Proper equipment is one of the most overlooked aspects of dog training. Low quality equipment never works as well and it shows in the handling performance of the person and the performance of the dog. I thought I'd take a moment to make some recommendations on equipment that we use here at Baltimore Dogworks. You can click on any of the images in this post to be taken to a page where you can purchase the item. I don't do any affiliate programs or anything like that. I just want to recommend good stuff.
Leashes and Lines
We use two main types of training leads for the vast majority of the training we do. The first is the 15 foot longe line, and the second is the 6 foot leash.
Long lines drag on the ground often, and for the most out of control dogs, need to be strong enough to hold up to their shenanigans. The only long line you should ever look at is the Signature K9 Biothane Long Line. The 5/8in width is good for most dogs but the 3/8 inch width is best for dogs under 20lbs or so. For really small dogs, I just make my own long line out of paracord and a swivel snap from the hardware store. But the SK9 long lines don't tangle, they can drag on pavement forever and still look like new, and they can be wiped down with a rag (I throw mine right in the washing machine in a delicates bag). Heavy brass swivel snaps round out this reliable line.
For 6 foot leashes, I prefer leather, but you can get leashes from SK9 out of the same biothane material as the longe lines. Width recommendations are generally the same for a dog in training. Once a dog is reliably walking nicely on leash though, I prefer the thinnest leash that is comfortable, particularly if I'm walking multiple dogs at once. Trying to hold multiple 3/4 or 1 inch wide leashes at the same time is a nightmare. The best combination of quality and price that I've found are the leashes from Bridgeport Equipment. They are pretty soft when brand new, but they turn into butter after repeated use and a little saddle soap when they get dirty.
We use a variety of training collars depending on the class, and more particularly, the dog. The goal is to use whatever collar helps the dog learn to turn pressure off most easily. That is the foundation of all of our training.
Chain slip collars are generally our go to for our on leash group classes. They are versatile, and effective when used correctly. But for some dogs, they do not provide enough of the pressure sensation, without having to really be forceful with the dog (which we don't want to do). We recommend Herm Sprenger brand slip collars exclusively. Simply put, when appropriately sized and used, I've never had a failure... ever. Slip collars like these should be just large enough to slip over the dog's head, with a little effort, and you should use the heaviest (thickest) links you can in the size that fits your dog. I like the 3mm (heavy) collars whenever possible. They provide great sliding action which is what you need in a slip collar. The 4mm (extra heavy) links are shaped differently and do not slide nearly as well.
For dogs that need a bit more help, we typically recommend a prong style collar. These aren't intended to be punative. Instead, they act as an "amplifier". Think about a person that needs to speak over a crowd. They can yell, which changes the tone of the conversation. Or they could use a loudspeaker (amplify their voice) and keep the same "tone" but better cut through the background noise. These collars aren't meant to be jerked. They are used to apply pressure, and then have that pressure released. Properly used, despite the way they look, they are probably the safest collar to use. We use the smallest size of prong collar (for all but the largest dogs, and then we use medium) and add links as needed. Using the smaller size allows for a more exact fit, and if you're worried about the dainty looking collar breaking, it's probably not being used correctly. We do recommend a back up collar when using the prong collar since they can pop open sometimes. Again, Herm Sprenger is the only brand we recommend. They are sturdy, the tips are blunt and rounded (some lesser quality collars are just cut, leaving sharp edges), and the plates (those flat pieces) keep the collar from getting tangled up.
For folks that need to use a prong style collar but don't like the looks they get from some people, or for dogs who need a bit of the "amplifier" effect but the prong collar is a bit too much for them, I like to use the Starmark Collar. It looks more like a flat collar and offers about 50% of the "amplifier" effect of the prong collar. These collars come in two sizes and extra links are available to get the proper fit. Generally, dogs up to 35lbs can use the smaller collar, and larger dogs would be better served by the larger version.
Remote collars are great tools for dogs who have been desensitized to other training tools, for reliable off leash training and recall, and for a variety of behavior modification scenarios. They make the often difficult issues of appropriately timing information that you give to your dog much easier as well. We use E-Collar Technologies remote collars exclusively at Baltimore Dogworks. Greg Van Curen, the owner of the company, is known to answer many emails from customers himself. Their collars have a great warranty, are waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, and user serviceable. They are also assembled in America. The only other brand we can really endorse for most training applications are collars from Dogtra. But the amazing customer service experience with E-Collar Technologies makes them the go-to remote collars for us.
I struggled to find a good quality pair of nail clippers for a long time. Then Linda Kaim, of Lionheart K9, recommended a pair made by Millers Forge. These nail clippers cut through nails cleanly and quickly, unlike lesser quality brands that tend to crush the nail. That poor cutting quality is what causes many dogs to hate getting their nails clipped. Since I switched to these clippers, my dogs are much more agreeable to grooming time.
We blow through a ton of treats while training. No matter what other kinds of food rewards I try, I seem to always come back to Stewart Freeze Dried Liver Treats. It's the rare dog that doesn't like them, and they last forever. They are also pretty cost effective when bought in the large buckets. These treats have no fillers or anything artificial in them. Liver is very rich though, so I do break them into smaller pieces for training.