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.
MIGHTY PAW SMART BELL 2.0
When I adopted a young Beagle from a lab, I knew that I was in for a potty training challenge. Cienna spent the first eight months of her life peeing indoors. It was immediately apparent that when not crated, she had no concept of “holding it” or going to a particular location to relieve herself. She would happily squat wherever she was as soon as she felt the urge. Her last potty could have been three hours or five minutes prior, it didn’t matter. There was no schedule and she had no care in the world.
Even after acclimating her to the outdoors, treating her every time she happened to potty outside, and designating a potty spot that she used (on cue!) as soon as we got outside, she displayed no natural indicators of needing to go out. So I taught her to lay down to ask for things, and she started laying down at the door when she needed to potty! This was a huge breakthrough for her. The problem was, our front door was out of sight, and if we didn’t notice her heading to the door, she would have an accident.
I needed to teach her how to communicate in a way that was glaringly obvious to us. The Mighty Paw Smart Bell was the solution. This device has two parts: an oversized “activator” that your dog will touch and a receiver with a flashing light and a speaker that plays tones or songs (there are 38 tone/song options and four volume settings) when the button is touched. Instead of something that makes noise near the door (like bells hanging on the door), you plug the receiver into a regular wall outlet where you are most likely to hear it; it can be as far as 1,000 feet from the activator/transmitter button!
In five repetitions, Cienna learned to hit the activator successfully. Within five minutes, she learned to touch it when we were out of sight. As soon as she demonstrated the ability to do this, we had a system. Every time she hit the activator button, I would grab high-value treats from the fridge and take her straight out to her potty spot. After she relieved herself, she got the special goods. By the next day, she was using the button for this purpose regularly.
With the built-in adhesive on the activator, you can stick it on the floor so your dog can hit it with her paw, or stick it to a wall or door so she can boop it with her nose; it’s easy to depress from any angle. Sound-sensitive dogs will appreciate having the speaker separate from the activator – and hearing-impaired owners will appreciate the flashing-light feature. You can buy additional activator buttons if your want your dog to be able to alert you from more than one door – and additional receivers, too! There’s no limit as to how many activators or receivers can be synced together. I can’t recommend this device highly enough. The Mighty Paw Smart Bell saved my sanity – and my floors!
– Lauren Novack, MS ABA, ACDBC
ANIMAL ESSENTIALS – SEADENT
It’s a challenge to keep our dogs’ breath sweet, teeth strong, and gums healthy, but these two products affect the oral microbiome, improving the dog’s ability to fight plaque and bacteria in the mouth without using disinfecting chemicals.
Animal Essentials SeaDent is an oral supplement that helps improve a dog’s breath and prevent dental problems. Its five plant enzymes, including lysozyme, combine with Norwegian kelp (Laminaria digitata) to control plaque and tartar, thus reducing the risk of gum disease. SeaDent’s digestive and antibacterial enzymes remove plaque by breaking down food particles trapped between teeth and under the gum lines. SeaDent powder is sprinkled onto the dog’s food once or twice per day. A 70-gram jar can last a small dog several months.
– CJ Puotinen
TEEF FOR LIFE – PROTEKTIN42
Price: $27 FOR 30 SERVINGS
Protektin42, a dental probiotic for dogs, was invented by a microbiologist after she almost lost her dog to a blood infection caused by periodontal disease. Added in small amounts to a dog’s drinking water, Protektin42’s beneficial bacteria slow the growth of pathogens above and below the gum line. The dental kit for dogs can be ordered with powder packets for 30, 60, or 90 servings, with refills available for storing in the kit’s glass jar. A sodium-free kidney-care version is also available.
– CJ Puotinen
VOYAGER K9 WINTER COAT
Price: $101 – $207
I grew up with Irish Setters in Buffalo, New York, a place famous for its long, cold, snowy winters. As a born and raised Western New Yorker, I’ve always been used to bundling up to go outside. But coats on dogs? Totally unnecessary. That was for frou-frou owners who treated their dogs like babies.
