Best Dog Gear of the Year: 2015

Some of our favorite dog-training and dog-care tools and toys.

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Every year we asked WDJ’s contributors for their recommendations for “things they can’t imagine living without” in their dog-care kits – their favorite dog toys, training tools, and treats. Here are some of the products that made their lists of things that they must have for their dogs. Scroll down for full reviews.

PRODUCT COMPANY PRICE CONTACT
Lighthound Noxgear $50 Dayton, OH
(937) 317-0199
noxgear.com
Nite Dawg Collar Nite Ize $18 Boulder, CO
(800) 678-6483
niteize.com
Meteorlite LED Ball Nite Ize $13 Boulder, CO
(800) 678-6483
niteize.com
Sexy Beast Dog Collar Sexy Beast $50-$150 Glenmoore, PA
(267) 222-2910
sexybeastdogcollars.com
Doggie Tail Hyper Pet $13 Wichita, KS
(800) 456-5778
available at Amazon.com & pet supply stores
Pet Tutor Smart Animal Training Systems $349+ Indianapolis, IN
(877) 250-2694
smartanimaltraining.com
Earth Rated Bags Earth Rated $3-$13 Montreal, QC
(888) 354-2818
earthrated.com
The Turdle Bag Turdlebag $18 Portland, OR
(971) 269-7856
turdlebag.com
Polar Bowl Neater Pet Brands, LLC. $10-$20 Malvern, PA
(877) 917-7387
neaterpetbrands.com
Paw Pudding The Scent Project 1 oz. $5 Bozeman, MT
(406) 522-1558
thescentproject.com
Invincibles Snake Outward Hound $11-$15 Centennial, OH
(800) 477-5735
outwardhound.com

Noxgear Lighthound

Of all the products featured here, this is my favorite. I can’t walk even a single block at night without someone calling out from the opposite sidewalk, a porch, or a passing car, “What a cool light!” or “Hey, look at that dog!” – or “Please tell me where you bought that!” The attention itself isn’t something that appeals to me (though Otto seems to like it!), but the fact that I am 100 percent confident that anyone who goes by can see him, even on the darkest, rainiest night, makes me deliriously happy. The Lighthound was developed with help from Kickstarter funders, who, by all accounts, are thrilled with the product they helped into production!

Lighthound night dog collar

Noxgear was founded “with a mission to deliver innovative, well-designed gear to all nocturnal athletes” (they make products for humans, too). Its Lighthound is a lightweight harness, made of durable, washable Cordura, with 3M Scotchlite microreflective piping (which reflects in headlights at distances greater than 1,000 feet). Both the strap that goes around the dog’s neck and the one that goes around the dog’s girth are highly adjustable. The Lighthound has no leash attachment; it’s meant to be worn by your dog in combination with whatever other gear he’s wearing.

Lighthound dog collar flash photo

Here’s the fun part: With the press of a button, the Lighthound can be lit up with your choice of six different solid colors (aqua, orange, lime green, pink, red, or yellow) or one of six flashing modes. There are slow and flashing modes, and some great color-changing modes that cycle through different colors (check the WDJ Facebook page for a video of this). Highly visible, beautiful, and fun! The rain-proof unit that illuminates the vest can be easily removed so the vest can be washed – and get this: the rechargeable lithium battery that powers the unit is charged via a USB connection, and keeps the vest flashing or glowing for 12 hours! – Nancy Kerns

Nite Ize Nite Dawg Collar and Meteorlite LED Ball

Fewer hours of daylight do not deter my two young, high-energy dogs from action; they are ready to run, sun or none. After years of crawling through bushes with a head lamp searching for lost balls, only to emerge and wonder where the dogs wandered off to (always inches past my light, giggling, I’m sure!), I discovered the Nite Ize LED dog products.

The Nite Dawg collar comes in red or orange and houses a flexible, light-transmitting polymer core that illuminates when the collar is turned on with a firm press of a button (orange offers the longest-range visibility). The collar has two modes, flash and steady glow. By far, it beats any light-up collar attachment that you can only see when your dog is facing a specific direction, which mine seem to never do. It’s powered by a long-life, easily replaceable battery; one usually lasts all fall/winter on my dogs.

