Products I Personally Use
As a professional dog trainer, and long time dog owner, I am asked about specific products and brands. Now, there’s a lot of garbage on the Internet right now about dogs. Videos and articles making false claims just so we’ll be duped into buying some over priced whatever which will fix an issue no one really has and that we really don’t need in the first place. I am a skeptic, show me the science, show me data, verified information, not advertising copy written to sound all technobabble and such. So, here we go, what I personally use with my dogs, past and present, that I feel good enough about to recommend publicly.
First up is food.
I feed Luna Belle the 4 Star line from Fromm. Why? Because she was a damned picky eater when I first got her, and it was the only food she’d eat. In fact, towards the end of a 12 pound bag, she starts to hesitate more and more when time to eat. That is until I open a new bag of a different flavor of 4 Star, and she’s all excited to eat again.
That said, if she’d eat it (and I’ve tried), I’d have her on good old regular Purina adult large dog food. There’s nothing wrong with it, at all, and anyone who says there is, show me the data. I’ve yet to see it. In fact, there’s a bogus claim by boutique dog foods that dogs are living shorter lives than they used to. Well, no, the scientific evidence we have today shows that dogs in general are living longer, healthier lives. In fact, I’ll quote Dr. Georgina Ushi Phillips, a Florida-based veterinarian, from an article he was interviewed for in Southern Living (July 2022);
“Are Dogs Living Longer in General? Dr. Phillips says a resounding yes! ‘The best explanation is a combination of improved veterinary care, better food, and increased owner education.’
She explains that quality commercial dog food has vastly improved over the last few decades as our knowledge and technology improve. And though cancer is one of the most common causes of death across all breeds, veterinary medicine is getting better at treating it.
What's more, we dog owners can take some credit. ‘The average dog owner has a better understanding of basic and routine care than they may have had in years prior.’”
So, feed a well known brand of dry food, read the bag’s instructions for how much, and feed half in the morning, half at dinner time, you’re good to go! Save that money for the toy’s they’re gonna go through quickly! LOL!
Now that Luna Belle is older, and she’s eating more things, willing to try new foods, and not so picky, I may try moving away from the expensive Fromm and towards the cheaper and just as good Purina food.
Tooth Brushes! Yay, brushing your dog’s teeth is so much fun, not! If you can find a brush specifically made for dogs, that you’re dog will let you use, then a weekly or every other week brushing will be a huge help in keeping Fido healthy and happy, more power to ya!
As for me and my wacko GSD girl, I use my finger, dog toothpaste (NEVER use people toothpaste or people shampoo on a dog!), stick that finger in her mouth and rub those teeth and gums. She hates it, but it’s going to keep her healthier and happier for longer! If you can get your dog used to an electric tooth brush, fantastic! But if you can only get your finger in there, well, yes, it will still help for sure! Not to mention your groomer and/or vet can do teeth and nails for you, also!
Next up is a grooming brush.
I am really fond of the new-ish glove brushes. They have rubber/silicon nubs on them that gently pull the hair along as you pet your dog. Many dogs, like mine, will shy away from metal brushes (she’s good with them now, but as a puppy she was scared of everything). In these cases, the glove brushes are great. I personally have HandsOn brand and Delomo brand, one pair each. I used to like the Delomo better at first, but over time I’ve really warmed up to the HandsOn. Just spend a few minutes every day petting your dog, OUTSIDE (the more wind the better, LOL), and let the hair just blow away. Yes, those of us who were brilliant enough to get double-coat dogs that shed like crazy year round, yeah, we need to brush DAILY, at least for a few minutes.
Another cool way to integrate this into daily life, is to do a short brushing after each training session. That way you end the session on a positive note, then pet your dog, they LOVE these gloves, I’m telling you! I think that would help you both with dog hair, training, and BONDING, because training and grooming are both powerful bonding activities! I mean, right?
Collars (& Harnesses)
I use what seems to be a good quality nylon collar. Here I want to actually go to a store and handle the item myself. I want to be sure it is quality, durable, has a D-ring for her rabies tag and to attach a lead/leash. It must have a quick snap release. I usually recommend a matching nylon leash, 6 foot long, with a carabiner attached to the handle. Trust me, that carabiner will come in handy way more often than you can imagine!
I recently got a leather 10 foot leash, which I really like. I did splurge, normally I’d stick with a nylon leash. As a trainer I own one leash each of 30, 10, 6, and 1 foot lengths, all for different training applications. If I’m going to the hardware store or out in public with Luna Belle, she’s on the 6 foot. If we’re just going for a daily walk or to do off leash in a vacant field, I use my 10 foot. I let her have the full length to go sniff and explore and “just be a dog, dang-nab-it!” When we pass other people on a walk, I’ll have her heal, or if we’re in a crowd. But normally, when not being somewhere to people-ly, it’s the 10 foot and she has full length. No, she doesn’t really pull, because she’s trained to know there’s a limit to that leash, and she respects it.
