Best Dog Gear of the Year Part II

More indispensable dog-care tools and toys.


In the January issue, we shared our contributors’ favorite dog toys, training tools, and treats, but we didn’t have enough room to include all of their recommendations for the “things they can’t imagine living without” in their dog-care kits. Here are more favorite products – things that improve the health and well being of our dogs, or make our own dog-care tasks easier and more enjoyable.

Let’s Go Design K-Rosco Dog Walking Jacket, $290

Let’s Go Design K-Rosco Dog Walking Utility Jacket

Let’s Go Design
Wilson, WY
(307) 699-3121

A dog lover and her fashion designer daughter have created a jacket for people like us – people who go places with their dogs, in every kind of weather, and who want to be ready for anything they may encounter “out there.” The Let’s Go Design K-Rosco Dog Walking Utility Jacket is actually a system of several functional garments. The fleece liner zips out and can be worn separately, and the sleeves zip off the jacket, so it can be worn as a vest. For maximum warmth in wind, rain, or snow, wear the complete combination.

Let’s Go Design K-Rosco Dog Walking Utility Jacket

Let’s Go Design K-Rosco Dog Walking Utility Jacket

Let’s Go Design K-Rosco Dog Walking Utility Jacket

The jacket features bright reflective piping for nighttime walking; wind-resistant, waterproof, rip-stop seam-sealed fabric; and so many pockets, zippers, carabiner clips, and extra features that a user manual would come in handy. It’s like a wearable Swiss Army knife! Highlights include a pocket that dispenses pickup bags through a grommet, a retractable keychain, a removable plastic liner for carrying dog treats (no more grease stains!), and a belt that doubles as a spare leash. There’s plenty of room for fetch toys, a water bottle, cell phone, wallet, whistle, gloves, camera, and more. A small dog can be walked hands-free by attaching his leash to a carabiner clip.

Industrial-strength Velcro holds the jacket and wrist bands closed. This can be noisy (rip, rip, rip when you take the jacket off) and can snag on things and collect lint. This is a minor criticism, though; a slicker blade works well as a Velcro lint remover.

I bought my red jacket three years ago at a kennel club dog show and recommend it highly. The hood deflects rain and snow, and the jacket really is waterproof. In drenching rain, my top half stays completely dry. Maintenance is easy; the jacket is machine- washable. It should not be dry-cleaned, tumble-dried, bleached, or washed with fabric softener.

This unisex jacket, originally called the LGD101, comes in sizes small to 2XL in black, red, blue, or purple, and size 3XL in black, red, or blue.

Snuggle Puppy, $40

Smart Pet Love
Novi, MI
(800) 463-4107

In 2003, when my Labrador Chloe was eight weeks old, I got a brown Snuggle Puppy, a stuffed animal that comes with a battery-operated “beating heart” and some microwaveable heat pouches, which can be inserted into the Snuggle Puppy to keep a young or sick animal warm. Before I brought Chloe home with me, I let her mother lie on the Snuggle Puppy, so it would absorb some of her fragrance. The Snuggle Puppy accompanied Chloe everywhere. We soon dispensed with the beating heart and the heat pouches, but those accessories eased her transition away from her mom and littermates and are appreciated by pups of all ages.

As the product’s website explains, “Puppies are pack animals and are instinctively drawn to their mother and others in their pack. Snuggle Puppy recreates that intimacy with physical warmth and a simulated heartbeat. The result is a calmer, more peaceful pet with less loneliness, fear, and anxiety.”

Chloe’s original Snuggle Puppy has been washed and repaired so many times that it’s hanging by a thread. For her eighth birthday she received a new one and now, at age 12, she still carries both of them around.

A Velcro strip on the underside makes it easy to insert or remove the beating heart (which has an on/off switch) and heat packs. The heart’s batteries, which are included, last for two weeks if left on.

The website describes puppies and dogs of all sizes sleeping through the night with their Snuggle Puppies, relaxing while their humans are away, or feeling less frightened during thunder or fireworks. Snuggle Puppies come with a 90-day replacement or money-back guarantee.

Genius Kong, $10-$21

Genius Kong Mike

Kong Company
Golden, CO
(303) 216-2626

You already have a Kong or three, but if your dog is a dedicated medium-strength chewer, consider Kong’s Genius line.

Unlike the lumpy, snowman-shaped original, which comes in assorted sizes and strengths, the Kong Genius Mike (named for Michelangelo) is cylindrical and can be filled from either end. Experiment with kibble or other small cubed treats, cheese, nut butter, and other soft treats. For a more challenging experience connect Genius Mike to Genius Leo (named for Leonardo da Vinci). These toys are designed to stimulate a dog’s curiosity, hold her attention, combat boredom, and reduce separation anxiety. Both are available in sizes small, large, and extra large.

Genius Kongs are intended for use by puzzle-solving canines and are not recommended for aggressive power chewers. If a treat stays stuck inside, remove it by pushing a wooden spoon or similar object through to the other side, blast it with a garden hose, or wash with soapy water and a bottle brush, rinsing well. Kongs can be cleaned on the dishwasher’s top shelf. Made in the USA.

Kong products are widely sold in pet-supply stores and through online retailers.

Master’s Pride Leather Collars and Leashes, $40+

Master’s Pride
Newport, NH
(888) 283-7575

Let’s Go Design K-Rosco Dog Walking Utility Jacket


When a friend recommended leather worker Rick Gallione’s leashes and collars, I saved up to outfit Samantha, my first Labrador. When my current Lab, Chloe, grew up, she got her own. Even now, after more than a decade of wear, her collar generates compliments and its matching harness-leather leash is still strong, flexible, and comfortable, even for small hands. These products are built to last.

Gallione launched his business 20 years ago, and today he makes buckle, side-release, martingale, and training/show collars in a variety of colors, designs, and decorations. “I am a custom leather worker whose work is done by hand,” he explains. “I primarily use traditional hand tools, giving attention to the many small details that go into making a unique and quality product. I truly do take pride in my leather work and desire that my customers have their dogs wear my work with pride.”

Because his is a one-man shop, custom orders take time. See his website for collars and leashes available from current inventory.

Orapup Tongue Cleaners, $20

Bluffdale, UT
(844) 259-2763

Let’s Go Design K-Rosco Dog Walking Utility Jacket


We’re supposed to brush our dogs’ teeth every day, but not every dog thinks that’s a good idea.

Rather than struggle, here’s a solution that can be fun and lets your dog do the work. Place a little plaque-fighting enzyme-activated Lickies gel (it comes in either Beef and Bacon or Chicken flavor)on an Orapup paddle, then hold it while your dog licks and licks. The paddle’s soft plastic bristles clean the tongue and the result is improved breath and oral hygiene.

I’ve used the Orapup “dog breath brush” on my dogs for years and notice a real difference; its regular use improves their breath! Not all dogs like the taste of the gels, the system works better for medium and large dogs than for tiny pups, and not every dog experiences dramatic results, but if you have a dog with really bad breath, it’s worth a try. If they enjoy the gel’s flavor (most dogs do), tongue-brushing can be a pleasant daily ritual. Hold onto the handle, though – this is not a chew toy.

Clean the Orapup by rinsing it with warm water or place it on the dishwasher’s upper rack. Orapup brushes, which come in four colors, should be replaced every three or four months as bristles wear out with use. Brushes and Lickies are sold separately or in starter kits, which as a bonus include tongue brushes for humans, to improve our own oral health and breath. (We can skip the Lickies!)