My Five Favorite Positive Training Tools for Dogs


Tools are an essential part of life and dog training especially when your dog has figured out how to use items as tools. These are some of my favorite positive training tools that serve to keep Mr. N’s Pinky and the Brain tendencies in check.

Can you guess who is Pinky and who is The Brain?

I do have a marker word (yes) but the clicker is more precise and sharp so 99 percent of new training starts with a clicker in our house. Clicker training makes clear to the dog when he is right and is especially helpful for behavior chains and more advanced tricks when timing is essential. I favor the Starmark clicker although we have various clickers strewn throughout the house so I usually just use the first one I find.

We were prescribed Dr. Karen Overall’s relaxation protocol by Mr. N’s veterinary behaviorist for his separation anxiety. It’s been an uphill road but he is slowly starting to learn how to relax on cue.  He even fled to his mat to get away from the puppy we were watching. He does have a good off-switch but sometimes I really need him to settle down and the mat is helping with that. Memory foam bath mats are comfortable, easy to wash and stay cleaner due to the backing.

I don’t work for free and I don’t expect Mr. N to either. His “salary” consists of a rotation of high-value meaty treats or cheese. He would prefer to be paid in live squirrels or the freedom to romp around off-leash all the time but as those things are not always possible, treats it is. Treats affirm that yes, he is a good boy. Yes, he made the right choice. And thank you for stepping away from that dead fish and not rolling on it. String cheese and bits of leftover meat make him happy as does Ziwipeak, Real Meat, and Cloudstar treats from the pet store.

Long line
When I first started training recall, I used a long line. I don’t really have a fenced area to work with and if Mr. N didn’t come back, I would have a way to catch him. His recall has much improved since then and I hardly use it except for at the beach sometimes but during that initial training stage, it was essential. Biothane lines are great as they are waterproof, less prone to tangle and easy to clean.

Food Puzzle Toys
Puzzle toys for dogs are pretty much the canine version of TV for toddlers. Sometimes they’re driving you crazy being like what’s for dinner? Can we go for an outing? When you really need to get some work done. That’s when you pull out the puzzle toy for some peace and quiet (depending on how boisterous your dog is). The dogs benefit too by exercising their brains. Kongs and the Kong Wobbler are a favorite around here as are Nina Ottosson toys.

What are your favorite training tools?

*If you buy from the Amazon links listed on this blog, we will get a few pennies that go towards running the blog and Mr. N’s treat allowance!

Welcome to First Monday’s Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Tenacious Little TerrierTravels with Barley and Wag ‘n Woof Pets . Say hello to our new co-hosts! Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below.  Our theme for this month is favorite training tools but any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long. Our next hop will begin March 6th and continues for a week.




44 Responses

  1. Kari Neumeyer

    February 7, 2017 3:53 am

    Great list! Not all of those made my top 5, but I have used all of those at one time or another. This is the second post in the hop to remind me that I should have trained Leo to lie down on a mat.

  2. Jen Gabbard

    February 7, 2017 1:11 pm

    Out of the tools you mentioned (sans the mat – I'll be working on that soon) I'm not even sure which one I'd consider my favorite since they all work so well for us.

  3. Beth

    February 7, 2017 1:25 pm

    We love a lot of these tool, too! Especially our mat. That was one of the first things our trainer had us work on in our reactive dog classes. Barley often chooses her mat if I can't pay attention to her. Rye hasn't quite gotten there yet, but I'm hoping that maybe one day she'll decide there are benefits to being still.

  4. cupcakepetrillo

    February 7, 2017 4:03 pm

    Mom says I am getting too smart for my puzzle toys – even my most complicated one – The Tornado. I definitely need more mat work. The least little distraction and I am OFF the mat to check things out. Mom calls it frustrating. I call it watching the house and keeping her alive.

    Love and licks,

  5. Christine Caplan

    February 7, 2017 8:56 pm

    Biothane lines are such a great suggestion! I still use a long line with Walter as his recall isn't great without Shermie around. I need to buy one of these as the one I use gets really worn out fast!

  6. Janet Keefe

    February 7, 2017 11:54 pm

    We'll be working with a mat more, something I have only used on a limited basis up until now (it's included in the Fenzi class we're taking). We may have to up our choice of treats when things get more challenging too!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  7. Dash Kitten

    February 8, 2017 6:56 am

    I know clickers because of John the Clicker Ring guy – his clicker is inspired!

    I love that Mr N is progressing so well. So many people would simply give up with a challenging pet (they are wicked and heartless). You are the best dog mom ever!

    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      February 8, 2017 9:42 am

      Thanks! I think sometimes though people are not equipped to handle certain problems though. For instance, I don't know what we would do with a human aggressive dog as we live in a city in a shared space and have kids over.

