Top 5 Positive Pet Training Tools for Reactive Dogs


This month’s theme for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop is training tools. I thought I’d give you the rundown of five things that have made a huge difference in my life with my dogs.

5. Food puzzles

In the wild, animals spend most of their time looking for and eating their food. When we feed our dogs a cup of kibble in a bowl at 7 a.m., and they’re done by 7:05, what are they supposed to do with the rest of their day? Stuffed Kongs are popular. We’ve been feeding our dogs dinner from puzzles for a few years now, and as I mentioned in last month’s post, I got them Nina Ottosson Dog Pyramids for Christmas.

Dinnertime now lasts, like, 20-30 minutes as my guys fling these guys around the house, grain-free kibble spewing every which way. Reminscent of Isis and her Squirrel Dude.

Last week we could not find the red one anywhere. And it’s not a small thing! Usually we can find them under a chair or something, but it was nowhere! Until I walked into the bedroom after dropping Rob off at work and found it wedged under a dresser drawer in the bedroom. Last time I saw Mia with it, she was in the kitchen.

4. Freedom Harness

Neither of our dogs right now are pullers, but even if you “just” have a Barker and Lunger, it’s really great to have a leash that fastens on the front and back of their harness. Freedom Harnesses fit my dogs better than that other brand of front-fastening harness that was bought by a company that sells shock collars, so I no longer endorse it.

3. Halti

civic field

Not for every dog, but I thought I’d tried everything to get Isis to stop pulling. A head halter collar, in combination with a back-fastening harness, accompanied by a reinforcing clicker, changed the game for us. Some argue that Haltis are aversive, but I think it depends on the dog, and Dr. Sophia Yin says it depends on how you use it. Certainly it’s less aversive than the other stuff recommended to us.

2. Calming Cap

Another game-changer. We use it primarily in the car to reduce the stimulation for Leo. Thanks to the Calming Cap, he’s no longer in the habit of looking for things to bark at out the window. Funny story, some “trainer” found my earlier post about the Calming Cap and posted it to her FB page, saying something like “Seriously? This is a thing? How about you try training your dog instead of blindfolding it.” I wrote a very helpful comment explaining how we use it, and that it’s handy in situations when you are not able to focus on training (like when you’re driving a car), and she deleted the comment. Troll.

1. Cheese.

You knew it was going to be cheese, right?

Positive TrainingThis is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Tenacious Little Terrier, Wag n’ Woof Pets and Travels with Barley. Join the fun! Our theme for this month is Training Tools, but any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long.

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Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

8 thoughts on “Top 5 Positive Pet Training Tools for Reactive Dogs

  1. I cannot get enough of food puzzles, seriously. They’re one of those things that until I tried it myself I thought ‘oh that’s pretty simple, how much of a difference could it make?,’ but the amount of mental stimulation they provide is just amazing. Especially considering how easy they are to set up (or as I like to say “install” because it drives my IT boyfriend nuts). And of course there’s going to be cheese 🙂

  2. I might have to take a look at the Freedom Harness. We tried that other one too, but there is just something I didn’t like about the front clip; but I’m not sure if it was just that whole concept, or just the harness itself (I never felt like it fit right either though). I’m not sure why some people think Haltis are aversive? We used that head type with our beagle, and it was the only thing that finally saved us from his pulling. The only thing that seemed bad was he was always trying to get it off at first, but I always just thought he was being overly dramatic about it. Once he forgot about it and just walked, he was fine. 🙂

    1. I think people call it aversive for two reasons. One is if the dog really hates it, so they’re suffering the whole time it’s on. The other, if you look at the link to Sophia Yin’s site, is that technically it operates in the “punishment” side of the quadrant, because it’s used to reduce a behavior (pulling). In our experience, it just showed her where I wanted her to be. I didn’t feel like if she charged ahead that she would be so uncomfortable with the thing around her face that she had to stop pulling in order for the unpleasant thing to be taken away. But that was true of the prong collar too. It didn’t bother her to have the thing constrict around her neck, so it never “corrected” the behavior. Punishment doesn’t work if it fails to stop the undesirable behavior! The Halti was a much more positive way to show her want I wanted from her.

      A cool thing about the Freedom Harness, when I ordered it online, is they asked my dogs’ measurements and it arrived already sized for them.

  3. Great tools! We love food puzzles, but the girls figure them out too quickly, so we’re constantly looking for new ones. We got that pyramid and within a few minutes, Rye had decided it was easy to just chew off the top to get to the snacks instead of nudging it. She loved our Game Changer toy, but then figured out how to separate the two pieces instead of nudging it around. She’s also a little booger with the halti–we went really slowly with introducing it and she tolerated it for one walk and then after that she’d walk on her hind legs so she could paw it off with her front paws! That’s crazy that someone criticized the calming cap–I remember reading one of your posts about it and thinking what a great tool it was.

  4. Oh the Calming Cap is awesome! I’ve tried this with Shermie in the car since he’s so reactive! I’m stunned that even in a crate he can see other dogs in the car so these caps are brilliant. of course I LOVE all your tips. Cheese is our go to or liver treats. We’re always looking for good puzzle toys of course!

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