Then as an adult in NYC I adopted Grayson, a mixed-breed dog with a short coat who started shivering when it hit 40 degrees. Well, that would not do. I now had to walk a dog who wore a coat, but I couldn’t find anything that fit him. If he was going to wear clothes, I needed it to cover his whole body and provide actual warmth! He was long and thin, so most of what I tried on him went only halfway down his back, and putting his paws through tiny little arm holes was frankly a huge pain in the you know what.
Then I found Voyagers K9 Apparel. Voyagers makes breed-specific dog coats and custom fit made-to-measure coats. They are well designed, requiring no finagling to get on your pup. The coat goes over the dog’s head and two straps hug the belly and Velcro to the opposite side. No paw handling necessary. If your pup wears a harness, Voyagers can put an opening at the top for your leash attachment.
There’s a fleece turtleneck that can come up over the dog’s ears on extra cold days. The inner shell is fleece-lined, and the outer shell is waterproof. And because you measure your pup before you order one (neck, back length, and chest), it actually fits and keeps them warm. And, they are machine-washable! It’s truly the best dog coat I have ever found, and I tell as many people as I can to get one.
My dog’s coat outlived him. It was still as good as new on the day that he passed. I don’t know what to do with it. It was made for him and kept him warm and happy on so many of our best adventures. I can still picture him wearing his coat and sprinting through the snow last winter, full of energy and life and joy.
I have a new pup now, a Beagle from a lab. She is very small (at 13 pounds, a veterinarian recently dubbed her a “micro Beagle”) and she doesn’t quite fit the standard breed sizing. This will be her first winter outside, and her very own made-to-measure Voyager K9 winter coat (and tummy warmer and rain coat) has been ordered and is on its way.
– Lauren Novack, MS ABA, ACDBC
OLIVE & ODIN POOP POUCH
The worst thing about being a responsible pet owner is carrying stinky bags full of poop for the duration of your outing with your dog. My walks with my dogs became so much more enjoyable when I discovered the Olive and Odin Poop Pouch. It seriously 100% locks in odor! The bag is made with a five-layer design (one layer is activated carbon) that locks in odors to keep your walk stink-free.
It’s also easy to use and carry. The top opens up wide, making it easy to drop a poop-filled bag into the Poop Pouch. You fold over the opening a couple of times and when you clip it together it keeps the folded edge completely closed.
And the 7-inch by 10-inch pouch holds a lot of poop! I walk two large-breed dogs who each poop at least twice on our walks and there is room to spare. You can clip the bag to a belt loop or backpack. The Poop Pouch also has a small pocket on the front (like for keys or an ATM card) and a poop-bag dispenser.
I have never had to clean it, I simply empty it when we get home and leave it standing open in the garage to air out. I have been using it for two years and hundreds of walks and it still smells fresh as a daisy!
– Eileen Fatcheric, DVM
We rarely feature different products from the same company two years in a row, but I have to make an exception for a product I didn’t know I needed until I had one. Last year, I raved about Trailblazing Tails’ long lines that are made of Biothane, a light but strong synthetic material that feels like leather (but doesn’t crack or dry out the way leather can when it gets wet and dries repeatedly). After running that review, Trailblazing Tails sent me some samples of their other products, including what is now my new favorite dog-walking accessory: The Handle.
I have a dozen or more leashes hanging up in my house by the door, tangled up in the way-back of my car, and strewn around my office. I’m never quite sure which leash is where, and I don’t really care – as long as I know the location of The Handle, a 101/2-inch-long, 5/8-inch wide handle that can be attached to any other leash (or clipped directly to a collar), to improve the handle’s comfort and grip. Whether I’m handling a big dog who is prone to lunging (par for the course when I’m doing some volunteer work with wayward adolescent dogs at the shelter), or taking ahold of a client’s crummy leash, I snap on The Handle to save my hands from rope burns and/or losing my grip on a rogue dog.
