The first step of pet parenthood is snuggles, but the second step (OK, it’s at least in the top five on the list) is training, training, training. Here are all the tools you need to get started.
You love your new little family member. They’re cute, cuddly, and tend to curl up and nap right when it’s time for your nightly TV binge. Who needs friends when you have them, right? Just kidding — kind of. As much as you love spending time with your new pet, you do have some to-do tasks to cross off when it comes to getting them settled. At the top of the list? Training.
Thankfully, we have the treats, crates, clickers, and all the rest of the tools our experts recommend (many at discounted prices) when it comes to getting down to training business. Plus, after a day of training, your pet will be all the more exhausted and ready for that binge of The Bear.
Russel has been adopted, but you can meet more adorable pups like him on Adopt a Pet.
Best Puppy Training Treats
This brand started in a tiny West Village kitchen with — you guessed it — a pup named Bocce, whose mom baked him homemade treats when her vet said he needed to lose weight. Rude! Turns out she was on to something, though, and the brand quickly gained popularity for its limited-ingredient recipes, including Beef Bourguignon, Burgers and Fries, and Pumpk’n Spice. This PB & Bacon recipe will have you thinking this combo doesn’t sound half bad.
No, it’s not weird that your mouth is watering. Imagine how well it will motivate your pup! “Science and experience over the years have made it clear that ‘positive reinforcement’ or ‘reward-based’ training is the most effective and humane way to train dogs,” certified dog trainer Melissa Dallier tells The Wildest. These limited-ingredient treats are a good starting place as your pup adjusts to the good life, and they find the flavors their palate prefers. —Colleen Stinchcombe
Best Dog Treat Pouch
Dog behaviorist Lauren Novack tells The Wildest, “As a rule, dog training treats should be pea-sized and easily portable,” so your pup can get some training in anywhere, any time. But, they also need to be well protected, or your purse (or backpack or pockets) could become a graveyard of pungent crumbs. That’s why you need a to-go treat bag, like the Wild One Treat Pouch.
“We created a collection of products that are as functional as they are aesthetically pleasing,” Wild One founder Minali Chatani tells The Wildest. That’s definitely true of this stylish pouch, which comes in your choice of eight different colors and includes a built-in poop bag dispenser, as well as compartments for your personal belongings. The carrying straps are adjustable, so it can be worn as a fanny pack or crossbody bag. Plus, it’s made of 100 percent recycled knit, making this choice as sustainable as it is fashionable. —Sio Hornbuckle
Best Luxe Dog Crate
Crate training your dog can give them a safe place to relax away from overwhelming parties, fireworks, or anything that feels like a commotion in their home. Crate training also helps speed up potty training, reduce separation anxiety and makes vet visits, groomers, and emergency situations less stressful for everyone. The Diggs Revol crate is a go-to for many dog parents — not only is it aesthetically easy on the eyes, it is extremely easy to collapse and set up.
Diamond-shaped sides prevent entrapment by collars and tags, numerous access points make it easy for dogs to enter from multiple sides, and custom accessories that fit the Revol crate will allow you to make it you and your dog’s own.—Nicole Ellis
Best Basic Puppy Crate
Crates can be a great management tool: They are helpful with a new puppy’s house-training routine, they can be a wonderful place for your dog to safely retreat and relax when there are too many visitors in the home, they can be used to safely transport dogs in a vehicle, and they can be a comfy place for your dog to take an afternoon nap. “Being comfortable in a crate can also help reduce anxiety when your dog is at the veterinary clinic awaiting treatment,” veterinary behaviorist Dr. Valli Parthasarathy says.
This particular crate includes a divider panel to help your pup feel secure and cozy. Plus, there’s a leak-proof plastic pan (accidents happen), and a separate crate pad that fits easily into the bottom. —Tiffany Lovell and Hilary Weaver
Best Puppy Pee Pads
Having a quality pee pad for your pup might not seem like a top priority. Any old pad might do the trick, but for your pet and for the sanctity of your home, it’s time to level up. Our recommendation is Amazon Basics Dog and Puppy Pee Pad.
Having a great pee pad can help pups in many ways — first, getting them potty trained. Dog behaviorist Lauren Novack says putting a pee pad near the door is a great way to initially train a new puppy. They can continue to be helpful once your dog is all trained and is trying to signal that they need to go outside. Also, limiting where they can and can’t go to the bathroom, especially when crate training, can help a new pet parent learn alongside their pup. —Kerensa Cadenas
Best Dog Clicker
Learning to communicate with your pup is key for effective training. That’s where clickers come in. “A clicker is a clear way to communicate to a non-language speaker that this sound is good and this sound happens when you perform an appropriate act,” says dog trainer and The Wildest Collective member Robert Haussmann. When paired with a treat, a clicker tells your pup exactly what action produced the reward. “Dogs require immediate feedback to learn,” certified dog trainer Melissa Dallier says. “The click is a way for you to precisely and clearly let your dog know the exact good behavior that made the precious treat appear.”