Nite Ize Meteorite LED dog ball

Nite Ize sells other light-up products for dogs, but this collar is my favorite, closely followed by the Meteorlight K-9 LED Ball, another must-have during the dark days of winter. It’s endlessly entertaining to watch the nighttime game of fetch (especially in light-up Disc-O color) and great exercise given that the ball is made of durable, extra-bounce rubber. This ball is beloved by all the four-legged fetch nuts at our house, which may be why we’ve had to replace these batteries more than once per season of darkness. (Note that because of these batteries, the ball is for fetching only; no chewing allowed!) – Kathryn Socie Dunning

Sexy Beast Leather Dog Collars and Leashes

My mom used to have two sets of towels – “one for show, and one for blow.”

I have a similar ethic about dog collars: Some are fancy enough that you want to save them for special occasions.

The irresistibly named Sexy Beast makes beautiful, limited-edition leather dog collars and leashes – and crafts absolutely gorgeous, custom collars and leashes to your exact specifications. The craftsmen owners of the company started this unique business in 2009 to raise money for cancer research after losing both of their Rhodesian Ridgebacks to that disease.

Sexy Beasts dog collar leather rhinestones

Among their fashion-forward designs: “Candy Heart,” inch-wide latigo leather studded with colorful cabochons, crystals, studs, and a heart concho (seen here), and “Dragonfly,” completely hand-tooled, dyed, and painted with your choice of color scheme to bring these pond-flitters to life. There are a variety of closure styles available, most of them variations on the martingale, which is designed to prevent a dog from slipping his collar. All of Sexy Beast’s cow and bull hides are sourced in the United States, and are cut, beveled, and conditioned by hand. Every design can be customized – you can choose the width and type of leather, as well as add a soft leather lining and nameplate, which is also a one-of-a-kind creation. Be patient; the wait time for the custom creations can be lengthy, but the product, we assure you, will be worth it. – Denise Flaim

Doggie Tail Toy

I’m not sure the Doggie Tail has the best name – it looks more like a faceless rabbit head with one ear. But dogs don’t care, especially when it is in their mouth and it’s making their entire head vibrate.

Doggie Tail dog toy

This unique poly fake fur-covered ball with an 8-inch tail contains a mechanism that produces frenetic motions: a hopping scurry when on a flat surface, or, when held, a robust vibration. It moves! And makes noises, too: a small-dog-like bark, followed by a whine. These activities are initiated whenever the ball’s power switch is turned to “on,” and then when the ball is bumped. The sound and movement features last about 10 seconds, and then the toy goes still. Until your dog whacks it and it goes off again, and again, and again… keeping him entertained and (I hope) not driving you crazy.

While toy-savvy dogs usually love the Doggie Tail, the very nature of the toy – a simulation of a small, noisy, furry, moving creature – would not be appropriate for dogs whose interest in prey has been something you have been trying to dampen. It might also be a bit scary for sensitive or fearful dogs, so use care when introducing it for the first time.

The Doggie Tail should always be enjoyed with supervision and you should never allow your dog to chew on it. While it is sturdy, it is not indestructible and it does contain batteries; inspect it frequently and throw it away if it is damaged.

Finally, it does not come with the three AAA batteries it requires, and the battery compartment is difficult to access in the 4″ diameter ball. And it requires a screwdriver to open! But knowing dogs, I’m glad for that. – Barbara Dobbins

Pet Tutor

Whether human or canine, it’s easy to get addicted to the Pet Tutor, the newest high-tech treat-dispensing system on the market. After hearing all the buzz about it from several of my trainer friends, I purchased the device a few months ago, and after a quick, easy setup, my dog, Cody, was addicted to it in less than three dispenses (and so was I)!

