I did a post not too long ago about the absolute abomination that is my equipment collection. Mostly, this is due to me buying into the hype about every new product out there that was guarenteed to cure my dog's lack of training... All of which inevitably fell short of actual training itself.
So, today I want to share with you my, now, very-short-list of equipment I use during my training sessions with each of my dogs. I use the same equipment for all of my dogs (all 8 of them).
1. Mendota Slip Leash
A slip leash is ideal for so many reason, especially as a dog trainer who may be handling a wide variety of dogs with varying requirements as far as equipment size, and training techniques. First of all, slip leash will definitely fit any size dog. I use the exact same leash on my 7lbs Chihuahua and on my 103lbs German Shepherd. This is extremely convenient as a dog trainer because I may have multiple client dogs of varying sizes that I am training back to back throughout the day and now I don't need to continuously change equipment.
Additionally, the slip leash is extremely easy to put on the dog and take off the dog. It is so easy that you can actually use it almost as a "lasso" and slide it over the dog's head as they exit the kennel or crate. This is also ideal in the event I am required to work with a possibly dangerous or aggressive dog. I can simply hang the open loop of the slip leash in fron the of the door as I open it and let the dog place its head through the loop as it exits.
The slip leash also applies just enough pressure to be slightly uncomfortable when the leash is tight and naturally loosens as the leash pressure is released. The Mendota brand is made with quality materials and has an adjustable leather tab to hold the leash in place.
2. Treats! (Bil-Jac to be specific)
To be perfectly honest, Bil-Jac is actually just frozen dog-food, but dogs seem to enjoy it just as much as any other type of treat out there, and its way less expensive. Nearly every type of training we do, and everything we do with our dogs involves treats. Even when I'm just taking my dogs for a walk, I always bring treats with me. Most of my dogs have had at least some form of either fearfulness or reactivity to either people or dogs or other things you may expect to encounter on a walk such as motorcycles or bicycles. So, everytime we go on a walk and we see something that my dog may have reacted to in the past, we take the opportunity to turn the situation into a training experience and I reward when they are behaving appropriately.
Finding a good treat for training is also important because if you're like me, you may be training a lot! If you are using high calorie or unhealthy treats for training treats, you may encounter some undesireable side effects like health issues or weight gain. Bil-Jac frozen dog food is a decent dog food, but maybe not a preferred dog food to be feeding for every meal. However, if you are using it for training, it has a lot of good nutrients, without many of the additives you may find in some of the more fancy dog treats out there. And, if you're using a lot of training treats, it is really easy on your budget also.
The first two items on the list are pretty much the bare minimum you need to start training your dog to do just about anything, now we are going to talk about some optional items that I have found to expedite training and make things just that much easier. You probably also want to invest in a treat pouch just so you don't have to carry a handful of treats in your pants pockets.
3. An Elevated Dog Bed (The Place Bed)
We love to use an elevated dog bed to teach the "Place" command. The "Place" command simply means that your dog is to remain on the elevated bed until told otherwise. The elevated place bed is ideal for several reasons. First, we want the place command to mean for your dog to go to the place bed and relax. They can sit, they can lie down, or whatever they want to do as long as they remain on the bed, so the hammock type suspended fabric makes for a pretty comfortable location to just chill out. Additionally, when we are teaching our dogs that we want them to remain on the bed, the fact that the bed is elevated makes for a clear distinction from all four paws being on the bed and being able to clearly mark the moment one paw touches the ground. This will help facilitate the learning process to determin what is considered "on the bed" and "off of the bed" for the dog.
You can use just a regular soft dog bed to teach place as well, however some may encounter the situation where as your dog lies down on the bed, they hand their front paws off of the bed and they are now actually touching the ground or floor. As the trainer you can make the decision to not allow your dog to place their paws on the floor, or if you want to say that this is okay. Some dogs may see this as "give and inch and take a mile" and soon will start pushing the limits to see how far off of the bed they can go before they get corrected for leaving their "Place." So, ideally, starting with the elevated bed is the best way to teach place in the beginning.
4. The Clicker
A training clicker, used properly, can greatly expedite the training process. I like to compare it to the difference between building a house using a nailgun versus using a hammer. As a dog trainer, we have a lot of dogs to work with and a short amount of time to accomplish a lot of learning for the dogs, so finding ways to help the dogs learn can really be invaluable.
Now I mentioned that the clicker should be used "Properly." If you just grab a clicker and click it around your dog, they are not going to have any idea what it means. But if you take the time to "Clicker Condition" your dog, now you can use this tool to precisely identify desired behaviors, and really bridge the gap between behavior and reward! Within just a few training sessions your dog will know that whatever they were doing at the moment of the click is exactly what will produce a reward.
Our Tool Boxes
Ultimately, there will be any number of situations that may require additional special items of equipment, and I definitely own lots of equipment. But the items on this list I use every single day, and I recommend to every single one of my clients. You can accomplish almost anything with these simple pieces of eqiupment and a little bit of knowledge! Happy Training!