When you are training your puppy, it pays to have some great equipment. Some puppy training aids can be made at home or improvised. And there is a growing range of equipment available online for those that are short of time.
Although there are very few essential tools for effective dog training, there are a wealth of items which can be extraordinarily helpful, and fun to use
Making your training sessions faster, easier and more enjoyable for you and your dog.
So let’s take a look at 10 top puppy training aids that we use here at Totally Dog Training
1. Puppy Retrieving Toys
If you enjoy dog training, then you will be familiar with the retrieving dummy or bumper. Most commonly seen in the mouths of Retrievers and Spaniel breeds, they are in essence a fetch toy for working dogs.
However, there is no reason that they can’t provide a brilliant energy outlet and puppy training aid for any breed of dog. Not just for those with gun dog ancestry.
TIP: Never let your dog play unsupervised with a retrieving toy. For a couple of reasons. Firstly because they are not designed to withstand chewing and will come apart quite quickly if you give your dog a chance to get to work on one with his teeth.
And secondly because you may find your dog loses interest in retrieving is the toy is used for other purposes, or you may find it difficult to get him to hand the toy over if he sees it as something to play with.
Retrieving toys are best put away at the end of the retrieve game, and brought out again at the start of the next game
If you’d like to purchase a purpose designed retrieving dummy we like the Sport Dog brand – this bumper is firm and durable.
Some of the cheaper makes are okay to begin with but tear quite easily.
All but the very smallest dogs will be able to carry one of these dummies comfortably in it’s mouth. To give you an idea of size, we use them with our smallest English Cocker Spaniels, our Springer Spaniels, right up to our Labradors
These dummies come in orange and white. The white ones are easier for the dog to see and are great for initial stages in retriever training. The orange ones are easier for you to see, and harder for your dog. They are used for more advanced retrieving work, but are also fine for pet dogs.
If you prefer a traditional canvas dummy, we like the DT systems range
This one comes in a handy pack of three. They are much heavier than the plastic bumpers and great for getting dogs used to carrying something more weighty in their mouths.
Of course, you don’t need to purchase a retrieving dummy to get your dog retrieving.
Many pet dogs enjoy retrieving balls and frisbees.
The Yusen tough rubber ball comes in red or blue, and it floats so that you can play retrieving games on the beach or in the pool
Our favorite frisbee is the Kong Flyer. It comes in two different sizes to suit your dog
In obedience contests retrieving dumb-bells are popular.
One useful feature is that the dumb-bell teaches the dog to grasp the retrieve in the center, and avoids problems that some puppies experience with holding the dummy slipping out of the dog’s mouth.
J & J Dog Supplies Obedience Dumbbell comes in a range of sizes to suit your dog
But you don’t need to be limited by tradition. Anything that your dog likes to carry in his mouth can be used for games of fetch. It doesn’t have to be all ‘dummies, dumbbells and balls. Other toys can be used for retrieving too.
Bear in mind that you’ll need something with a bit of weight in order to throw it any distance. And a light piece of rope attached to your bumper or toy will help you throw it a lot further.
The best thing about retrieving is that it enables a dog to engage in a pleasurable, free-running activity, whilst remaining under control and supervision.
TIP: If you want your puppy to love retrieving, make it something special. Don’t carry on with the game until the puppy is bored, but put the retrieving toy away while he is still having fun
Remember – make sure you don’t allow your dog to play with the dummies unsupervised however, as they are not chew proof toys.
2. Puppy Harnesses
We have only been using harnesses for a few of years, and thanks to the success of modern training methods they have grown enormously in popularity in that time
You need a harness when training your puppy to attach your leash or training line . In the past dogs were retrained by their necks but experts now recognize that a harness has huge benefits over a collar in terms of safety and comfort for your pet
When wearing a traditional collar, a pulling puppy can choke themselves and end up very uncomfortable when they pull on the leash.
You’ll still occasionally meet an ‘old school’ dog trainer who will tell you that harnesses encourage dogs to pull on the leash but thankfully this is completely untrue.
Most modern professional dog trainers, including successful obedience competitors, use harnesses on all their puppies.
We like the Freedom No-Pull Harness by Wiggles Wags and Whiskers
A front attachment is important because it allows control over puppies that have not yet been taught to walk to heel.
The back fastening is necessary for attaching a long line when training outdoors.
Speaking of which…
3. Training Leashes: The Long Line
Training without force means extra special attention to controlling your dog’s access to rewards.
