Sam’s Product Picks:
Things That Can Make You Enjoy Your Furry Friends Even More
As you might imagine, I am often approached by folks who want me to endorse their products- you name it: beds, toys, collars, leashes, nutritional supplements, treats, gadgets, gifts, and more.
And because dogs are such an important part of my life – as well as the lives of my clients – you’ll understand my desire to recommend products that are well-made, interesting, fun, comfortable, affordable, healthy, effective, and most importantly, entirely safe. If they don’t meet this criteria, I cannot recommend them.
Those of you who know me – or know of me – also recognize that I am a “holistic” trainer and believe that every aspect of dogs’ lives affect directly – or indirectly – the training process. So, dogs that are healthy, happy, socialized, engaged, and safe are more easily, and sustainably, trained. Moreover, I believe that dogs should be integrated into their owners’ lives… they should never be an “after thought.” For instance, bring your dog with you on camping, hiking and biking trips! There are lots of really great products that allow you to bring your dog almost anywhere (with proper training, of course) with little fuss. Why, I have clients who bring their pups with them to work, stores, and even restaurants. You just have to combine the right training with the right products.
So, below is a list of the products I like – most of which I’ve purchased and used myself. I’ve looked all over the Internet to find the products I like at the best possible prices. Overall, Amazon wins in terms of pricing, free shipping and quick delivery, so when you click on the links you’ll be taken to and Amazon page (or another website) where you can learn more about the products and order online.
To make it easier for you, I’ve organized these into logical categories although many of these products cross-over into more than one.
Best General Training Tools
These are the “tools” that I use most frequently for training. They work for dogs of all breeds for most types of training.
- Strong Durable Dog Leash Lead: These, in my opinion, are the best leashes for most dogs. They’re lightweight and flexible; the nylon is strong; and they’re 4 ft. long, which is the proper leash length for most breeds. Additionally, they’re brightly colored so they’re harder to lose and the snap is very simple so you can get the leash on quickly, before your dog escapes. Even better, they’re inexpensive but a great investment. I strongly advise my clients to have 3-4 of these on hand in case they lose one or more or they become too worn. We’ll use these during our walking exercises.
- Martingale Collar with Quick Snap Buckle: These no-slip training collars are a must-have during the process and are appropriate for both untrained and well-trained dogs. For safety reasons, I believe that all dogs should wear no-slip collars in public (and this is especially true for fearful and/or aggressive dogs) since many dogs will “escape” and run if they wear buckle collars only. Made of nylon, they’re washable (and should be laundered periodically to prevent skin infections, which dogs can also get with leather collars).
- 20-Ft. Cotton Web Dog Training Lead: We’ll use this during the process because it’s just the right length for distance training for novice dogs. Shorter leashes are not long enough to simulate distance work and longer ones can cause running dogs to build up too much momentum and therefore, risk injury to themselves or their owners. These are durable and lightweight and the snap is very simple so your dog is less likely to escape as you put it on.
- Long, 50-Ft. Nylon, Visible, Durable:This is a heavier-duty version of the 20-ft. line, which helps with larger dogs. Additionally, because it’s longer it allows for longer distance training for dogs of all sizes.
- 20-Ft. Tie-Out Cable: I use these in two ways. First, during puppy/untrained dog training, my clients use them as “drag lines” in the home (they’re cut in half so the dogs get used to the leash and can’t get it caught on furniture, etc.). I also recommend these for active dog owners who bring their animals with them on camping trips and the like. For example, when I take my dog camping I tie him to a tree so he has freedom of movement and remains safe (these leashes don’t get tangled like others).
- Grass-Fed Beef Treats: I use a positive training process that rewards dogs for obeying specific learned commands. Given this, your dog will be getting more than his/her share of treats, so it’s very important that they be as healthy and low in calories as possible. This “lickable” treat provides the reward, without the calories.
- Petmate Ultra Vari Dog Kennel: Crate training is one of the kindest and wisest things you can do for your dog. Not only does it provide a safe environment for puppies and/or untrained dogs when you’re not at home, but it also offers your pet a comfortable and familiar place to rest when they’re stressed, away from home, or just plain tired. I like this particular kennel because it’s lightweight, easy to set up, is a good value and it’s airline approved.
- Crate Games for Self-Control and Motivation DVD: While not a “must-have” this is great for folks who have issues getting their dogs into crates, whether that stems from anxiety or something else. It provides a structured, positive process for getting dogs to happily get into their kennels.
