Dog Training 101: Essential Tools You'll Need

Target stick and dog
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A target stick can help you teach your dog fancy tricks like spin and bow.

You're all ready to welcome a new puppy or dog into your home — including working with him on his manners. Before he comes home, get your training supplies organized so you're ready to start training on day one.


Here are my essential dog-training tools, plus a few extra items you might want to have in your arsenal. Happy training!

Basic Tools for Training Your Dog

Clicker. A clicker can be used to mark desired behavior, both in response to a cue and when it occurs naturally. Clickers come in a variety of shapes and styles, including handheld ones and those with wrist straps. Some leashes even come with built-in clickers. There are also clicker apps for your smartphone and clickers designed for training multiple dogs, with different distinct sounds for each pooch.


Target stick. A target stick can be helpful for teaching basic behaviors like walking nicely on leash or complex tricks like spin or bow. Targets vary from a simple, fixed-length stick to something fancier, like a stick with a built-in clicker or one that collapses for easy storage. A serving spoon or wooden spoon can also be an easy DIY target — or you can skip the equipment altogether and teach your dog to touch and follow a hand target.

Treats. Rewards keep your dog interested and motivated. Treat preference will vary depending upon the individual canine, but in general, soft, meaty treats are canine favorites. Treats should be small, around the size of a pencil eraser or a blueberry. Some treats come pre-sized for training while others may be broken apart or cut down to size prior to training.


Portable mat. A portable mat or bed provides a safe space for your dog to settle, no matter where he is. A foldable, washable bed, mat or blanket is easy to transport and ideal for outings. Varieties with a sticky bottom tend to provide greater stability on slick surfaces.

Leashes. Training leashes vary in length, typically between four and six feet. Ideally, the leash is long enough to allow slight slack when your dog stays close to you during walks (rather than being pulled tight all the time). A waist-clip leash enables you to keep your hands free during training sessions. Store your dog’s leashes in easy access locations, such as on hooks near the door.


Collar and harness. A flat collar holds your dog’s ID tag, which is important if he gets out on his own. While you can also clip a leash to a flat collar, a front-clip harness is a better option for most dogs, since it can help deter pulling and make it easier for you to guide your dog’s movement. For difficult-to-control dogs, a head halter can be a useful option. (Note: Corrective collars are not recommended for training.)

Long line. When your dog is ready to practice behaviors like long-distance stays and come when called, a long line is a safe and simple alternative to being off leash. Long lines also allow for exploration during training breaks and extra room to walk out for activities like scent detection. Standard long lines vary from 15 to 30 feet.


Barriers. Crates, pet gates, pet pens and playpens can be useful if you need to contain your dog in a certain area for situations like house training or chewing management. A barrier can also be helpful for keeping your pooch away from problem areas like stairs or the front door.

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