Written by Claire Epting for Bustle.com
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could speak our dogs’ language? Luckily, we have the next best thing— these genius tricks dog owners can use to better communicate with their canine companions. You’ll find several helpful training aids and ideas, which come recommended by trusted professionals. Whether it’s enriching your pup’s day with a mentally stimulating puzzle toy, or discouraging pulling on walks with a padded harness, each of these tips can help you teach your dog good behavioral habits.
And what if — after everything — you find yourself in a training rut? Curtis Kelley, a Philadelphia-based certified professional dog trainer and member of the VetriScience VetriExpert team of veterinary professionals, suggests switching up locations to add an exciting new challenge. “Even if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired about what to teach your dog next, by simply practicing what they already know in a new place, you can prevent a training plateau,” he explains.
So check out this expert-recommended advice that will help you make leaps and bounds in your dog’s training progress.
1. Walk Your Dog With A No-Pull Harness To Maintain Control
SENSE-ation No-Pull Dog Harness
While it can be frustrating when your dog pulls on the leash, head trainer of Zoom Room Dog Training Courtney Briggs says that your furry friend isn’t doing it on purpose — it’s just a natural instinct. That’s why she recommends this front-connection dog harness, which is designed to reduce pulling without putting any strain on your pup’s neck. “When the dog pulls while on a front connection harness, the pulling happens at the chest, which helps turn the dog’s shoulders and compels them forward,” explains Briggs.
2. Keep Your Dog’s Mind Stimulated With This Treat-Dispensing Toy
The Snoop Interactive Treat-Dispensing Toy
Mental stimulation is important in keeping your pup well behaved and healthy. Briggs specifically recommends The Snoop treat-dispensing toy, “because dogs have to figure out how to get the treats out and there are options to make it more difficult as dogs get used to it.” It’s made of long-lasting, durable rubber that has a peppermint scent, which keeps pooches engaged while keeping their breath smelling fresh.
3. Use This Nonslip Mat During Bath Time To Promote Confidence & Balance
Does your pup dread their regular rinse in your bathtub or shower? “To make your dog's bath time easier, try using a grippy bath mat,” says Mikkel Becker, certified trainer and dog behavior counselor for Fear Free Pets. “A pet's sense of balance is essential for their physical and emotional wellbeing.” This bath and shower mat from Gorilla Grip features a textured topside as well as over 300 suction cups that keep the mat firmly planted in place, so your dog won’t slip and fall in the tub.
4. Wash Your Pup With This Gentle Handheld Sprayer Attachment
Aquapaw Dog Brush In addition, Becker suggests adding the AquaPaw dog bath brush to your grooming routine. Made from flexible silicone, the handheld brush attaches to your shower hose and dispenses water straight from your palm. “It's more concentrated and controlled than putting your dog under the full showerhead,” Becker explains. Plus, the gentle bristles are great for massaging your pet’s fur. “You can get in deep to your dog's skin, which gets them cleaner overall,” she adds.
5. Distract Your Nervous Pup With An Activity While Grooming
Aquapaw Slow Treater Treat-Dispensing Licki Mat
Another way to soothe an anxious dog during bath time is to distract them with this treat-dispensing mat that sticks to your wall with suction cups. Slather some peanut butter, fat-free Greek yogurt, or baby food between the silicone bristles, then let your pup lick it off while you wash their fur. Besides grooming, Becker recommends using this licking mat while clipping your dog’s nails or cleaning their ears. “This can be placed all over the house — at the side of the kitchen counter, for example,” she says.
6. Set Clear Physical Boundaries When Visitors Arrive
Carlson Pet Products Expandable Pet Gate If your dog likes to jump up on your guests when they arrive, Becker suggests investing in an expandable pet gate that will keep them sectioned off from your hallway. “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,” she says. This gate expands from 26 to 38 inches wide, and the pressure-mount design makes it easy to set up at a moment’s notice.
7. Soothe A Stressed Dog With These Calming Supplements
Purina Pro Plan Calming Care Supplements (45 Count) A stressful situation for your dog can cause unexpected tummy troubles — as well as excessive vocalization, pacing, and jumping — which is why Becker suggests having these calming probiotic supplements from Purina at the ready. “Keep these on hand if you're traveling or leaving your pet at doggy daycare to ensure a healthy and balanced stomach and GI system,” she says. Each sachet is filled with a single dose of the powder-based supplement, enhanced with a liver flavoring for your pooch’s enjoyment.
8. Support Your Dog’s Digestive Health By Adding Probiotics To Their Diet
Purina Pro Plan FortiFlora Probiotics (30 Count)
Becker also recommends Purina’s FortiFlora probiotic supplement to relieve any stress-induced digestive problems — such as diarrhea — in your dog. Just sprinkle a sachet over your dog’s meal once a day to promote normal intestinal microflora. Since the formula has a tasty liver flavor, your pup won’t mind eating it at all.