Chasing squirrels, playing with other dogs, jumping on people, and helping themselves to people’s picnics, are all activities which are rewarding to most puppies.
When you start training your puppy to respond to your cues in the presence of things he finds rewarding, including players and spectators at football matches, people eating, and children playing, you will need to attach him to a long line in order to ensure that he cannot reward himself for ignoring you.
This is a temporary but very important step along the training process.
Biothane long lines are light, don’t become heavier when wet and are easy to keep clean. If you are going to use a training leash, a biothane long line is the best choice.
4. Training treats
Food is not the only reward valued by our dogs. But it’s a very useful one. Tiny treats are quick and easy to deliver to your puppy.
We like Soft Puppy Bites by Wellness Natural Pet Food. They are grain free and come in tiny pieces.
Lots of dog breeds are very motivated by playing with you. Another great reward for many dogs is a simple ‘catch’ of a small toy or dog tennis ball.
5. The Clicker
A clicker is not essential in dog training, but it really does help. It can be very difficult to pin point behaviors that are transient or followed quickly by other behaviors, without this useful tool.
A clicker is what is known as an ‘event marker’.
The immediate and clear signal lets your dog know exactly when he has done something you like.
When you follow this sound with a reward, he will be more likely to repeat the exact behavior again in future.
There are a lot of different variations of clicker available, and they are very inexpensive to buy
If you have a confident young puppy, then I’d recommend a clicker with a strong, easily identifiable click.
Preferably a clicker that comes with a wrist strap for easy access and convenient holding.
If your puppy is nervous of unexpected noises, then you are probably better off choosing an adjustable clicker with volume control.
Or that specifically advertises itself as being quieter, in order to keep your training a happy and stress free experience for your dog.
6. The Treat Bag
If you want to use force free training methods, then using treats will be an essential part of that.
To help make it as convenient as possible you will need a great treat bag.
The rapid rewards treat bag by Doggone Good is a very popular option.
This great quality bag is durable, well made and easy to use. It also comes in a great range of colors
The opening uses magnets for simple opening and closing, but also has a secure cord-pull operation too.
A divider panel allows you to have a couple of food choices, or have somewhere safe to store your keys and phone.
The Doggone Treat Bag can be worn using the belt provided or attaches to your belt using a strong clip.
It even has additional small pockets and attachments for holding you other dog training accessories. Don’t forget to check out our dog treat bags review for more dog treat bag ideas and options
7. The ‘Run Around Toy’
A run around toy is a powerful reward for some dogs. The run around toy is one that has no ‘strings attached’ – but not in the literal sense. It is a toy that you don’t try and take off the dog. It’s hers, and hers alone.
A toy that has no rules attached to how it can be played with.
It does not have to be given back. Or dropped. Or interfered with by you, in any way.
If the dog does drop it at your feet or push it into your hand, then fine, you can throw it for her.
But it is entirely on her terms.
Being given the run-around toy is a great reward for the dog at the end of a training session or after a really great retrieve.
One of our Labs is especially fond of her run around toy which is her Classic Red Kong. Most dogs love this product for chewing, but Rachael will play and bounce with hers. It’s her favorite thing.
8. The Place Board or mat
Place boards are a brilliant puppy training aid. They are a great way of teaching a dog to respond to directional hand signals without the use of retrieves. As well as a good way to get a dog started with shaping games.
We had a couple of place boards made by a local carpenter. We bought some fake grass to glue to on the top. However many people use a simple mat or even an old towel.
Another popular option is an elevated bed. These are also a lot lighter than a wooden board. Check out Emily Larlham’s video to find out more about training with place mats
9. The Yellow Cone
We use our yellow cones for all kinds of things, marking out distances for retrieving, as retrieve markers, and more recently as a ‘go-round’ target for teaching a send away without retrieves.
You can begin training with your yellow cone indoors, in a very boring environment. Then move it outdoors when the behavior has been learned without distractions.
Cones are very versatile and portable training aids, which can help you to train and exercise your growing puppy. Any bright color will do, but white or pale yellow is the easiest for the dog to see at a distance
Probably the most useful training aid in puppy training aids collection is a notebook.
We all lead busy lives and it can be hard to remember what you did with your dog last time you trained, especially once a day or two has elapsed
If you have never kept a training notebook, try writing down what you achieved in a puppy training session and what you want to achieve in the next one, I think you’ll find it really helpful when it comes to keeping on track and moving forward to the next steps.
How about you?
What is your favourite puppy training aid? Share your secret with us in the comments box below!