I have a “vest” for her to go on hikes with, so she can carry her fair share of supplies. Since there’s weight on it, I don’t consider it the same as a harness. But I have tried working with harnesses with several dogs, and personally, I’m not sold. But, for some dogs I guess it can help. The issue I have is, when you’re walking a dog on a harness, the leash is attached under the neck/chest area, just like a regular collar. So that’s not any different. In that it gives you more leverage, well, leverage to do what? Snap the dog’s neck off? And remember, lots of dogs get hooked up to sleds and wagons all over the planet, every day, and pull those things fast and hard, via a HARNESS! So they actually will pull on a harness, there is nothing intrinsic about a harness that makes a dog magically not pull. But who knows, tomorrow someone may show me why I should be full-on and endorse them. But for now, IMHO, they’re a fad, only honestly needed by MAYBE a very small handful of dogs with special needs.
Training Collars, otherwise known as choke or prong collars, no. I used to use them for early training, but have been learning to do without them. But I’m not fully opposed to them. I’ve known more than one dog who was in serious need of serious help, and that prong collar was very important for no one to get hurt, including the dog. Choke collars don’t have prongs, but they tighten up the same way as a prong collar, and rely on choking the dog. Nope, I hate these. I’ve used them in the past, but I can not advise anyone anywhere ever to use one of these. I have TWO hanging up in my shop right now, gathering a very thick layer of dust, cause I won’t touch them again.
Yes, there are proper ways to use prong/choke collars that are beneficial, but it’s so complex, requires perfect timing, perfect control of the pull, too much can hurt the dog, just enough gets their attention, there are MUCH EASIER and MORE SIMPLE was to work with dogs now, these tools are outdated.
Shock collars, no, only for the most serious, violent, aggressive animals where there is no other choice to maintain control, and even then, only used by someone trained and experienced with them. They can make an already aggressive dog worse if used improperly! And that’s like less than half of a percent of all dogs in the world.
Vibration Only collars, which sometimes offer the option of emitting a beep sound, seem cool. I just got one, I’ll review it in a future blog post. At first, it just confuses Luna Belle. Initial impression, my dog is an idiot sometimes, or maybe a vibration only device is stupid sometimes? I dunno, I’ll have to work with it more. She hears the beep and goes trotting across the field looking for where it’s coming from! Mah-Dawg! It’s on your freakin’ neck! ROFLMAO! And the vibration, well, she just starts looking around, up, down, whines, can’t figure out what it is. It just confuses her. I’m going to give it one more shot, do some introduction with Luna so she’s more familiar with it. We will see.
ID Tags are super important to have on your dog’s collar! PLUS have them microchipped by your vet, too! If they run away or get stolen, any vet or rescue or shelter they end up at, will scan for a chip right away, and ID the dog there on the spot. But ID info on the collar is also important, as regular folks who’ll capture your run-away, that’s all the info they’ll have. I love my riveted ID tag I got from Amazon. Click Here. It comes in different sizes for different widths of collars, it very easy to put on a nylon or leather collar, is durable, and makes NO noise at all! And since the rabies tag has nothing to bang against, it’s more quiet, also!
Kong Toys simply cannot be beat, hands down! I love the original, classic toy. It has three bulges going from smaller to larger. A small hole in one end, a larger hole in the other. You can put dry treats in, but the dog has to figure out how to get them out. It requires squeezing, turning it on end, and other stuff, all coordinated, to get the treats out. Once your dog figures it out, it’ll still take some time to get it all out.
But my favorite is to fill them with goody goodness and freeze them. Kong makes spray cans in various flavors you can fill them with. I get three different flavors, and do a layer of each. That way when Luna Belle is licking and sucking and getting at all that gooey goodness, she gets surprises.
You can also use canned pumpkin (plain pumpkin, not puree that has sugar and other things added, the only ingredient can be pumpkin, period, nothing else, done), sour cream, peanut butter, bananas, blueberries, just mix up stuff that’s healthy for your dog, fill the Kong toy, freeze it! They’ll be at that thing for a LONG time when it’s frozen!
I also use other Kong toys like the stuffed animals that have knotted rope inside of them. I have a Kong Stuff-A-Ball with which I can break up some dry bacon shaped treats I like to use, and stuff them in and watch her roll this thing across the den floor for ever getting treats out.
Cardboard boxes and paper shopping bags are awesome (and cheap)!
Yep, self explanatory, not much to say here. Boxes of appropriate size, with labels and tape and staples all removed, made dog safe, free toy! Paper grocery bags, on the rare occasions I get them, are also great toys. They only last one evening, but then, they can go into compost, the trash, or the pit fire!
AGAIN and I can’t stress this enough, MAKE THEM DOG SAFE FIRST! No labels, no tape, no staples, no filling, just plain cardboard, that’s it. Tape and labels can be toxic and cause choking hazards. Staples, well, YOU swallow a staple and THEN tell me how safe it is for a dog, OK?
Well, that’s about it, that’s what I have. I do not collect tons of dog stuff just because I’m a trainer. I’ve become a minimalist in my older age, I have what I need, the rest, I don’t need. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please drop me and Luna Belle a line!