9. Positively Reinforce Your Dog’s Behavior With Clicker-Based Training
PetSafe Click-R Dog Training Clicker Treats aren’t the only way to provide your dog with positive reinforcement during training sessions. “Clickers are perfect to train dogs for many purposes,” Becker says, including teaching them not to dash out the door when it opens. She specifically recommends this quiet clicker from PetSafe, especially if your dog is noise-sensitive. The clicker is designed with a finger band that keeps it securely in your hand.
10. Distract Your Dog With These Safe & Easily Digestible Chews ZIWI Lamb Ear Dog Chews
Both full-grown dogs and puppies have a natural instinct to chew, and providing them with a chewable treat can keep them from targeting your clothes or furniture. However, not all treats are created equally. “Things like antlers can cause teeth breakage and can be dangerous,” says Becker. That’s why she recommends these fully digestible lamb ear chews — they’re softer than antlers, but not as greasy as pig’s ears. Plus, they’ll keep your dog occupied for a long time.
11. Provide Your Heavy-Chewing Dog With This Durable Rubber Toy
Made from extra-durable rubber, the KONG Extreme dog toy is designed for power chewers who need a toy that’s built to last. Becker recommends this food puzzle toy as another way to redirect your dog’s urge to chew. Fill it with peanut butter, treats, kibble, yogurt, and more. For an added challenge, place it in the freezer before giving it to your pup.
12. Check Your Furniture & Carpet For Pet Stains & Odors
While pet accidents are bound to happen, you can prevent your dog from making it a habit by fully removing the odor from your carpet or couch. “Having a black light on hand is important, so you can ensure you aren't missing spots to clean,” explains Becker. This battery-powered UV flashlight is affordable and highly rated, with over 28,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.
13. Remove Urine Stains & Odors From Your Furniture
Simple Solution Extreme Pet Stain and Odor Remover
Once you’ve spotted urine stains on your furniture or carpet, Becker recommends using this cleaning solution to effectively remove them. The powerful enzymatic formula quickly breaks down stains and odors, which helps prevent your dog from marking the same place again. Designed with a three-in-one nozzle, the stain remover can be applied as a foam, mist, or stream.
14. Install A Doorbell, So Your Dog Can Tell You When It Needs To Go Out
If you don’t have a doggy door, Becker recommends setting up a pet doorbell, so your pup can let you know when they need to go outside without scratching on the door. The Mighty Paw Smart Bell is self-adhesive, so it sticks to your wall without any drilling required. It’s completely customizable — you can adjust the volume and choose from 38 different ring tones. Once you set it up, all your dog has to do is gently push the bell with their nose or paw to activate the sound.
15. Or Tie These Cost-Effective Bells Around Your Doorknob
BLUETREE Dog Doorbells (2-Pack)
A cost-effective alternative to an electronic doggy doorbell, these traditional bells are easy to loop around your door handle. The nylon belt features seven stainless steel bells that create a bright ringing sound when your dog nudges them. You get two sets of bells, so you can place one on the inside of your back door, and one on the outside.
16. Strap On This Padded Harness For Better-Behaved Walks rabbitgoo No-Pull Pet Harness With front and back connection options, this padded harness is recommended by Becker to limit your dog’s pulling during your walk. The adjustable harness is easy to snap onto your dog’s body with the durable buckles. Breathable and soft, the snug cushioning securely wraps around the chest and torso. Plus, it’s available in several high-visibility colors, which is useful for walking in high-traffic areas.
17. Carry A Treat Pouch For On-The-Go Training AUDWUD Silicone Dog Treat Pouch Having treats on hand at all times allows you to continue with your training commands outside of the house. “A treat pouch makes it easy to make sure you always have a way to communicate with your dog, even in high-intensity scenarios,” says Curtis Kelley, a Philadelphia-based certified professional dog trainer and member of the VetriScience VetriExpert team of veterinary professionals. This treat pouch is made from soft silicone, with a magnetic closure that can easily be opened on the go. A built-in clamp allows you to attach the pouch to your belt loop.
18. Fill Your Treat Pouch With These One-Ingredient Freeze-Dried Treats Wag Single-Ingredient Freeze-Dried Dog Treats Made from your choice of 100% real beef liver, lamb liver, or chicken breast, these freeze-dried dog treats are an effective way to get your dog’s full attention while training. They’re lightweight and crumb-free, so they good for keeping inside your treat pouch while on a walk. Since there are no added fillers — such as potato, corn, or grain — you can feel confident your pup is getting a protein-rich reward.
19. Feed Your Dog These Stress-Relieving Treats VetriSCIENCE Composure Chews (60 Count) Providing up to four hours of stress relief, VetriSCIENCE Composure chews are one of Kelley’s recommendations when it comes to calming your pup. “Composure chews help them be more resilient when a dog surprises them around a corner, or [when] they have to go into the vet’s office,” says Kelley. The fast-acting formula is made with effective ingredients, including colostrum, L-theanine, and thiamine, all combined with an appetizing chicken liver flavor.