Although The Handle is available in Trailblazing Tails’ Premium Biothane – the regular, flat, smooth surface – for $20, I recommend the $2 upgrade to the Premium Supergrip Biothane, which is covered with rubbery soft bumps. Everyone who puts a hand on this handle immediately gets a surprised, happy expression on their face and says, “Oh!” The material is soft and grippy at the same time and supremely comfortable in the hand.
You can order The Handle in one of three colors (brown, black, or red) and with one of three ends: a snap, O-rings on both ends, or a 1-inch O-ring (that’s the one I have). Each of these connects in varying ways with some of Trailblazing Tails’ other leashes and long lines, some of which have snaps at each ends, or which can be fed through the O-rings and snapped back onto a sliding D-ring on the leash.
I use The Handle with all my other leashes by looping their handles through the 1-inch O-ring, or by looping The Handle itself around the leash’s handle. Either way works and improves the way every leash feels in my hands.
– Nancy Kerns
Price: $7 – $8.25
I will never forget the time I spent an hour cutting a 2-pound bag of tiny treats into quarters. Even though I like to cook and chop veggies regularly, by the end I had blisters. Never again! Imagine if I had arthritis or carpal tunnel or was recovering from a hand or arm surgery? Forget it. Training would have just been off the table. Sure, there are some lickable options at Petco, but I don’t love the ingredients enough to make them a regular part of my dog’s diet or recommend them to clients.
With Bark Pouch, gone are the days of filling camping tubes or travel bottles with cream cheese and peanut butter. And I no longer subject myself to handling slimy hot dogs outside in cold weather. When I need an easy-to-handle, high-value treat that my dog will love, made with human grade ingredients, I just reach for a Bark Pouch.
With simple, short ingredient lists and five flavor recipes that your dog will love (Beef & Liverwurst, Peanut Butter & Blueberry, Salmon & Ricotta, Sardines & Cream Cheese, Turkey & Chicken), Bark Pouch will cut down on treat prep so you can just get training. They’re very versatile. I’ve used them for everything from teaching loose-leash walking, working with reactive dogs, luring dogs out of dangerous situations, muzzle conditioning, and continuous treating during medical handling. Feed it directly from the tube, or spread it on a LickiMat for enrichment. The only thing you can’t do with this high-value treat that you can do with hot dogs is toss it!
These are pricey, but Bark Pouch offers discounts for buying in bulk (35 or more pouches at once) or by subscription.
– Lauren Novack, MS ABA, ACDBC
LUCIDIUM PET PENS
Price: $370 – $550
Whether for potty training, dog/baby safety, travel, or crate rest after surgery, most dogs will need to be safely contained at some point in their lives. Teaching dogs to feel comfortable when their movement is restricted is a necessary part of responsible dog ownership.
There are many ways to contain a dog: crates, baby gates, tethers, and pens are the popular options. Dog stuff may not be as ugly as cat furniture, but they aren’t exactly designed for your dream home, either. That is unless you opt for a Lucidium Pet Pen from Clearly Loved Pets. With scratch-resistant aluminum frames that come in gunmetal, silver, or white, these transparent acrylic pens are a decor enthusiast’s dream. I discovered these pens a few years ago when I walked into a new client’s home and saw her dog curled up on a faux fur rug inside one of these beauties. I instantly fell in love (with the pen and the dog, of course).
These are higher-end, higher-cost containment systems, but they offer several advantages. There are no bars for your dog to chew on or use to climb. You can see your dog (and she can see you) without any obstruction, which seems to make many dogs behave as if they aren’t missing out on anything. They come in multiple sizes and can be arranged in a variety of shapes. You can up the aesthetic ante (and save your floors) by placing a washable rug or interlocking foam tiles on the floor to further delineate the area.
The smallest standard pen is 24 inches by 48 inches; the largest is 48 inches by 72 inches. But additional panels can be ordered to expand any pen.
