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If You Have A Dog, Trainers Say These 30 Clever Things Will Genuinely Make Your Life Easier

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that dogs make our lives better — but not necessarily easier. As much as my family and I love our dog, and as much as he is the very best boy, taking care of him requires time and energy, attention and money, all of which are finite resources. We’re more than happy to give it, of course, and of all the responsibilities that get juggled in my household, he’s the smallest and furriest and the most likely to ask for attention by rolling on his back and showing off his tummy. So none of this is meant to sound like complaining. It’s just the reality of pets.

Among the people who have a firm grasp of both the joys and the struggles of pet ownership are dog trainers, which is why I’ve consulted a number of them for their best advice on how to make living with a furry friend as smooth as possible. Even better, among their tips are 30 clever things that can genuinely make your life — and your dog’s — easier, and they’re all for sale on Amazon. So call your pup over and give them a toy to keep busy, because you’re going to want to take note of the advice ahead.

Dog owners love to see their dogs happy, so of course we’re here for more excuses to offer them treats. And if we’re doing it in a way that reinforces good behavior? Even better. As Joan Hunter Mayer, CBCC-KA and CPDT-KA certified professional dog trainer and founder of The Inquisitive Canine says, “Reward your dog for making good choices, so they repeat those behaviors instead of the ones you don’t want.”

Hunter Mayer also explains, “Dogs are problem-solvers. If we don’t make outlets available for them, they’ll create their own problems to solve. It’s best to provide enrichment outlets for your dog to ensure they’re getting metal stimulation.” This puzzle toy, for example, can be used with your dog’s favorite food as motivation, and keeps their minds occupied and their noses busy.

Another style of toy that works well for play and mentally-stimulating problem solving is a treat ball, which rolls and distributes goodies as it goes. Hunter Mayer has deemed the Omega Paw Playtime Tricky Treat Ball as her “fave enrichment toy.” The exterior has divots and dimples so it wobbles as it rolls, keeping pups engaged and guessing.

A bobble toy is another way to keep your doggo active and engaged, to slow down fast feeding, and give them that play and enrichment that Hunter Mayer recommends. This toy has a weighted bottom, so it wiggles and wobbles as pups play with it. It’s available in two sizes, holding the right amount of food for pups of different breeds and sizes. It even has the capacity to hold complete meals.

In addition to toys that hold snacks and treats, something that squeaks (and requires some discovery) can also keep your dog occupied. This toy has a plush outer lining — but on the inside, there’s a squeaky, textured ball that they can eventually discover. It’s available in three animal designs: a pig, squirrel, and raccoon.

If you leave toys out for your dog to grab whenever they feel like, you might want to rethink that. Paola Cuevas, behaviorist and veterinarian with Hepper, says “Never leave the toys always available as they will lose their value, they are more valuable if they are only available during a limited period or ‘special occasions.’” She suggests rotating toys to “provide variability” — your furry friend will be excited by the collection for longer.

Putting some effort in at the start of your dog’s training journey can be crucial for setting a long-term foundation. You don’t need to build a whole library (although, more power to you if you do), but Cuevas does say, “Read at least a basic dog training book, it will provide you with lots of tools and save you time.” Considerer a best-seller like Zak George's Dog Training Revolution, or check your local library, too.

Certified international trainer, judge for the National Association of Canine Scent Work, and founder of Craigmyle K9 Training, James Craigmyle recommends bone broth — yep, just like humans do. He says, “Work glucosamine and chondroitin into their diet early to help with aging joints and mobility. Jason Johnson from Project K-9 Hero introduced me to Brutus Broth, a food topper made with human grade bone broth. It’s enriched with chondroitin and glucosamine, as well as a number of other vitamins and nutrients. After months of giving Brutus Broth to my retired dog and personal dogs, I began recommending it to all of my clients.”

If bone broth doesn’t make sense for your pup, you can always give them a supplement like these NutraFitz supplement tablets. In addition to the aforementioned glucosamine and chondroitin, the formula also includes turmeric and black pepper extract to help with absorption, plus yucca for anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory benefits. One buyer endorsed them as “miracle pills,” and many reviewers agreed that they saw a positive difference in their pet’s mobility after starting them.

“I recommend a flirt pole to provide physical exercise, burn your dog's energy while preserving your own, and redirect your dog's natural instinct to chase squirrels,” says Emily Carl, Certified Professional Dog Trainer & Head of Pet Services at Doggo. This stick itself is made of durable stainless steel, and the loop at the end of the rope allows you to add or switch up the lure. Plus, the rubber handle makes it comfortable for you. It comes in two different sizes, and two different colors.

