Walking Gear for Reactive Dogs

9 Mar


Ages and ages ago, during the days of our Walk to Rivendell challenge, I wrote a little bit about the gear we use for our regular walks. Over the last 2+ years we’ve tried a perhaps ridiculous number of walking setups with a variety of collars, leashes, harnesses, halters, and more. Between working on Topher’s reactivity in training classes and our usual walks, we get a lot of use out of our gear and I always want to make sure what we use and carry around truly works for us. Because, in certain scenarios, these are the pieces of equipment we rely on the most to keep ourselves and others safe. So, what do we take on our daily walks?

Martingale Collar

We switched to martingale collars after a recommendation from our trainers and have used them almost exclusively since then. We clip directly to Topher’s martingale collars on casual short walks, and we love the sturdy support provided by our go-to collars from Dog + Bone.

Identification Tags

While we’ve never had an instance where Topher has gotten off his leash and gotten lost, but that doesn’t mean it could never happen. So, it’s important for your dog to have proper identification when you go out and about. Need more convincing? Here are a few more reasons you should get your dog’s identification in order sooner rather than later.

Front Lead Harness

Up until recently we were using a head halter on walks, rather than a harness. About a month ago, we decided to switch back to using a harness. Why? It all has to do with reactive classes. While Topher accepted and happily wore a head halter without incident on walks at parks and in the neighborhood, he’d become a terror during reactive classes. When stressed, he’d take it all out on the halter, pawing at his muzzle and even scratching himself several times in an attempt to get it off. We tried more positive reinforcement with the halter, to make it as positive an experience as possible, but this did not seem to make much difference.

Currently, Topher’s lunging has diminished pretty significantly. This means the need for the halter as a method to not be knocked off my feet has diminished with it. Over the last month, we transitioned to a harness and Topher has been doing very well with it. Our training group recommended the Freedom harness, and we absolutely love it so far.

Double-Ended Leash

Because of our walking setup, we use double ended leashes—ones that have clips at both ends. We use this Halti leash because it has a ton of different ways you can use it and I’ll happily buy it again if the one we have ever breaks. Our Freedom harness also came with this great double ended leash with a handle and I’m very interested to see how much more control we’ll have with this harness and leash combination in our future classes.

Waste Bags

Can’t leave home without them! We still tend to use grocery bags (after checking for holes of course) but we have a backup roll of actual waste bags if we ever run out of the ones we get from the store.

Pepper Spray

For over two years now I’ve carried pepper spray when I walk Topher by myself. Thankfully, I’ve never needed it. However, it gives me a small sense of security, should a loose dog encounter ever go truly awry. Since the dog attack, we’ve had plenty of encounters with off-leash dogs running up to us; however, through educating myself, learning how to handle Topher, and a little luck, none have led to a scenario where I feel it’s necessary to spray a dog. I still hope I never have to use it.

Microfiber Towel

We call Topher the King of the Slobs because of his ridiculous ability to go from clean to covered in drool in about ten seconds. Nobody wants to greet an outrageously slobbery dog, so I make sure to keep a washcloth-sized towel in my walking bag for quick, on-the-go clean up. It also helps keep Topher camera-ready…most of the time. Sometimes the thought of treats creates more drool than one small towel can defeat.

Plenty of Treats

The final thing you can’t leave home without! At least, you can’t if you’re me and trying to give your dog lots of positive rewards for interacting nicely with the world. We’re lucky to be so well supplied, between treats we get from BarkBox and the ones we make ourselves.

What do you take on dog walks?

10 Stylish Gifts for Dogs & Dog Lovers

10 Dec


that goofy guy a whole lot. He has his own ornament on the tree, his picture is the lock screen image on my phone, and I do own that sweater that says “ask me about my dog.” You could call me a crazy dog lady and not be too far off.

However, there are a lot of gifts for “dog lovers” that are just…too much. Even for me. Though crazy dog lady I may be, I also like things declaring my love for Topher to be just a little more stylish than your average painting of dogs playing poker.

Likewise, one thing that always sticks out like a sore thumb in my house: dog toys. Usually bright and odd colors, torn apart and covered in drool, they’re always the first thing I want to put away when company’s coming over, and they’re the thing my dog wants to pull out and give to that company. People are over! Let’s play with whatever toy is the ugliest, most slobbered on thing we can find!

Today we’re rounding up stylish gifts for dogs or the dog lovers in your life, with just a touch more style. If you don’t have any dogs or dog lovers in your life, you can buy all these gifts for us! Just kidding. Sort of.