This clicker is made of durable metal and comes in a pack of two. The large center button couldn’t be easier to use: You press down, and your pup hears a loud clicking sound. Toss ‘em a treat, and they’ll be a star student in no time. —SH
Best Cat Clicker
First of all, yes you can get a behaviorist for your cat. And you can totally train them just like you would a dog. “My favorite way to train cats is with a clicker,” behaviorist Karen B. London says. “Clicker training cats is becoming increasingly popular. Even though you might think clicker training is more for dogs, it’s actually not. This style of training didn’t even originate with dogs. Long before dogs were trained this way, marine mammal trainers — especially those who worked with dolphins — were using whistles like we use the clickers now.”
She adds that the clicker “marks” the behavior you want to see, and then if you follow up with a treat, you’re likely to see it again. “In other words, clicker training is a type of positive reinforcement training,” she says. —HW
Best No-Pull Dog Harness
When it comes to teaching a dog to walk nicely on a leash, no-pull harnesses are a good place to start, explains dog trainer and The Wildest Collective member Robert Haussmann. “That’s a harness where the leash attaches in front of the dog on the chest area, which is right in front of the dog’s center of gravity,” he tells The Wildest. “When the dog goes to pull forward, they can’t as easily engage the pressure on the leash and pull you.”
Annie Grossman, owner and co-founder of School For The Dogs, says this 2 Hounds harness is her go-to for training. “I really like that it has the option of both a front and a back clip,” she says. “The front clip can help reduce pulling as when the dog does pull, it exerts pressure on the chest, which will result in the dog pushing against the pressure, moving backwards rather than forwards. The fact that it attaches in the front also means that the dog is likely to turn towards you when pulling, giving you a chance to reward a quick check-in.” And who doesn’t love a good colorblock? —Avery Felman
Best Dog Slip Lead
When you’re training your puppy, you’re going to get a lot of advice on what tools are best. We recommend a slip lead. These types of leashes, like this one from Mendota, loosen and tighten to help train your dog to “heel” beside you. As Mendota notes on their website, to use the leash correctly, widen the loop to fit over your dog’s head, then adjust “until the leather stop is still loose, but still tight enough to not allow your dog to slip [their] head through.”
These leashes are a great alternative to other training products, such as head halters, or gentle leaders, which loop around a dog’s muzzle before looping around their neck and attaching to a leash, much like you would use a halter on a horse. Charlie DiBono, trainer and founder of Body and Mind K9 in Long Beach, California, tends to stay away from head halters because of the risks they present. “Dogs’ necks are not built like a horse’s and can easily be damaged by an owner pulling too hard in one direction,” he says. He adds that the muzzle is a much more sensitive region for a dog than for a horse. —HW
Best Dog Long Line
When your dog is ready for a little more freedom in their training, you can go with a long lead or “training lead,” like this secure option from High Tail Hikes, to work on their recall. This allows them to run ahead of you on a hike or walk while still being tethered. Then, you can practice calling them and having them return to you. This particular leash, which can hold dogs over 60 pounds, comes with a carabiner that auto-locks so you can feel good that your pup gets to roam — but not too much.
“Training your dog to reliably return to you when called — any time, anywhere — could literally save their life, so it is no exaggeration to say that a dog’s recall is the most important behavior you will ever teach them,” behaviorist and trainer Karen B. London says. —HW
Best Shock Absorbing Dog Leash
Leash training a dog prone to pulling can be a serious challenge. For larger pups, it can often feel pretty overwhelming. Thankfully, there are tools designed to support your possibly dwindling but exceedingly important patience through this process. Zee Dog’s shock-absorbing leashes should help effectively ease this struggle, so your pup can receive the full training they deserve to become the casually walkable pet you always dreamed of.
The leash is made of soft nylon rope intertwined with elastic webbing technology that absorbs much of the impact caused by pulling. While this may reduce pulling during walks, it’s crucial to remember that this device is merely a Band-Aid buying you extra time and security. This leash is not a replacement for training, of course. It’s essential you maintain training and continue to work on leash reactivity with your dog. The goal is still for them to walk comfortably with a standard lead without pulling. —Sean Zucker
Best Dog Agility Kit
Agility training might sound like something that’s just for fancy show-dogs or ultra-athletic jocks, but it’s actually a great way for any pup to get some stimulation. “Agility works for pretty much every dog, no matter the breed, size, or age,” certified dog trainer Karen Chapdelaine says. “If your dog is social, physically fit and likes to learn, they will most likely enjoy agility. Older dogs or certain breeds that might normally be characterized as couch potatoes come to life when given extra attention and mental and physical stimulation from agility.”
