Dog Christmas Gift Ideas

Here’s a list of some dog items that your friends and family (or even yourself) may find useful for dog training.


A 6-foot traditional length, or try a 10 or 15-foot leash if you have safe areas to allow your dog more room to roam on walks.


The Seattle Balance harness (by Lori Stevens, a professional dog trainer) remains one of the top quality harnesses. It includes attachments on the back, and front for reduced pulling.


The i-click is great for indoors and handling comfortably. The box clicker may be less ergonomic to handle, but produces a louder sound, which provides utility for outdoor training depending on your distance from your dog or other ambient sounds.

Target Stick:

Target training is fun to implement and can apply to many different training scenarios. The Treat&Train box comes with a target (see below).


This is an ingenious device created by the late Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and animal trainer. Its basic function is to dispense treats either on demand with a controller, or on different pre-settings: such as set amounts of time (e.g., every 10 seconds), or on a variable rate (e.g., on average every 10 seconds). It provides many different strategies for training.

I have occasionally used the Treat&Train as a slow feeder to dispense my dog’s normal kibble meal. Rather than her eating it in a few seconds out of a bowl, she gets the food dispensed in different amounts of time, so it acts like an enrichment puzzle toy. Because of its design, this product is a bit pricey at about $100. It also needs a separate purchase of batteries.


These are always a great choice of gift, and dogs will love them. Look for softer treats in smaller sizes or easy to break apart treats for training. In addition, there are even Advent calendars for dogs now that provide a treat a day for December 1st-25th.

Treat Pouch:

The Doggone Good treat pouch is excellent for holding treats and clickers. The magnet that closes the pouch works better than the treat bags with hinges, which rust over time.

Puzzle Toys:

Some quality enrichment toys include:

  • Kongs
  • Squirrel Dude
  • Twist-n-Treat
  • Kong Wobbler
  • Nina Ottosson puzzles
  • Tug-a-Jug
  • Buster Cube
  • Kong Satellite
  • Snuffle Mats
  • Green Interactive Feeder

By Dan Raymer

I Tried It, But It Did Not Work


There’s a common phrase in dog training: “training is simple but it isn’t easy.” When broken down into larger functions, we are rewarding behaviors with treats and toys (sounds pretty simple), but in order to correctly train solid behaviors long-term we need to have a broad knowledge of concepts including topics like biology and psychology and we need to master many fine skills (making it not so easy at all times). Because of this truth, many people are quick to try training (with appropriate reward methods) and then claim it didn’t work, and try to move onto something inefficient or even worse, something detrimental to their dog’s well-being like force/aversive training methods. Here is more information and solutions.

State of the Profession

First, worth noting is not all professional dog trainers are competent. That might sound strange, but the fact is the dog industry does not require certification to practice, there is no oversight to make sure trainers are using best practices based on science, and so it’s possible to hire someone that is uneducated or has very little or no hands-on experience with dogs. This means even hiring trainers that claim to use rewards could land you with someone who does not use rewards, or someone who incompetently trains with rewards.

Also, beware trainers who guarantee behavior results. It’s impossible to guarantee the behavior of another living creature regardless of training methods used and unethical from a professional standpoint. Furthermore, many behaviors have medical-related pathologies, meaning only a veterinarian/veterinary behaviorist can diagnose and treat them, or work in conjunction with a professional dog trainer to solve them.

For example, if a dog has aggression due to a brain tumor, adding pain by shocking a dog is not going to solve the medical problem or the aggressive behavior problem; it is very likely to make it worse as well as compromise the dog’s welfare; and ultimately this is exactly why aversive/force training methods should never be used on any dog at any time.

Good Dog Trainers

When you find a qualified and skilled positive reinforcement trainer, it will relieve you from worrying about the non-easy aspects of the process. You won’t have to worry about trying to know everything all at once, and instead can rely on the trainer for advice and making sure everything is on the right track to success.

How to Solve the Dilemma

If the training seems like it’s not working, check the following:

1. Compliance – it’s worth noting that if the advice of a qualified trainer is not followed or enough repetitions are not completed, the behavior won’t get trained, or won’t be maintained long-term.

2. Execution – this concept is so important and another one to rely on professional help. There’s many minute parts of properly completing the training process – training the steps in the appropriate order, following the right mechanical skills, knowing where and when to deliver rewards, knowing what type of reward to use, understanding when to advance to a more challenging trial or reduce the difficulty for the dog, reading the dog’s body language, and so on.

3. Identification of the problem – this is another area where a professional dog trainer and/or veterinary behaviorist can help identify the problem and triggers or causes of the behavior, and put together a training plan to follow in order to change the dog’s behavior.

As the dog training knowledge and science has grown over time, the industry now has positive reinforcement training methods and solutions that work for all types of pet dog behavior problems. There is no reason to resort to scaring or hurting dogs in order to train them. If the training process seems stalled or before issues arise, work with a competent reward-trainer to assist you with the process.