The Pet Tutor from Smart Animal Training Systems is a patented, smart, wireless training, feeding, and game system for your pet (dogs, cats, birds, or other animals) that gives you new and innovative ways to remotely reward your animal for any number of desired behaviors. Need to teach your dog to love her crate? Stop barking? Help your dog go to a mat and stay there? Slow down your dog’s pace of eating? Provide more mental stimulation for your animal? Pet Tutor to the rescue.

Pet Tutor dog treat dispenser

Lightweight, very well made, and durable, the Pet Tutor bridges the gap between positive training and high technology. Developed by Wes Anderson, an electrical engineer and a passionate positive dog trainer, the device is amazing in its multiple capabilities, and the company has excellent customer service. Here are only a few of the attributes of this amazing new device:

– Can be triggered manually with the remote or programmed automatically to dispense food at specific times or intervals.

– The feeder can be turned on its base to either dispense food to the floor or into the tray on the base. If you think your dog might spend the day trying to destroy the device to get the food out, you can put it up on a counter or high cabinet, and turn the dispenser so that the food rolls out onto the floor rather than into the tray. You can also put the device on top of a wire crate and have the food fall directly into the crate.

– The feeder holds up to five cups of food and is nearly jam-proof. All manner and sizes of treats easily move through the dispensing unit, including odd shapes and various sizes of kibble, but also moist things like bits of hot dog or chicken.

– There is a silent dispensing mode for animals sensitive to sounds.

– It’s easy to take apart to clean and is dishwasher safe.

– You can hang it from above, stand it on any flat surface, or mount it on a crate or kennel door with the optional crate attachment.

– You can trigger multiple devices via one remote control.

– The remote control contains movement sensors (tilt mode), enabling it to be placed into a toy (such as a Kong Wobbler). Movement of the remote triggers the base to dispense a treat, so the dog is rewarded each and every time she interacts with the toy. (Once your dog understands the game, you can position the toy at greater and greater distances from the base, so your dog has to travel back and forth to get his treats!)

– The remote also contains a microphone, and can be fastened to the dog’s collar or placed on top of the crate; as long as the dog is quiet, the Pet Tutor will dispense treats at random moments, but if the dog barks, the remote senses the sound and withholds treats until the dog is quiet again for at least five seconds.

– The Pet Tutor is available with customizable computer software; it’s also iPhone and Bluetooth compatible.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the Pet Tutor’s capabilities with my own dogs. No matter your level of skill or ability, you’ll find the Pet Tutor a welcome addition to your home for training and feeding or playing games with your dog. But its price might limit its sales to professional trainers, exceptionally motivated owners, and owners of dogs who have separation anxiety (its uses for keeping these dogs occupied are limitless). – Lisa Lyle Waggoner

Earth Rated Waste Bags

Goodbye, plastic grocery bag. Earth Rated’s green-hued poop bags contain an additive that helps them break down in landfills, and they smell nice, too – the company uses a formulation of “spice plants, flowers, and fruits” to make for a pleasant olfactory experience. (They also have unscented ones, if you’d prefer.)

Earth Rated Waste Bag doggy bags

Scooping for a big-un? Earth Rated has a bag with handles that opens wider for bigger messes, and can accommodate kitty litter and pick-me-ups from multi-dog households. Picking up a lot of poop, more than your average bear? Earth Rated sells a 300-bag roll that dispenses nicely out of a recycled cardboard box.

Even though its business is “waste,” the company takes its environmental impact and good citizenship seriously. Excess production material is recycled – reused for future production.

And finished products that don’t meet its standards are donated to shelters.

Though they’re more environmentally friendly than plastic, technically the bags aren’t “biodegradable” because, the company explains, “they cannot be proven to break down within a regulated time frame in every type of landfill environment.” If you want to totally allay your landfill angst, Earth Rated also sells white, unscented bags that are made out of a vegetable starch base. These can be disposed of in municipal compost environments where pet waste is accepted. – Denise Flaim

The Turdle Bag

We’re really going to have an entire page devoted to poop? Yes, I’m afraid so. But, look – we all have dogs, so we all have to deal with poop, and we may as well have the best gear available to deal with it. Agreed?