Carl breaks down how to curb an energetic pup’s exuberance, explaining that there are three main daily activities for meeting their needs. The first, she says, is “physical exercise, through play and walks.” This soccer ball with grab tabs is a great choice for having fun with your dog; you can kick it, fling it, play tug, and more. It also floats, so dogs that like to splash and swim can enjoy it in the water. A pump is included, too.

This indoor ball is another great choice for meeting your dog’s daily play needs — especially when the weather or your location isn’t ideal for outside time. Great for fetch games, it’s available in seven different shapes, all of which are made with durable, soft plush that can withstand the jaws of medium chewers. Plus, it’s lightweight, so it’s easy on interiors and easy for you.

The second daily need you should meet for your pup, according to Carl, is “mental exercise, through training and enrichment toys like puzzle feeders.” This slow-feeding bowl, a favorite of hers, promises to — you guessed it — slow down your dog’s mealtimes thanks to the raised grooves that prevent them from scarfing food. It’s lightweight, easy to clean, and has non-skid grooves along the bottom. The 2-cup size is available in six different colors, and there’s a large-dog option, too.

Training is included in Carl’s recommendation for mental exercise, and a set of recordable buzzers can be a unique teaching tool. Try using them to play words that are a regular parts of your pet’s routine (like “walk” or “food”) and then, with practice and patience, you can also teach them to use the buttons when they have a need or want, too. And, of course, don’t forget to give plenty of rewards as they’re learning.

That final daily need, according to Carl, is rest, which you can achieve “by teaching your dog to settle mid-play and to take daily naps.” A cozy, calming spot like this donut bed can provide just the kind of comfort dogs need to relax. It has a plush, faux fur exterior and a lower center so pets can snuggle up. Two sizes are available to suit the tiniest of puppers to the biggest of breeds, and there are four colors to choose from.

Not all leashes are created equal. Audrey Fellows, Certified Professional Dog Trainer at Doggo, tells Bustle, “I only use multi-function leashes because my hands always seem to be full when I'm with my dogs. This way if I don't have a hand to hold the leash, I can hang it around my shoulder courier style or tighten it around my waist like a belt.” This multifunction leash gives you those options along with two easy lengths for standard usage, plus the option to attach it to a stationary object. The rope material ensures that it’s super durable, and the neoprene handle is comfortable to hold.

A little foresight and an upfront investment can save your floors and your sanity while potty training your dog. Fellows explains, “If you're potty training and can't make it outside as quickly or often as your puppy seems to need to go, try a patch of grass from a hardware store on top of a plastic tray.” The method often still requires some maintenance and clean-up and shouldn’t replace regular outside time and walks, but reviewers agreed that it’s better than messes on the floor.

Fellows also notes that you can “skip the trip to the store and get DoggieLawn delivered. Even if your living space is completely carpeted, it will be much easier for your puppy to feel the difference between carpet and grass compared to carpet and paper pads and you'll see fewer accidents.” The natural grass pee pads come in different sizes, and if you find that it’s perfect for your pup, you can set up a subscription.

“My favorite dog training tip is to remember to have fun with your dog even during training time! Training a dog can be challenging and stressful, but you and your dog will both benefit from having fun! If you both look forward to training, and your dog is excited to learn new things from you, the process goes a lot smoother and quicker!” says Carolyn Frias, Certified Professional Dog Trainer at Doggo.

Frias raves about treat dispensing toys, too. “I always recommend fun mental stimulation and enrichment toys like the Kong Wobbler,” she shares. “They’re tons of fun for your dog, and can help keep them occupied and out of trouble when you’re busy with something that requires your full attention.” Buyers tend to agree, and when when it comes to the Kong toy especially, it has rave reviews for durability. Pop it in the freezer for an ultra long-lasting delight.

Another factor that makes treat-dispensing toys a perk for pups, says Frias, is that “[they] are also great for rainy days, or days where you weren’t able to spend as much time outside playing with, or exercising your dog.” Or, she adds, “[if] your dog is a fast eater, then this is a great way to help their meals last a bit longer, and help them drain some of their mental and physical energy at the same time.” Another favorite of hers is this Planet Dog Snoops toy, which comes in three shapes and a variety of colors.

“Since sniffing is a big part of how dogs interact with their environments, I like to give my dog the opportunity to do this as much as possible,” says Julia Feldman, Certified Professional Dog Trainer at Doggo. “Because of this, I recommend the 15 foot Mendota Pet Snap Leash to both allow my dog to enjoy his walk, sniffing and smelling freely, while also still having control of him if needed.” The extra length makes it easy for pups to stretch their legs a bit but without fully disconnecting from you. It comes in 3/8-inch and 1/2-inch sizes, and there are a variety of colors to choose from.