These pens are available in two heights: 27 inches and 36 inches – so, they are not going to be useful for large dogs, or small dogs with high-jumping skills. They are perfect for puppies and smaller dogs – and I think they’d be perfect for a senior dog who needed to be contained but for whom ducking into a crate or turning around in a small space is difficult. (And it’s easy for you to access them, if, for example, you had to go into the enclosure to help them up.)
– Lauren Novack, MS ABA, ACDBC
FETCH DOG HARNESS
Price – $40
I recently bought myself a new toy: the GoPro Hero 11 action camera. I wanted a camera to document and share the many adventures that my dog, Prince, and I experience – hiking, biking, kayaking, and so much more. The GoPro Hero 11, with its high-resolution color and super smooth stabilization, fit the bill perfectly.
Prince and I were getting ready to attend the veterinary emergency and critical care conference in Denver, Colorado, last fall when I got a brilliant idea. Wouldn’t it be cool for the folks back home to see the conference from Prince’s perspective? To do this, I purchased the Fetch Dog Harness from GoPro so that Prince could direct his own movies.
The harness arrived the day before we left for the conference. Upon opening the package, I became a little apprehensive about how this would fit him. In all honesty, I had ignored the minimum weight requirement on the GoPro web page when ordering the harness. According to GoPro, the Fetch Dog Harness is fully adjustable for dogs weighing between 20 and 120 pounds.
Thankfully, Prince is a little more deep-chested than the average 17-pound dog. The instructions for adjusting the harness were clear and straightforward and the harness fit him perfectly. But the Fetch Dog Harness may not fit every dog who weighs less than 20 pounds.
For Prince’s first movie, I put the Fetch Dog Harness on him outside the conference hotel. We walked the grounds outside and then entered the hotel to finish walking to the conference center. He walked normally with the GoPro camera on his back. But I could tell that he was just humoring me by wearing the harness and was not terribly excited to be a part of my game plan.
Upon entering the conference hotel, people immediately started noticing that he was wearing a GoPro camera. Prince heard people’s comments as they passed him – “Look at the handsome dog!” and “Oh, cool! He’s wearing a GoPro!” Prince’s normal prancing gait turned into a proud and exaggerated strut as he walked toward the conference center.
Prince showed his audience how important it is to sniff bushes and check out the contents of people’s open bags and purses as he passed. He ended the movie by jumping up onto a chair in the conference hall and sitting down, ready to learn.
I put the Fetch Dog Harness on him later that morning so he could make a movie while walking about the exhibit hall. This time, he lowered his head and pushed himself into the harness. He patiently stood while I fastened the straps around his chest. Then he took off for the exhibit hall with such confidence and swagger. The movie was stable, crisp, and clear, even when he jumped two feet into the air demanding cookies!
Prince’s movies have been a hit with his fan club. If you have a GoPro camera, buy Go Pro’s Fetch Dog Harness so your dog can also be a famous director and star of his own show.
– Jennifer Bailey, DVM
BULLY GRIP BULLY STICK HOLDER
Price: $16 – 19
I’m honestly not sure who loves bully sticks more: The dogs? Or the people who get to watch their dogs hold onto the stick with their paws and chomp away, knowing that their dog is happy (and quiet and occupied!).
There’s just one problem: that little choking hazard that occurs when the stick is chewed down to the end. Depending on your dog and the individual bully stick, the hazard could happen in 10 minutes, or 45 minutes, or two hours, or tomorrow. So you have to watch them – and you can’t put them in their crate and leave them with their favorite thing to do unless you have a Bully Grip – WDJ’s new favorite bully stick holder.
With a touch of water and a twist, the eco-friendly all-rubber Bully Grip grabs onto the end of that expensive bully stick and doesn’t let go. The stick can be chewed down to the last inch without worry. The Bully Grip comes in small, medium, and large to fit bully sticks of varying widths. Or, you can opt for the Bully Lok Chew Holder, which has a screw that can be turned to hold the bully stick in place and can be used with any size of stick.
These are available from the maker, as well as through Amazon.com.
–Lauren Novack, MS ABA, ACDBC