The Turdle Bag is genius because of its name alone! Even better, though, is the concept behind it: a dog poop bag carrier. I want to buy a bunch and give them to fellow hikers with dogs while enjoying one my favorite dog-friendly open spaces. The hiking trails there have become littered with filled dog-waste bags. And while I’m thankful that the trail hazard has been minimized, these “trail markers” are unsightly and environmentally unfriendly. I know that most people have good intentions, and think they will retrieve the bag on their way out, but rarely do they exit by the same trail, and so the poop remains.

Doggie Tail dog toy

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I don’t know how many times the items in my pack have shared the same space as odiferous dog poop, but it was just the price I had to pay to pack it out. Now the poop has a bag of its own! Available in red, forest green, and navy, the 8 1/2- by 6-inch bag is small enough so as not to be a burden to carry, and large and sturdy enough to handle a large and stinky deposit.

The top of the bag is wide, making it easy to receive a full bag. Then it rolls down, becoming smaller, and buckles to close, keeping odors trapped. A strap on the back secures the bag to a leash, belt, or pack. A handle on the bottom of the pack makes it easy to dispose the contents into a garbage can. A pouch on the front stores a supply of pet waste bags. And it can be machine washed and dried! – Barbara Dobbins

Polar Bowl

It’s a bit ironic that I’m writing about products that keep things cool as I try to stay warm. But it wasn’t that long ago that the temperatures were soaring over 100 degrees. My Border Collie, Duncan, was never an avid drinker of water and even less so when his water was warm. But he didn’t like ice cubes. What’s a dog mom to do to encourage hydration?!

Polar Bowl dog water bowl

Get him a Polar Bowl! This stainless steel bowl by Neater Feeder (Neater Pet Brands, LLC) features double-walled stainless steel surrounding a non-toxic gel core and comes in three sizes:

small = 14 ounces

medium = 28 ounces

large = 58 ounces

Simply place the empty bowl in the freezer for a few hours, remove, and then fill it with water. The frozen gel core keeps the water cold for hours. For outings and traveling, I freeze one and keep it in a cooler. It’s dishwasher-safe, but the same element that keeps it cold (the gel core) will also retain heat, so use caution when removing it from dishwasher. Made in the USA. – Barbara Dobbins

Paw Pudding

Developed and tested through the seasonal extremes found in the western Rocky Mountains, Paw Pudding promotes healing of the inevitable cracks and splits that arise from all canine adventures, big and small, in the great outdoors. Whether you and your hound head out hiking in the hot and dry summer months or skijoring in the wicked cold of deep winter, this non-toxic, preservative-free goodness will keep paws happily on the move. It’s also free of chemicals and artificial colors, making it perfectly safe for your four-legged friend to have a lick, should she be so inclined.

Scent Project Paw Pudding paw cream

Paw Pudding is made by The Scent Project, a small, Montana-based business. Their products benefit both dogs and people; this one works wonders on hard-working hands, too! Rub some on after a long day digging in the garden or pounding nails building Fido his dream home. It’s made with anti-microbial and anti-bacterial lavender and calendula, as well as olive oil.

Small, hand-blended batches are made to order, and since a dab will do, a small jar will last a long time. All the paws, palms, heels, hands in your home deserve it! – Kathryn Socie Dunning

Invincibles Snake

All the toys made by Outward Hound are high-quality, well-made toys, though the Invincibles Snake is the number one “go to toy” for our own two high-energy Australian Shepherds.

Outward Hound Invincibles Snake dog toy

The Snake is made of super-tough fabric and contains large, special squeakers that make two different sounds – one sound when the squeaker is depressed and another sound when released, quite different from a traditional squeaker. The Snake also features a special inner lining the company calls “Dura-Tuff” and double-layered seams. The squeakers are designed so that even if punctured by a hard chewer, the toy will continue its wonderful noise-making capability. The Snake comes in a three- or six-squeaker option.

The Invincibles Snake entered our home eight years ago, and our dogs have played hard and tugged together with this toy between them time after time with no damage to the toy. It’s provided years of enjoyment for them and a ton of laughs from me. – Lisa Lyle Waggoner

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