“Stuff” Every Dog Should Have. Period.
While not specifically designed as training tools, the following are products that – in my opinion – all dogs should have. Some of these do make the training process easier and quicker and others are products that enhance your relationship with your dog and/or make them more comfortable, safer and yes, happier.
- Crash-Tested Car Safety Dog Harness: Like children, dogs should be safely harnessed while in moving vehicles. If not, your dog is likely to be propelled out of the vehicle, or place you and your family in danger in the event of an accident. Therefore, it’s imperative for you to have a safe and convenient harness for your dog, whether they join you on long trip or runs to the grocery store.
- Stainless Steel Dog Bowl with Rubber Base: I like these bowls for several reasons. First, they’re not plastic, which can leech into your dog’s water. Second, they’re sturdy and aren’t easily knocked over (be sure to choose the no-tip ones), which will eliminate lots of messes due to overturned water bowls. And third, they’re a good size for most dogs. I like these so much that I have 7-8 for my dog. I use several for water (inside, outside, etc.) and one for food. When four are in dishwasher I have others ready to go.
- Floor Protection Mats For Dog Food Bowls: Have you ever noticed that in addition to being very sloppy eaters and drinkers, many dogs – especially giant breeds – make slippery messes around their food and water bowls? If so, you’re not alone. It’s one of the biggest dog owner. And while there isn’t much you can do about the drooling and “leaking” you can put a good, sturdy rubber mat under your dog’s bowls. Not only will this prevent slipping accidents, but it will also save your floors and rugs and cut down on nasty odors.
- FURminator Nail Clippers: These nail clippers are simply awesome. In my opinion, all dog owners should use them because all dog nail clippers are not created equally. I like these because they’re very well made and are much easier and safer to use for dogs that may, or usually, move suddenly. It’s no fun for dogs – or their owners – when they clip their nails too short or accidentally tear their nail beds and cause pain and/or bleeding. Best to be safe than sorry on this one.
- Memory Foam Orthopedic Pet Bed: I’m a stickler on this one. Hard floors are as uncomfortable for dogs as they are for humans! Still many pet owners reprimand their dogs for jumping on sofas, human beds, and chair, which is counter-productive (and downright sad for Fido). Comfortable dog beds are especially important for larger breeds such as great danes, dobermans, and greyhounds, because they have very little body fat and are extremely uncomfortable on floors. What’s more many giant breeds can develop sores on their flanks and elbows from lying on hard floors. So, please, please get your dog a comfortable bed of their own… then you can ask them to stay off the furniture!
- Dog First Aid Kit:Let’s face it, in spite of how careful we are, our dogs get into things… and things get into them. And, depending on the time of day and your location, it’s not always easy to locate an emergency vet. That’s why you should always have a specialized first aid kit handy. They are even more important for dogs who play in wooded areas, visit dog parks, go on boats, have food or other allergies, or just have a penchant for getting into mischief. Oh, and if you’re not certain how/what to use in your kit in the event of an emergency, I suggest you purchase the American Red Cross Pet First Aid Book to go along with it.
- Stainless Steel Step Trash Can: To put it bluntly, dog poop should always be discarded in a closed container, outside and away from “people” trash. Not only is it safer and more sanitary, but it keeps away the flies! These are also useful inside because, as you already know, many dogs love to get into garbage cans (as well as kitchen cabinets). The tight top prevents them from eating things they shouldn’t and saves you from cleaning up big messes. I’ve used several different kinds and I always come back to this one.
- Nylon Weight Pulling Harness: Many dogs need extra exercise to in order to remain calm in the home, but not all dog owners are able to walk four miles a day in order to wear them out. And dogs don’t get sufficient exercise in backpacks, bike baskets and the like. This harness, however, is especially designed to allow dogs to run/walk along side their owners on bikes, scooters, skateboards, and even scooters. Available in two sizes (medium and large) this durable harness is designed specifically for large dogs and many of clients swear by it!
- Three-Wheel Mobility Scooter: This is great investment (worth its weight in gold) and good value for dog owners – especially the elderly – who want to walk their dogs outside, but find it difficult due to injuries or disabilities. It’s well made, simple to operate, and has a front basket where you can store your purse, extra leash, groceries, etc.