By Dan Raymer

Raymer Family Dog Training News: October 2020

Canine Academy Updates

The SPCA of Wake County’s Pet Behavior Network discount is now available for our Canine Academy. See the details here. This applies to anyone who adopts a dog from the SPCA. If you’re thinking about adopting a new dog, it is an excellent organization with lovely pets.

If you enjoy reading our blog/articles and want more free videos on YouTube, consider signing up for a monthly Canine Academy membership as it supports those projects as well as all the other dog training benefits.

Next Up

In November I’m going to start providing animal behavior and training book reviews. If you would like to read along, we will start with a new book: Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Next Generation Treatment Protocols and Practices by Malena DeMartini-Price.

Does anyone have fun Halloween traditions with their pets? Usually Mocha will get a longer-lasting chew treat (probably a frozen peanut butter Kong this Halloween), while I pass out candy or watch a scary movie. Let us know your pet plans for Halloween below.

By Dan Raymer

Dog Walking Equipment

Harness and Leash

I always recommend dogs walk with leashes attached to body harnesses – generally attached to the clip on the dog’s back, in addition to training calm walking behavior with rewards; or you can attach the leash to the front clip over the dog’s chest. This can help decrease pulling behavior, but the side effect is it can sometimes affect the dog’s normal walking movements. 

If you look at the dog’s front chest, the “T-shaped” harnesses are more likely to negatively affect dog’s normal movement, while the “Y-shaped” do not.

Attaching a leash to a regular collar puts too much pressure on a dog’s neck. Their tracheas can easily be damaged if they pull too much, or even with a single hard lunge, or accidental jerk on the leash by the handler.

Dogs can also walk off-leash if it’s legal (there are no leash laws in the area), and it is safe (your dog won’t get hit by a car, you taught a solid recall – coming when called – behavior, and so on). You are ultimately responsible for your dogs at all times, so use good judgment.

Longer Leashes

The typical dog leash is 6 feet long. I actually prefer to walk my dog with a 10 foot leash the majority of the time (or a 15 foot one). This allows a dog to walk at a more normal pace and have some freedom to move side to side as dogs tend to sniff areas this way when not restrained.

It does take some handling ability in order to make sure your dog does not have too much leash length and cross in front of cars or approach other dogs when he shouldn’t. You will need to practice allowing and pulling in the leash to control how far away your dog is allowed to move to keep your dog safe.

Don’t Use These

I never recommend choke chains, prong/pinch collars, shock collars, or other types of equipment designed similarly. All of these tools work by applying pain to the dog. There are many people who are dishonest or lack this knowledge who will not tell you these tools hurt dogs. For your dog’s sake, health and better behavior, please do not listen to them. If you are already currently using one of these tools, don’t worry, you can switch to a leash and harness immediately and easily. 

Retractable Leashes

I also do not recommend retractable leashes for the following reasons:

a. They apply constant pressure to the dog’s harness, so technically the dog is always being rewarded for pulling – unless you lock in a set length, but then it will drag on the ground defeating it’s main purpose of extending-retracting.

b. The lines are too thin, and if you try to grip them to pull a dog back in towards you, the line is very likely to cut your hand. I personally have had this happen twice when I used them prior to becoming a professional dog trainer, and have at least one scar from the resulting injury. This also makes retractable leashes very dangerous for dogs that are reactive towards others.

c. The locking mechanism to get a set length of leash, can be undone or broken relatively easily by dogs pulling. This can be dangerous if the dog pulls out in front of cars, or if your dog pulls up to another dog.

d. If your dog pulls the leash out of your hand, it retracts toward your dog, so can end up scaring or hitting your dog.

However, if you are using a retractable leash with no problems for a smaller breed dog with no discernible behavior problems like rushing up to other dogs, reactivity, aggression, fear, etc., then you might be fine to continue using it as long as you are aware of the risks and take measures to prevent them. Always attach it to a body harness, though, to prevent it from hurting your dog’s neck from the constant pressure.

Specific Harness Brands

There are so many choices with dog harnesses now that I don’t have a complete list I recommend.

I do like the Seattle Balance Harness by Lori Stevens; it has both front and back clips. The harness forms a Y-shape around the dog’s body/neck, so it does not restrict normal canine movement.

I also like a regular body harness most pet stores sell with a back-clip, created with as soft material as possible.

By Dan Raymer

Crate Training Success

Hayley recently had surgery to remove a lump. Veterinarians advise keeping dogs calm after surgeries, allowing rest in order to fully recover from the process. Because Hayley had crate training experience since she was an adolescent, she enjoys resting in her crate and could handle the extra post-surgery time in there without fear. The crate already represented a safe place for her, and she also had training for her to comfortably rest in it for longer periods of time. Without pre-training this behavior, she would have had a much harder time relaxing and recovering from her surgery. Thus, this is a perfect example of how you can utilize positive reinforcement training to improve your dog’s life, to decrease fearful situations, and to make daily life situations easier for you.

Here is Hayley after recovering from her surgery, choosing to go in the crate and sleep on her own. She was not given a signal to enter the crate, and the door is open for her to leave anytime.