Armstrong

12. Treat pouch

This one may be more for your convenience but treat pouches make having a reward on hand super easy. It creates more opportunities to reward your dog for their good behavior and ensures you’re never without. 

Don’t want a treat pouch? Try dog training pants. They’re made special with extra pockets to make the use of treats and other tools during proper training a breeze.

13. Dog bed

Have you ever come home with arms full of groceries and your furry friend gets under your feet because they’re excited to see you? It happens all the time and can pose possible dangers of you or your dog getting hurt or your dog running through the open door. That’s why dog beds are so special in creating a safe space that your dog can go to when they get excited about your return. 

This doesn’t have to apply to dog beds alone. You can command your dog to go to any room or space in the house whether that’s the living room, the laundry room, or by the back door. Place training is incredibly useful and creates a space that your dog knows is theirs.

When to consult with a professional dog trainer

Sometimes training at home isn’t enough to break a habit or behavior and that’s okay. Each dog has their own particular needs based on genetics and their background so don’t feel discouraged if you’re not noticing milestones being met. 

When trying to determine whether to bring in professional help, look at their behaviors. If you’ve already started training, have they gotten worse? Have new ones started? 

If you haven’t started training, determine if their behaviors are severe enough to forgo at-home training for a professional dog trainer. If your dog is reactive, bites, or regularly bolts out the door at any chance, you will want to consult with a professional.

In general, here are some behaviors to look out for that may warrant professional help:

  • Constant jumping. Jumping may seem harmless but depending on the size of your dog, they could knock you, a child, or an elderly family member over or inadvertently scratch someone.
  • Severe separation anxiety. If left unattended, separation anxiety can have the potential for lasting impacts due to the behaviors dogs use to cope such as chewing on furniture or the metal of their crate, eating drywall and carpet, or scratching until they break their nails.
  • Biting. Nipping might be an expected behavior for puppies but it can lead to aggression down the line. 
  • Serious resource guarding. If you find yourself nervous about taking a toy or treat away from your dog, then you should consider asking for help. Resource guarding can grow over time and become more dangerous for both you and your furry friend.
  • Leash/harness reactivity. Walks are an important part of your dog’s exercise and enrichment regimen and if they begin to show negative responses to any of the tools you use to do so, seek help.
  • Escaping. Even if your dog is harmless and friendly, escaping the home can cause concern as they aren’t in your control and as such, can endanger others or themselves.

Training tips & resources

Training your dog can seem like a mammoth task, but we’re here to break it down with the top tips for training your pup:

Make it fun — Training doesn’t have to be boring and your dog will learn faster and you’ll both feel better if you incorporate treats, games, and more into the process.

Take it slow — Small steps will lead to success and it’s best not to rush training as it can overwhelm your dog. 

Be consistent — Consistency helps your dog retain their training and repetition is necessary to learn new habits.

Train often — Dogs can become frustrated just like you. Try to keep sessions short (no more than five minutes at a time) and at a regular cadence.

Offer positive reinforcement — Many veterinarians agree that positive reinforcement is the most effective form of training and helps tricks and behaviors last. 

Train in stages — As with any big task, start small. Behavior modifications won’t happen overnight so praise even the little things to encourage your dog towards the big win. 

Training a puppy or adult dog can be a lot from where to start to how to get your desired end result. With dog training tools, a solid plan, patience and perseverance, and any outside help you may need you can help your pup become their best selves. 

Frequently asked questions

What is the best tool for dog training?

The training tool(s) you’ll need for your dog may differ from someone else’s pup. Overall, we recommend the use of products you likely already have such as dog beds, crates, treats, leashes, and collars. 

Consult with an animal trainer or vet if you want recommendations specific to your dog’s needs such as if they’re a chewer or biter. 

What equipment do you need to train a dog?

The accessories and products found on the market for dog training are endless and believe it or not, but you can make some at home ! When it comes to enrichment, which is a crucial part of exercising your dog’s mind and body and distracting them from engaging in negative behaviors, you don’t need fancy or expensive products. Just grab things like muffin tins for a puzzle or every day objects to set up a DIY agility course. 

What are the 7 basics of dog training?

If you’re looking to get all the basics covered in training, you’ll want to teach your dog how to:

  • Recognize their name
  • To come
  • Heel when on a walk
  • Lay down
  • Leave or drop an object
  • Sit down
  • Go to a given place (remember place training?)

What do trainers use to train dogs?

Most dog trainers use the positive reinforcement method of dog training to achieve results. This includes treats, clickers, different types of collars and leashes, as well as general behavioral modification techniques born from operant conditioning.

On the other hand, some trainers will use physical or psychological intimidation to achieve results through the use of yelling, choke collars, or exposure therapy, but we don’t recommend that type of training and encourage dog owners to research any dog trainers they may be interested in using.

How do dog training tools assist in behavior modification?

Different training tools have different means of supporting behavior modification, which is why tools are often used in tandem with one another. Certain tools will distract dogs or tire them out so they can’t perform or don’t have the energy to perform a certain behavior. Others associate a desired behavior with a reward (treat, belly rub, walk, etc.) and from there, wish to repeat the behavior to get the reward again and again.