- 4-Wheel Heavy Duty Scooter: If you’re more comfortable on a more stable four-wheeled vehicle, I recommend this scooter. It is great for larger dogs that pull harder and has better traction on some surfaces.
- Pet Carrier & Portable Travel Bowl: This is a must-have for everyone who travels with their dogs. Airline approved, safe and comfortable, it comes in various sizes so you’ll be sure to find one that fits your pet (it’s fine for cats as well) perfectly. Better yet, it includes a portable travel bowl, which comes in very handy.
Best Products For Grooming Your Dog
Have you ever tried to blow dry a wet collie or shepherd? If so, you know it takes quite a while and a big commitment. And, if you let them “air” dry, they stink and can develop serious skin irritations, so that’s never a good option.
Or, how about those needle-like hairs that bulldog and boxer owners find stuck into their clothing, furniture, and carpets?
Or have you ever tried to keep a squirming 70-lb. dog from slipping in the bath tub or tried to comb out matted Schnauzer hair with a regular dog brush?
Or how about those big shedders, such as German shepherds, golden retrievers, labradoodles, or golden doodles? These dogs not only shed, but grooming them is a weekly event and very time-consuming process!
These are just a some examples of the many grooming challenges dog owners face. And I know, because I’ve learned the hard way.
As you probably suspect, I’ve owned (and trained) a variety of dogs: big and small; short- and long-haired; “wash-and-wear” and those with special grooming needs. And to be completely frank, I just didn’t pay enough attention to proper grooming methods or products. As a result, I – and my dogs – struggled far more than was necessary, and after my last unnerving episode (I’ll spare you the details, but it ended with a very sore back and a funny-looking dog) I swore I would devote the time necessary to find the best-of-the-best grooming products – ones that could be used for most/all dogs and others that work best for specific dog types and/or situations.
Below is my list of favorites. If you have others, feel free to email me and I’ll check them out, and add as appropriate.
- Super Duty Dog Clipper Kit:This set comes with everything you need to safely and “professionally” clip your dog’s hair. It’s powerful and easy to use, even for novices.
- Grooming Hair Dryer for Dogs: This hair dryer is specifically designed for dogs and cats. It dries in half the time of regular “people” dryers and isn’t as hot, won’t burn your animal’s tender skin. This is a must-have for those of you with long- or thick-haired dogs (e.g. collies, shepherds, labs, retrievers) but great-to-haves for all dogs… especially those who aren’t thrilled about drying off.
- 7-1/2-Inch Steel Comb: There are lots of good dog combs available, but this is my all-around favorite. It works well on long- and short-haired dogs, so there’s no need to purchase separate combs if you have dogs with differing coat types.
- Self-Cleaning Slicker Brush: This brush gently – and that’s important – removes matted and tangled hair as well as loosening dogs’ undercoats.
- Oatmeal and Neem Dog Shampoo: This premium, all natural dog shampoo is great for any dog, but particularly for those with sensitive, dry and/or itch skin.
- Essential Square Shower Mat: I’m a big proponent of showering, not bathtub bathing, dogs. And like people, dogs often slip and injure themselves or their caregivers, in the shower. That’s why it’s just plain good sense to have a sturdy shower mat. What’s more, the mat will trap most/all of your dog’s hair so you can dispose of it properly – and your drains stay clog free!
- Waterpik Handheld Shower: Not only is it difficult, but nearly impossible, to properly rinse dogs without a handheld shower nozzle. Not only does this allow you to get closer to your dog’s skin so there’s no soap residue left (which can cause skin irritations) but it’s far more comfortable for you pet.
- Midsize Dog Folding Grooming Table: This is a wise investment for anyone whose dog(s) need to be groomed fairly often. I have clients who have their dogs professionally groomed once or twice per month. And many of them would like to groom their dogs at home (think of the money it would save). However, they say that they don’t have the tools or the “place” to do so without breaking their backs (dining room tables do not make good grooming tables). That’s why this grooming table (along with the grooming tools above) makes perfect sense! Trust me, I would never – and I mean never – have another long-haired dog without having a grooming table.
- Furminator De-shedding Shampoo: Those of you with long-haired dogs know that it’s nearly impossible to stop all shedding. However, you can kill two birds with one stone by shampooing your dogs with this special de-shedding shampoo first and then brush after.
