We get asked quite frequently about the kit we use when we’re out and about training or playing with the dogs. So here are some of the things we find most useful, as well as how can get your hands (or paws) on them.
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While both the dogs wear a collar, with a tag showing my contact details, I put them in a harness when we’re out and about. This means that I can attach their leads to their body, rather than to a collar around their neck. And if one of them needs a boost to get over a wall or a stile, I can just grab the harness and give it a heave.
Our go-to harness for both dogs is the Julius-K9 IDC Powerharness, which is great because (a) it’s really sturdy and (b) to put it on the dog you just slip it over their head and buckle the belt that goes below their tummy. The harness also has a useful handle and an elastic loop to attach a torch or glow stick. They’re available online from Julius-K9, but I’ve started to see them in various pet shops, too.
Molly and Ozzy both have a day-glow yellow harness for training sessions and for evening walks as the nights draw in. When it’s dark, I attach an EzyDog adventure light to each dog’s harness, so that I (and other people) can see them. And for Ozzy’s search dog training, I attach an ‘in training’ patch to the velcro on her harness, so that passers-by know that she’s not just running around unsupervised.
Both dogs also have a black IDC ‘Stealth’ Powerharness, which is like the regular Powerharness but has a slightly lower profile and isn’t day-glow yellow, so doesn’t make them look so much like a guide dog. It does, though, make them look like they’ve just escaped from Navy Seal training, but the harnesses are well-made and don’t hinder the dogs’ movement.
For running, Molly wears her regular Powerharness but Ozzy wears a Non-Stop Ultra Harness, which is a lot lighter and doesn’t get in the way when she leaps over things or runs through dense undergrowth. (Molly is a bit less of a hooligan.) We got ours from K9 Trailtime, which specialises in kit for dogs – and owners – that run. (If you need advice on what kit you need, they’re really helpful.)
We use various different leads for different activities. Our ‘everyday’ leads are Non-Stop ‘Strong Leashes’, which are 1m long and are made of a soft material that doesn’t rub your hands raw. They also have a reflective strip along them, which helps with visibility at night.
I find one-metre leads a little short for more vigorous walks, though, so we also have a couple of 1.2 metre leads from Julius-K9. And I keep in my ‘search dog’ rucksack a two-metre lead that has various clips and rings that allow me to convert it to a range of lengths, in case we need to search somewhere that Ozzy can’t go off-lead.
While we did use a ten-metre long-line when Molly and Ozzy were young and didn’t have such a good recall, we never use retractable leads. I know some people find them useful, but they always seem to be more trouble than they’re worth.
When we’re doing watersports, I want Molly and Ozzy to be able to spend their time enjoying themselves. And so, while they can both swim extremely well, whether we’re canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding or just mucking around in the sea, they both wear Baltic Buoyancy Aids. They’re available from lots of marine chandleries.
There’s a broad range of dog lifejackets and buoyancy aids available, so the key is to find one that fits your dog well and that doesn’t get in the way when they’re swimming. Molly and Ozzy hardly seem to notice that they’ve got theirs on. They also make the dogs a lot easier to see when they’re in the water.
In the car
It’s important that, when we go anywhere in the car, everyone travels safely. For us, this means that the dogs are either strapped in securely on the back seat (especially if we’re in my Jeep, which has a tiny boot) or riding in the back of our larger estate car.
In the Jeep, I put both dogs in their harnesses and attach them to the seatbelt sockets with a special webbing attachment, which hooks onto the harness with one end and into the seatbelt socket with the other.
For anything other than short trips, though, we take the estate car. When we just had Molly, we used a Travall dog guard to stop her from leaping over onto the back seat and a divider to split the boot into two, so that we could take luggage as well as a Labrador.
Now that we have two dogs, and to make it easier to get the dogs out of the car safely, we have a TransK9 ‘double cage‘, which is a secure box with two doors. This means that the dogs are secure even once we’ve opened the boot. It allows us to take out one dog at a time in a controlled manner, rather than just opening the boot and hoping for the best.
We’ve got through a lot of tennis balls. And the only ones that have come anywhere close to standing the test of time are Chuckit! Ultra Balls. They come in various sizes, though ‘medium’ is regular tennis ball sized. And they float. Chuckit! also do a squeaky version, which we use as Ozzy’s reward when we’re doing ‘search dog’ training.
The downside with tennis balls is that, if you’re playing on a slope, they roll away. So for search-dog rewards when we’re working on a hillside, I carry a Ruffwear Huck-a-Cone, which can be thrown around but stays pretty much where it lands.
Responsible dog owners pick up after their dogs. But we don’t always want to spend the next hour or so wandering around holding a bag of poo. So I was delighted when I discovered the Dicky Bag, which is a small neoprene bag that you can clip onto your belt or the outside of your rucksack and use to store bagged poo until you next pass a bin. It even has a holder in the lid to store spare poo bags. It’s a great idea and every dog owner I’ve ever shown mine to has gone on to buy one. Get them online direct from the people in Cornwall who make them.
I’ll add to this list as things come to mind. And sorry for the lack of pictures. I’ll try to remember to take some and to add them here.
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