7 Gifts for People Who Love Dog Training
The multi-billion-dollar pet industry has no shortage of gadgets, toys, and educational resources dedicated to dog training and activities. These are some of my top picks.
1. Clicker training kit
Coming in at around $2, a clicker makes an excellent stocking stuffer. A clicker is a tiny tool that fits in your hand, and when you push a button, it makes a “click” sound. For training, a click is always followed by a treat, classically conditioning your dog to love the “click” sound and do all sorts of behaviors or tricks in order to get more clicks. It’s a simple concept that can be applied to endless training scenarios. For example, put a post-it on the floor and click every time your dog happens to touch it with his paw; soon he’ll figure out the “touch” game, and you can put the post-it on walls or other surfaces for him to touch.
For a dog owner new to clicker training, Karen Pryor’s Clicker Training Kit for Dogs includes a clicker, training guide, and Click-a-Trick cards.
2. Treat and Train
More expensive than a clicker (at about $110) but based on the same principle of classical conditioning is the PetSafe Treat & Train Remote Reward Dog Trainer. This device is filled with treats or dry food, which is then dispensed using a remote control that you use either manually or set on a timer. With Treat and Train, dogs can learn to stay on a mat while you eat dinner or answer the door, play targeting games to burn energy, and build other good manners.
Puppod is a high-tech interactive game that engages your dog in brain games that increase in difficulty as your dog progresses. The game includes a special Kong Wobbler that gives your dog sound and light cues, and a bluetooth treat dispenser that automatically rewards your dog when he’s solved the puzzle. The treat dispenser allows your dog to play the game while he’s home alone, or if you’re home, you can skip the dispenser and give him the treat yourself. The toy includes a mobile app to help you participate and track your dog’s progress. Though pricey ($179 for Puppod and $299 for the Pet Tutor treat dispenser), if your dog is destroying your house due to pent-up energy or mild separation issues, it is far cheaper than a new couch or oriental rug.
4. Magazine Subscription
If the person on your shopping list isn’t so tech-savvy, consider a magazine subscription. My personal favorite is Whole Dog Journal, a monthly magazine that puts quality over quantity. You’ll find thorough and practical articles by experts in dog training, behavior, health, and more. Because the magazine doesn’t have advertisers, you know it’s the real deal. A subscription to Whole Dog Journal also gives the recipient access to all back issues online, making it a fantastic resource for everything doggie.
5. Treat Bag
If you’ve ever tried to train with treats in your jeans pocket or in a plastic baggie, you know it quickly turns into a messy struggle. Treat bags (or bait bags) facilitate your training by making it faster and easier to reward your dog for good behavior, and there are quite a few on the market. The Whole Dog Journal’s top choice, and mine as well, is the OllyDog Treat Bag Pro. The $25 price tag will get you one of the sturdiest and best-designed bags on the market, with a solid clip and belt, a magnetic clip to keep the bag closed, and extra pouches for your personal items.
6. Exercise Equipment
Dog sports run the gamut, from lightning-speed agility to calm and collected rally obedience. Both athletic dogs and couch potatoes can benefit from various kinds of at-home sports equipment to keep their minds and bodies active. Fitbone is one product (at $70) that doesn’t take up much space. Fitbone is an inflatable balance platform that moves somewhat when your dog puts his paws on it. It provides instability training to strengthen the core, reduce stress, burn excess calories, and give you one-on-one time with your dog. Your dog doesn’t need to be an athlete to benefit physically and mentally from this kind of training.
7. Training classes
Some people prefer experiences to tangible things. For the dog lover who enjoys learning, consider a gift card to their local positive-reinforcement-based dog training school. You may also consider an online course, such as those offered by Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Fenzi Academy holds classes in a number of obedience and sport areas, including agility, rally, freestyle, and nosework. Students follow a syllabus and submit written and video recorded materials online, to which the instructor responds. (Photo credit: WilleeCole Photography/Shutterstock.com)
Kate Naito, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer at Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY, and author of the training book, "BKLN Manners." She draws upon her experience as an educator and dog trainer to apply positive training techniques to a challenging urban environment. Kate is a rescue advocate drawn to special-needs dogs and currently has two Chihuahua mixes, Batman and Beans.
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