  1. Dog Lover Great Dane Breed T-Shirt, from Golden Doodle Goods ($27)
    Wear these shirts as a line art homage to your favorite breeds! Or, if line art isn’t your style, we quite like the more geometric styles of Golden Doodle Goods more recent t-shirt designs as well, like this American Pit Bull shirt, or the ever-popular Pug.
  2. The Odin, from Up Dog Toys ($23)
    There isn’t any toy we could think of that’s got more style and versatility than the Odin, a toy that hit the market this year and fast tracked itself up our list of favorite toys for Topher and Archer. Read our review of the Odin to learn more about this treat ball created with design in mind.
  3. A Bottle of Red Wine Blend, from Chateau La Paws ($12.99)
    Who doesn’t like to unwind on the couch with their dog and a glass of wine at the end of the day? If this sounds like you or a friend’s idea of time well spent, consider gifting a bottle of Chateau La Paws for the holidays. Plus, you’ll be supporting no-kill shelters in the process!
  4. McCadden Bandana, from Billy Wolf ($25)
    For classic, yet fashion forward styles, look no further than Billy Wolf. We love their bandanas, and the McCadden is a classic color palette that’s perfect for all seasons, so you can explore and take walks in style.
  5. The Dogist Book ($17.11)
    Featuring the photography of Elias Weiss Friedman, creator of The Dogist Instagram account, The Dogist book is a tribute to the beloved dogs in our lives. It showcases photos and encounters not seen on the Instagram account, and some truly heartwarming tales.
  6. Do Your Best Hoodie, from Camp Cloon ($32.58)
    For the dog who really wants to get those commands right, they can tell the world they’re trying really hard. I might buy this hoodie for Topher just for the little extra inspiration it might provide us in class.
  7. In Dogs We Trust Print, from Camp Cloon ($12.63)
    Speaking of Camp Cloon products, show off where your true loyalties lie with this map art print. Bill Murray certainly had the right of it in saying, “I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.”
  8. Red Heart Good Karma Rope Dog Toy, from Jax & Bones ($12)
    With so many animals in need of our love and care, maybe you want a gift that will do double duty this season. When you purchase this rope toy for your pup, Jax and Bones donates a 10% of the proceeds to rescue groups to help homeless animals find their forever home. Karma, indeed!
  9. Oaked Bitter Orange Room Spray, from Sydney Hale Co. ($15)
    It’s no secret that we love Sydney Hale Co.’s candles. They’re well designed, smell fantastic, and burn forever. But we know that open flames might not be for everyone, so we were thrilled to find you can now get all their best scents in room spray form!
  10. BarkBox Subscription ($19/month)
    We sing the praises of BarkBox very often, so you may know this tune. However, we think there’s no better gift for a pet parent than this curated box of USA-made goodies. Spice up your dog’s life with toys you might never find in the aisles of that big box pet store.

10 Non-Rawhide Dog Chews for the Holiday Season

3 Dec


During the holidays, our pets always get a little extra love from their “grandparents.” Last year, Topher got the biggest rawhide chew I’d ever seen in my life. I have some mixed feelings about rawhide, but since we were home and able to supervise him we went ahead and let Topher go to town. He loved it, of course, and it took him three or four days to finish it off—with no ill effects that we could see.

Still, it started me thinking about what we can do to steer people towards more healthy options for our pets in the holiday season. Step one? Talking about what you do and don’t feed your dog. We never mentioned our aversion to rawhide chews, so how were my (non-dog-owner) parents to know?

This year, we’ll plan on doing a better job at pointing some different options out, if they want to get Topher some extra goodies over the holidays.

But what about the present we’ll be giving our own dogs this year? Maybe instead of being tempted to buy that giant red, green, and/or white rawhide for your dog to chow down on this Christmas, how about trying some more natural holiday treats and chews? Here are some of our favorite non-rawhide dog chews we’ve tried with our dogs.

Nylabones & Hard Digestible Chews

Hard toys like Nylabones or Benebones are a great option for high intensity chewers, aka dogs that will chew anything and everything, and want to chew all the time. Topher is a heavy chewer like this, so we almost always have some kind of hard chew like this in our rotation. You can get Nylabones in flavors or plain, and there’s a bunch of varieties to choose from.

1. Nylabone Holiday Dura Chew ($14.99)
2. Benebone Rotisserie Chicken Flavored Chew Toy ($11.59)

What’s a Benebone? We reviewed this up and coming line of chews earlier in the year.

Bully Sticks

A good bully stick can last anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes, to several days, depending on your dog’s chewing tendencies. Topher, a heavy chewer, can go through an extra large bully stick in about an hour. Bully sticks are a great extra treat for the holiday season, because they’re just as affordable as your average rawhide!

Plus, over at Best Bully Sticks they have some holiday varieties that are a fun change, even though they don’t come in red or green. We had the opportunity to try a few of these holiday varieties, and they hold up just as well as their regular bully stick counterparts.

3. Bully Stick Candy Cane ($3.59)
4. Bully Stick Crown/Wreath ($6.99)
5. 12 Inch Braided Gullet Stick ($3.49)

Still not convinced? Here’s our full review of Best Bully Sticks’ bully chews.


Antlers are natural chews that can stand up to tons of abuse. They contain no preservatives or additives, yet are still enticing to dogs without artificial ingredients. Some antlers are also a natural source of essential nutrients like calcium, glucosamine, and chondrotin. So for Christmas this year, why not try giving your pup a little piece of Donner or Blitzen to chew on?

6. Large Elk Antler ($12.79)
7. Medium Moose Antler ($9.99)

Never given your dog an antler before? Read our pros and cons roundup of popular chews on the market to see if an antler is the right option for your pup.

Durable Toys

Supplying your dog with one tough, high quality chew toy could reduce your need to buy them other chews by a pretty large margin. Many of these toys are fillable—you just need to add a little incentive, and let your dog go to town. Instead of the rawhide cane, invest in one of these toy options for your heavy chewer at home that’s built to last through more than New Year’s Day.

8. KONG Extreme Dog Toy ($10.42)
9. Zogoflex Tux Toy ($16.50)
10. Zogoflex Hurley Dog Bone ($10.95)

Not sure if Zogoflex will stand up to your extreme chewer? Read our love letter to this tried and true West Paw Design toy line.