Another option for playing with the doggy desire to sniff is incorporating a snuffle mat. The textures allow for treats to be easily hidden throughout, and sounds (a squeaker and a bell are hidden, plus there are crinkly leaves, too) make things extra interesting for your pup. The lower layer is nonslip, and it can be easily folded up when not in use. You can plan for hours of entertainment and stimulation for dogs of all breeds.

These Bocce’s Bakery Everyday Treats are another favorite of the team from Doggo. The brand promises small batches, simple recipes, and “real food,” and reviewers agreed that their pups go nuts for them. A variety of flavors are offered including peanut butter & bacon, duck & blueberry, peanut butter on its own, and carob & blueberry.

The Doggo crew also recommends the Furbo Dog Camera, which not only allows you to talk to your pup through your phone from anywhere you have service, but will even distribute treats to your pup with a simple tap of your finger. You can also watch a livestream of your dog, and receive notifications when they’re active so you can check in and talk to them. The brand boasts a number of testimonials from pet parents who were alerted to emergencies while away, based on barking from their dogs.

International dog behaviorist and creator/founder of Canine State of Mind dog education programs, Sasha Armstrong, tells me, “When it comes to creating the ideal relationship with your beloved canine, the most important focal points should be psychological, behavioral, environmental, and nutritional. There is so much more to them than meets the eye. The most rewarding way to make life with your dog smoother is to embody that inner alpha leader your dog needs and wants.”

According to Armstrong, “Biologically species-appropriate raw diets are best!” If you’re curious about, or already dabbling with a raw diet for your doggo, then you might want to consider these freeze-dried sliders from Smallbatch Pets. You simply add water to rehydrate them, then they’re ready to be served. Plus, they’re 100% organic.

“To make your dog's bath time easier, try using a grippy bath mat,” says Mikkel Becker, CPDT-KA certified trainer, BCC-KA and CDBC certified dog behavior counselor, and lead animal trainer for Fear Free. She explains, “A pet's sense of balance is essential for their physical and emotional wellbeing. Slip and scare moments in the bath make dogs terrified: slippery equals scary!”

If you simply can’t wait for a bath mat to be shipped to your door and your dog needs a wash ASAP, then have no fear. Becker says, “in a pinch, you can use a thick bath towel to add a bit of stability.”

Another way to streamline bath time is with a nozzle designed just for your furry friends. Becker likes the AquaPaw Dog Bath Brush for this. She says, “[It's] more concentrated and controlled than putting your dog under the full showerhead. You can get in deep to your dog's skin which gets them cleaner overall.” She also appreciates how it allows you to turn the water on and off with a click of a button which, as anyone who’s ever tried to bathe a dog knows, is clutch.

Becker confirms that the Aquapaw Slow Treat Mat can also be offered when you’re grooming and performing various tasks like clipping your dog’s nails, applying eye drops, cleaning their ears, and more. She also likes the versatility, noting that “you can fill it with different treats like peanut butter, baby food (meat-based, of course), fat free Greek yogurt, or soft cheese ... it can be placed all over the house.”

Safety first. Sometimes our dogs don’t know their own strength, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to secure them, which is where these heavy duty eye hooks come into play. For example, Becker says, “If your dog likes to jump up and scratch visitors when they enter the home, put an I-Bolt in the wall and clip your dog's harness to that when your visitor walks in ... Remember, if the dog is allowed to run up and be all crazy every time someone comes over, it will become an established habit that will be very hard to break. Reward them with a treat and praise for doing 'four on the floor.’”

Becker explains, “Clickers are perfect to train dogs for many purposes, for example, to stay in a sit and not to dash out the door when it opens. If they get up out of that sit, close the door again, and use the clicker to reinforce these commands. It's the same thing for greeting someone who is coming inside — click it as you give the command, so they remember the snapshot of this moment and know they will be rewarded. Make sure you have a release word or phrase so they know when they can get up and go say hello.”

The clicker itself can be subtle, too. “For dogs that are noise-sensitive, try a quiet clicker like this one from PetSafe.” It’s an inexpensive, efficient way to reinforce positive behavior that fits in the palm of your hand.

Alex Crow, a veterinarian who works with HappiestDog, says, “Wherever you are, there will always be opportunities for you to teach your dog a trick ... or to help them associate positive things like treats with something they may be scared of, like a bicycle driving by. Having treats handy at all times when you are with your dog can help in hairy situations.

“A reusable treat bag is a great option as they can usually hook to your pants, coat or dog leash and will always be available. A bag that keeps treats fresh is ideal as you can leave them in the bag for longer periods of time.” An option like the bag within this training kit is a great option. It’s lined with weatherproof fabric and has a mesh pocket for your belongings.

This article was originally published on March 7, 2022