If you and your pup are ready to give agility training a try, this seven-piece kit by Outward Hound is the place to start. The kit includes four weave poles, a collapsible tunnel, and an adjustable jump that can be taken apart and used as two more weave poles. It’s easy to set up and break down, and it comes in a convenient storage bag. Outward Hound also throws in a training tip booklet to help your pup get started on their agility journey. —SH
Best Pet Stain and Odor Eliminator
Nobody likes a pee stain, and definitely not the smell it leaves in its wake. “I would treat a pet stain as a 911. It’s pretty urgent,” says cleaning expert and author Melissa Maker. “The longer you allow a stain to sit, the more potential it has to seep in, grab hold of whatever fiber or material it’s on, and leave a lingering stain or odor.” But before you start scrubbing those (easily lickable) baseboards, pet parents should know that most cleaning products aren’t safe for dogs and cats. Between harsh chemicals and added fragrances, many common cleaning agents can do short and long-term harm to your pets — and the planet.
That’s where Rocco & Roxie comes in. For a pet-safe product for pet-related stains, this stain-and-odor eliminator is gentle and effective. Rocco & Roxie uses a “professional-strength bio-enzymatic formula” that breaks down the enzymes of pet messes, so that the smell is erased — not just masked. It will also deter your pet from returning to the scene of the crime, which can be especially helpful if you are potty training. —Rebecca Caplan and Maia Welebel
Best Pet Talking Buttons
Your dog’s pretty much your human child — so why not teach them some human words? “From a scientific point of view, if we said this 40 years ago, people would think us crazy. We had no reason to believe [that pets could communicate with us],” says Dr. Federico Rossano, director at Comparative Cognition Lab at University of California San Diego. “But in 2020, we have enough scientific evidence that says dogs are better at understanding communicative signals from humans than chimpanzees.”
So, want your dog (or cat!) to start speaking your language? Start with these buttons by Hunger for Words — developed by none other than San Diego-based speech pathologist Christina Hunger, the author of How Stella Learned to Talk: The Groundbreaking Story of the World's First Talking Dog. She’s credited as the “founder of the talking pet global movement,” so you know she’s got you (and your chatty kitty) covered. —SH
Best Puppy Pen
You want to set your puppy up for success — and let’s face it, most pups don’t know exactly how to be upstanding canine citizens on their first day home. That’s why a puppy pen is a go-to tool for training a new dog. It’s important to separate them from temptations (like tasty shoes).
Plus, it helps keep them safe from household dangers as you puppy-proof your home. “Puppy pens are a life saver for new puppy owners,” dog trainer Aislynn Ross says. “Puppy pens help so much with housebreaking, teaching them independence, and keeping your pup safe.” This choice by Amazon Basics is a great pick for any puppy. The pen is available in six sizes, is easy to unfold and transport, is made of durable iron wire, and can be configured into a variety of shapes. —SH
Best Puppy Gate
When meeting new people, dogs have a tendency to act as though they’re Tom Cruise expressing his love for Katie Holmes on live television. They can have a hard time containing their excitement, flailing their bodies, jumping up and down on furniture, and making noises that might leave strangers a bit concerned. Luckily, a sturdy gate is enough to minimize these outbursts and allow guests to focus on your pup’s more endearing qualities. Behaviorist and trainer Karen B. London explains that when dogs are confined behind a gate as visitors arrive they’re less excitable. And if there’s some additional time between everybody getting settled and the dog joining the new group, they’ll be less stimulated when they eventually enter the room. A gate can also help you approach introducing your dog to another pet or kid more leisurely and safely.
The Regalo Easy Step is a perfect gate for these situations, especially for dogs who hate crates. It’s durable, quick to set up, and includes multiple locks for extra safety. But beyond security and convenience, the gate comes in options up to 56 inches wide making it usable in nearly any household door or opening. —SZ
Best Dog Training Platform
The Blue-9 Klimb is a training platform, but it’s so much more than that. “When a dog is elevated off the ground, they are more likely to focus and stay and have a more successful training session,” says celebrity dog trainer Nicole Ellis, who uses it to train all her dogs. “By teaching your dog to go to the Klimb and relax, you can teach your dog to settle anywhere, from cafes to bustling train stations.”
She also uses 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,” Ellis says. “It’s a staple in our home, and it makes training and keeping our dogs safe so much easier.” —Megan Cahn
Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)
Photography: Felisha Tolentino
Styling: Lindsey Hartman
Hair: Phoebe Seligman
Makeup: Jessie Bishop
Art Direction: Hannah Huffman
Production: Hyperion LA
Producer: Adam Cohen
Models: Isabella Oliveira & Russel
Special thanks to Wags and Walks Rescue
The U.S. has a long way to go when it comes to ending what Gov. Gavin Newsom calls “cruel and unnecessary testing.”
Keep the faith; you can fix this pee-action.