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Celebrity Trainer Nicole Ellis’s Top Dog Essentials

Everything you need to keep your pup safe and engaged (so you can focus on that Zoom meeting).

by Nicole Ellis, CPDT-KA
December 14, 2022
nicole ellis with two dogs
The Wildest

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

A good pet product is one that has an actual purpose: items that enrich our dogs’ lives, bring them joy, make training easier, get them thinking and moving — and most of all — having fun.

Because pet parenting doesn’t come with a manual like an Ikea dresser (though raising pets is just as hard as installing anything from Ikea), here is a list of a few things to help you along the way. Well, the items on this list will at least make your training and daily life with your dog a little brighter and easier. When it comes to the fact that your dog takes one million years to finally pee in the freezing cold, you’re on your own.

red zippeed pet bed

Car safety is really important to me; thousands of dogs get injured or even die from car accidents. Sleepypod is my go-to for car travel, from road trips to short trips across town for playdates.

Sleepypod has passed the safety test performed by Center for Pet Safety, a third-party company that does crash testing. Smaller dogs should ride in a crash-tested carrier, while medium-to-large dogs should be in a crash-tested harness. No matter what product you buy, ensure it’s passed third-party crash testing. And, just like children, dogs shouldn’t be riding in the front seat.

$230 at Amazon
black dog kong

Kongs are a staple in my home. From puppies to seniors, everyone can enjoy a Kong. Studies have taught us that licking and chewing help release stress in dogs, and the Kong helps achieve that while allowing your pup to have fun. It also helps our dog get some mental enrichment and learn to settle and focus on something.

I could probably use a Kong for myself. Stuff with your dog’s favorite treats and some peanut butter, yogurt, or fruit, and let your dog enjoy! I have at least three Kongs in rotation at my house for my dogs and my clients: One for today, one to be cleaned, and one in the freezer for tomorrow. For strong chewers, check out the black Kong.

$15 at Amazon
the diggs crate for dogs in green

I love having a safe place for my dogs; all my dogs are crate trained. It gives them a safe place to relax away from overwhelming house parties or fireworks. Crate training also helps speed up potty training, reduce separation anxiety and makes vet visits, groomers, and emergency situations less stressful for all of us. The Diggs Revol crate is my go-to — not only is it aesthetically nice looking, it is extremely easy to collapse and set up.

Diamond-shaped sides prevent entrapment by collars and tags, multiple access points make it easy for my dogs to enter from multiple sides, and I love the custom accessories that fit the Revol crate. Our crate has traveled to many hotel rooms, TV sets, and more, and I know our adventures have just started together.

$475 at Amazon
junk food themed toys

Dogs deserve to play, and I love toys that keep them busy. P.L.A.Y. makes my hands-down favorite plush dog toys (and Rossi, my dog, would agree). A current favorite is the soda can; I stick in a few treats or pieces of his food and then let him dig, tug, and play with it. From tacos that rip apart, french fries that can be flung all over, avocado toast, pet passports and so much more, your pet’s hunger for adventure is sure to be satiated.

$56 at P.L.A.Y.
Dog coats in camo print

Paikka makes some of my favorite pet products. Their collection of reflective gear, including a treat bag — which I may or may not use as a purse sometimes — and jackets for humans and dogs, is a favorite of mine. It looks like normal gear but is extremely reflective, so no matter where we go, we can be seen at night and during the day. I also love their recovery line that promotes blood circulation, which is perfect for after hikes, chilly days, and our senior pets.

$82 at Pet Project LA
klimb training platform for dogs in purple

The Blue-9 Klimb is a training platform, but it’s so much more than that. I use this for training every dog. When a dog is elevated off the ground, they are more likely to focus and stay and have a more successful training session. By teaching your dog to go to the Klimb and relax, you can teach your dog to settle anywhere, from cafés to bustling train stations.

I also use the Klimb for training behaviors, such as heeling, not jumping on guests at the front door, not bolting out the front door, paws up, crawl, “go under,” “back up,” and so much more! The Klimb is UV stabilized, so training outside is no problem. It’s a staple in our home, and it makes training and keeping our dogs safe so much easier.

$190 at Amazon
blue interactive toy

Mental enrichment is really important to dogs; boredom leads to many unwanted behaviors, such as barking, chewing, and destroying items. The snoop is one of my go-to favorites for meeting pups’ mental stimulation needs. Put small treats inside for quick, easy success and some bigger treats to keep your pup occupied and busy. Have a fast eater? Try putting in their kibble, too. I love that this toy is quiet on hardwood floors but still provides endless fun. 

$10 at Amazon
blue digging toy for dogs with paw design in white

Diggers need to dig. I often hear frustration from pet parents about their dogs digging in the yard, couch, and on the bed. Dogs naturally love to dig; it’s an innate desire. Instead of reprimanding your dog(s) for digging, give them somewhere to dig. And yes, even cats love this toy! My dog actually isn’t a digger, but this is his hands-down favorite toy and, best of all, he is exhausted after playing with it. Hide some treats, your dog’s dinner, or even just toys inside and let your dog have fun digging! I put this toy away when they are done digging; this helps them stay interested in it and prevents them from chewing on the digging flaps.

$100 at Amazon

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Nicole Ellis

Nicole Ellis, CPDT-KA

After a childhood of horse-riding and pet obsession, Nicole Ellis studied with top animal trainers working with everything from exotic animals, such as bears and big cats, to household pets. During her studies, she realized her true mission was training other humans in strengthening their human-pet bonds. Alongside her rescue Bichon / Poodle mix, Maggie, she uses positive reinforcement training to teach pets new skills and healthy behaviors. Ellis stars as a celebrity dog trainer on The Pack (Amazon Prime) and travels to hospitals and nonprofit orgs with Maggie to educate. Maggie was also was the inspiration behind Ellis’s book, Working Like a Dog