Best Products For Keeping Your Dog Safe
My clients all know that my training lessons are interwoven with dog safety lessons. I do so first and foremost because some of our lessons require their dogs to be off leash and/or in public locations and so it must be done entirely safely. But as importantly, I find that many of my clients underestimate how easily dogs can be injured, stolen, or even killed, without proper safety education and awareness.
Below is a list of my favorite dog safety products. All dog owners will find some of them useful, while others are more appropriately used in more specific situations.
- Stealth Outdoor Wildlife Camera:This is a very cool battery-operated outdoor camera that is great for those of you whose dogs spend a good part of their day outside. What’s more, you’ll get great information on the types of “visitors” you get so you’ll know if any of them are potential threats to you, your family and your pets. Moreover, many dog owners unfortunately, are dealing with more dire situations such as nasty neighbors who harass their pets. As such, they are often asked to provide evidence to law enforcement to backup their claims, making cameras like this one a definite must-have.
- Outdoor Wireless/Wired Camera with Night Vision: This camera can capture night shots for 15-20 meters, making it a great device for keeping your dog safe from intruders who may wish to do dogs harm and/or other critters, day and night.
- 6-Ft. Capture Pole: This pole (or “noose”) is safely and effectively used by many animal-control specialists who need to use it to rescue dogs in water and on land. As such, it’s a great emergency tool to have around. It’s a must-have, however, for safely breaking up dog fights inside the home.
- GPS Pet Monitoring/Tracking and Locating System: I really like this because it’s not a subscription-based tool, it’s easy to use, affordable, requires no cell or GPS network (so it works anywhere) and most importantly, is a very effective tool for finding missing dogs. No dog owner who takes his or her dog off-leash in public should be without this technology, and hunters and hikers should be especially careful (because dogs run away in the wilderness very often).
- Motion Detector Floodlight: Not only is this a great piece of equipment for keeping your animals safe (lights will come on the second they detect movement from intruders, other animals, etc.), it’s also a great security tool for people without pets.
- Security Screen Door: If you have a dog that is prone to rushing the door when guests arrive or who has an itch to escape through screen doors, these are must-haves. They’re attractive, durable and tamper-proof. What’s more, they’re lockable which will allow you to enjoy fresh air in your home without sacrificing security.
- Electronic Insect Killer: Dogs, like people, get bit/stung by all manner of bugs – mosquitos, bees, gnats, fleas… you name it. And also like people, some dogs can develop dangerous – and even life-threatening – allergic reactions to these bites and stings. So, if you live in a place where insects are prevalent, these are wonderful tools because they’re far safer than bug sprays and can kill insects up to 1/2 acre! And if you’ve got more than one dog (more dogs = more poop & more flies), they’re must-haves!
Best Products For Anxious Dogs
I’m a firm believer that training is the best, and most sustainable, method for “curing” anxious and/or nervous dogs. However, there are a few products that, largely based on testimonials from my clients, I’ve feel comfortable recommending for helping dogs feel more comfortable during stressful times.
If your dog is overly anxious, however, I advise you to discuss this with your vet. He or she can prescribe medications that may temporarily ease distress, but they’re not meant to be used for long periods of time.
Below is a short list of products that you can use without worry. They’re inexpensive and entirely safe, so one or more of them may be worth testing.
- Thundershirt Dog Jacket: Anxious behaviors are caused by a number of things, one of which is genetics. My own dogs have been working breeds, so anxiety was never an issue, but they can be for many other breeds. As such, I have not personally used thundershirt jackets, but I include them here because so many of my clients swear by them. They’re a great supplement – but not a substitute – for proper behavior modification training. In other words, they work hand-in-hand.The “shirts” are wrapped snugly around dogs and – according to many experts – help them cope better with certain stresses. Versions of these have been used successfully for years by pediatric healthcare providers to calm anxious children.
- Pet Dog Cat Carrier & Portable Travel Bowl: This is one of those cross-over products that I recommend for all dogs and especially for those prone to anxiety. Let’s face it, traveling can be stressful for animals so it’s important to create safe and non-threatening environments for them. That’s why I’m a big fan of these travel crates. Not only are they durable and lightweight but they will keep your pet safe and injury-free, even if he or she gets agitated (i.e. there are no wires or other dangerous elements that can injure your dog). Additionally, dogs feel far more secure in their own quiet and contained spaces (precisely why many dogs crawl under beds or tables when they want their own “space”). And if you put in a couple of pieces of your clothing inside the crate with your dog, it’s even better.