20. Stuff This Snuffle Mat With Treats Or Kibble For Reward-Based Entertainment YEPPUPPY Snuffle Mat You can also provide mental stimulation for your dog by hiding treats between the flaps on this snuffle mat, and encouraging them to sniff them out. “The act of sniffing is a self-regulation strategy for dogs,” says Kelley. “A full snuffle mat creates vital mental engagement for dogs and gives them an outlet for activity without generating too much arousal.” Made from soft polar fleece, the machine-washable snuffle mat can be used over and over again.
21. Divert Your Dog’s Attention To This Squeaky Toy To Prevent Destructive Chewing VANFINE Squeaky Chew Toy This bone-shaped chew toy is equipped with a dual squeaker that engages your dog’s senses while playing. Coated with a tempting beef flavor, the textured rubber toy provides hours of enjoyment for your pooch. But what if your dog is more interested in chewing your old sock instead? “Simple, you just smear a little peanut butter on it and hand it to your dog, and nature, their sense of smell, and appetite will do the rest,” says Jacquelyn Kennedy, founder of PetDT.
22. Cover Your Dog’s Chew Toy With Peanut Butter To Tempt Them While we’re on the subject of peanut butter, this 100% natural option from Bark Bistro is great for spreading on your dog’s chew toys. It only includes two ingredients — peanuts and honey — so you can feel confident knowing your dog isn’t consuming any artificial sugars or preservatives. Add a dollop inside their KONG toy or directly on top of their rubber squeaky toy to get their attention.
23. Set Up An Obstacle Course For Agility Training Outward Hound Zip & Zoom Dog Agility Training Kit Looking for a new way to provide both a physical and mental workout to your dog’s routine? Briggs recommends agility training, which can be done with a pet obstacle course. Thanks to Outward Hound’s agility training kit, you can set up your own course in the comfort of your own home. Complete with a collapsible tunnel, four weave poles, and an adjustable high jump, the set has everything you need to begin teaching your dog some new tricks.
24. Scent Train Your Dog With These Sniffing Pouches The Nosey Nose Nosework Training Program According to Briggs, another enrichment activity you can do from home is scent training. This nosework training kit comes with five pouches that are filled with a distinct anise scent, as well as instructions for three games you can teach to your dog. When a pouch’s aroma begins to fade, simply add extra filling from the included tin.
25. Give Your Pup Plenty Of Exercise With This Flirt Pole Toy Squisy Face Studio Flirt Pole It’s no secret that a well-exercised dog will have a more relaxed disposition. The American Kennel Club encourages dog owners to give their pets plenty of physical activity, and that extends beyond a daily walk around the block. This flirt pole is a genius way to get your pooch up on its feet, while indulging in their natural prey drive. A fabric lure sits at the end of a bungee cord, flying around as you move the pole. Pretty soon, you’ll have your dog engaged in a game of chase.
26. Throw Your Tennis Ball Farther With This Handheld Launcher Chuckit! Sport Dog Ball Launcher A favorite among dog owners of all breeds — and another way to wear your pup out — the Chuckit! ball launcher helps you maximize your dog’s playtime by increasing the distance you can throw their ball. Designed with an ergonomic, easy-grip handle, the launcher firmly grasps the rubber ball directly from the ground — so you don’t have to bend down to pick it up. It comes with one high-visibility Chuckit! ball, but it’s also compatible with the standard tennis balls you already own.
27. Prevent Counter Surfing By Creating A Dog-Designated ‘Place’ In Your Living Room Bedsure Dog Bed The act of ‘counter surfing’ — or grabbing a snack off your kitchen counter while you’re cooking — is common among dogs, but according to the American Kennel Club, you can prevent it by teaching your dog to remain in their ‘place’ during meal prep. Highly rated, this orthopedic foam bed is great for designating as your pup’s place. It’s covered in soft fleece, so your dog will remain comfy while obediently waiting for you in the living room.
28. Protect Your Shoes From Your Curious Dog Ziz Under-Bed Shoe Organizers (2-Pack) There’s a reason dogs love to chew our shoes — they have our scent all over them. To keep them protected, the American Kennel Club recommends putting shoes away, so your pup can’t get their mouth on them. Each one of these under-bed shoe organizers stores up to six pairs of shoes, with a transparent zippered cover that protects them from the elements. A handle on each side allows you to easily pull the organizer out from under your bed. 29. Replace Your Dog’s Rawhide Chews With Bully Sticks Best Bully Sticks Whether you’re looking to keep your dog busy or simply want to give them a reward after a long training session, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends edible chewing sticks instead of rawhide. These bully sticks are made from 100% beef, with no artificial preservatives or flavors. Even though these bully sticks are fully digestible, you should still keep an eye on your dog to prevent accidental choking.
30. Hide Treats Inside This Fan-Favorite Puzzle Toy To Distract From Destructive Chewing Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Puzzle Toy To curb your dog’s destructive chewing habits, the ASPCA also recommends identifying the times of day when your dog is most likely to chew. During those times, you can divert their attention by presenting them with a puzzle toy like this instead. Designed with several treat-hiding compartments, the toy encourages your dog to sniff, lift, slide, and flip the different pieces to reveal their rewards. Outward Hound’s line of toys is incredibly popular with dog owners — over 49,000 customers have given them a five-star review on Amazon.