  8. Emma

    February 8, 2017 12:52 pm

    We definitely love the treats part! Mom doesn't like clickers so we don't use those, the mat is alright, not a big thing for us either, but everyone has to find their own favorite training tools.

  9. Golden Daily Scoop

    February 8, 2017 1:28 pm

    These are some great tools. I love the clicker, the Goldens respond so well to it. They would probably choose treats, they will do almost anything for one. lol I also like the food puzzle toys, it's great to give their brains a little challenge when they are bored.

  10. Edie ThePug

    February 8, 2017 1:34 pm

    When I started training with Edie, I used her kibble as her reward – Edie is very food motivated and this works wonders. However, I always reward her with the word "yes!" As she has gotten older and knows what is expected of her, food is not needed each and every time, but praise is always given!

  11. Bryn Nowell

    February 8, 2017 3:33 pm

    Great list! I agree with all of the items you've included. Our clicker is always helpful for enforcing new training (as are the high value treats). We have a fenced in yard but still utilized a long lead for training recall and recommend that folks use it regardless of their yard situation.

    The other "tool" that I try to include, and I know you do too, is variety. One week, we'll work on training outdoors, another we'll try to do something agility related, a third we might focus on reinforcing older cues.

  12. Hindy Pearson

    February 8, 2017 8:05 pm

    Some great tips, thanks for sharing. I rely a lot on treats which have been a very successful tool helping Jack get over his abusive past and gaining confidence with human and doggie strangers. I do use interactive toys for mental stimulation.

  13. CatNoirCC

    February 8, 2017 8:39 pm

    I like the matt as a safe place. I have never used a clicker, but will look into getting one to use as a training tool. We just got a food puzzle toy, and Memphis loves it.

  14. Allison

    February 8, 2017 11:48 pm

    Food is the ultimate training tool in our house! Because we have a multi-pet household, I've combined it with alone time. Each of our pets appreciates getting to spend individual time with me, instead of competing for attention with others. I've heard that toys are a good alternative for dogs and cats too. But our household of pets mostly thrives on cheese, treats, and praise.

  15. FidoseofReality

    February 9, 2017 1:16 am

    That is a nice list you have there. I would add squeaky ball for us because Dexter is so motivated by the squeaky ball. The games are a good idea, too, and we use them all the time.

  16. Montecristo Travels

    February 9, 2017 1:32 am

    Montecristo has been a challenge. He is zero – and I mean ZERO – food driven. He doesn't care for any toy other than his Moby and that … is not for play but for snuggles. Puzzles … he couldn't care less. Clicker? ha … nope. Praise works but only at a sort of 70% ratio. Lucky lucky for us – he just "wants" to please. So obedience has not been a problem. But tricks?? He just gives us this look like 'Ummm…. oh helz no. I am SO above that" …. it's a first for me. For the 4 positive trainers he has had too. He does urban agility (because he feels like it) and other activities but if he decides he is done…? he is done.

    • Sherri Telenko

      February 9, 2017 1:58 am

      Sounds a lot like my Victor – a many types of terrier cross. I can relate to the 'helz no' attitude myself. so I understand Vic's (and Montecristo's) point of view. (Just a note from 'the worst dog trainer ever')

  17. MattieDog

    February 9, 2017 1:36 am

    These are such great little tips April – particularly the long line one! We'll have to incorporate some into our training. All of our pups are food motivated so we definitely use that!

  18. Sherri Telenko

    February 9, 2017 1:54 am

    These are all good suggestions – however my terrier is now 12 and you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks… he's pretty much doing what he's going to do by now. I got him about five years ago and am his fourth and final home so he's been through a lot. Perfect training I can't expect, especially considering he isn't 'food stupid' – treats don't inspire him.
    He has become better at walking off leash, though not perfect. I'm also noticing his hearing going, so I can't expect perfect recall either.
    So… I'll add one of my strategies to your list: Expect the World to Accommodate you and your dog. Ok, clearly not everyone will agree, but so far it's kinda working for Vic and me. 😉

  19. Cathy Armato

    February 9, 2017 2:46 am

    These are all very useful tools. I have to be better about using a mat or bed to get my dogs to "settle". They used to be good with a dog mat but I've lapsed, I have to get back on the band wagon.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv them

  20. Jean Dion

    February 10, 2017 1:17 am

    We're deeply in love with a combination of treats and clicker over here. Liam the pug does especially well with the clicker, and just seeing it seems to calm him down. You've inspired me to break it out and teach him some new things for spring!

    Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie

  21. MHL

    March 3, 2017 7:43 am

    My favourite is food puzzle toys.It’s like fast food for dogs.Dogs likes food toys, because it’s basically their favorite game.


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