A friend asked me about things to bring when they themselves go to training soon so I figured this would be a great place to post this. I ask anyone who refers to this to remember that this is purely personal perspective. Those of you engaged in the 4 Paws for Ability journey will receive paperwork that outlines both what 4 Paws for Ability provides and what you will need at home. Also, while in Ohio, they will give you loan of a food bowl plus a kennel. You return these in the last two days you are there. They will give you food and have treats available at the training center for you to give the dogs.

Here is a list of what we brought to OH for Brooklyn and/or what we purchased while there:

  • A flat collar (traditional dog collar for tags) – we had chosen this long before we knew we were getting Brooklyn and it happened to work for our lady dog. Not a necessity.
  • Travel food and water bowls. We use collapsible bowls like these: Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Rosh Silicone Pet Expandable/Collapsible Travel Bowl with Carabineer for Leash – Size: 1.5 Cups, Color: Green I brought 2 with us and it came in very handy when we needed to stop on the way home for an overnight. They clean easy and hang off my backpack.
  • Backpack/Bag: Those of you who are used to carrying around a lot of stuff for your children/family are used to carrying an accommodating bag. Now is the time to consider how to carry such a bag while managing a child and a dog. Will you need to be hands free? Will you have a stroller or wheelchair on which to place it? I bought a backpack from LL Bean that is phenomenal for all I need, however backpacks are not always for everyone.
  • Toys: Some toys for the dogs can be universal. KONG toys and Nylabones are what is directed as good for the dogs. If you are getting a larger breed dog it is best to err on the side of caution and purchase bones for heavy/powerful chewers. Brooklyn isn’t powerful per se, but she is persistent. They are always clearly labelled. This is one of Brooklyn’s faves:KONG Extreme Dog Toy, Large, Black If you choose to go the Nylabone route be wary of “flexichew” or any almost translucent seeming bones. These are good for mild chewers but retrievers and doodles can go through these like milk bones. You want the opaque, hard versions for strong chewers.
  • Heavy duty work gloves: This applies if your dog is doing tracking work. If not, you can skip this! When you handle the flexi during an outdoor track you WILL need this. I had thinner gloves and burned a finger on the flexi midtrack one day. Learned my lesson good! A suggestion: G & F 5015L-5 Regular Cowhide Leather Palm Gloves with rubberized safety cuff Large, 5-Pair pack – The reinforced palm and thumb are critical. They do have gloves you can use while there but you’re going to need them at some point anyway.
  • Poop bags and dispenser: They will provide you some but you have to go back to the hotel at some point. It’s super convenient to hang the dispenser off your leash. That way, you always have them with you. I also keep a spare roll in the backpack just in case. We use these: 900-Count Earth Rated® Lavender-Scented Dog Waste Bags, 60 Refill Rolls (no, I did not buy 900, there’s other options 😉

A side note: All links in this post are Amazon Associates links and contribute to the J-Bear and Brooklyn Necessities Fund ™. Such links give small amounts of Amazon credit when used to make a purchase from. 

There are probably a thousand niceties I am forgetting but honestly, this is a great start. Fellow past families, anything you’d like to add? Comment here or on Facebook, I can add to the list continually!

Other things you should know:

  • If you forget anything, there’s a store that has your back nearby. The only thing you might have a slight struggle with would be medical or incontinence supplies but most families dealing with that have themselves covered. There’s also several pharmacies near the hotels and a large hospital right near the mall in which we do public access. Dayton Children’s is not too far off too.
  • All weather gear. Unless you’re in the heart of winter or depths of summer during your class, weather will vary wildly. I went from winter gear to rain gear to no gear but plain clothes through the course of our class. Pack layers that work well together and make sure you have at least two pairs of shoes you don’t mine getting muddy/wet/possibly poop bombed. Layers for the kids are great too and even just inexpensive ponchos for family members hiding during tracking practice can work a treat.
  • Make sure the people you are rooming with are people with whom you have a strong relationship and who are comfortable looking after your child in every respect. If they are not willing to change diapers, to dispense discipline as your family handles discipline or maintain your child’s needs class is going to be twice as hard for you. Two weeks in an environment like this tests any relationship, so if you’re not going in strong you’re going to get frazzled. Reduce your own stress, prepare everyone going beforehand to be all hands in and aware that sometimes, whoever is the primary handler is going to need to be fully focused elsewhere and not helping them through. This doesn’t mean you’re unable to do anything for your child, you just won’t be able to do kids 24/7 as you may at home. This was hard on J-Bear. He’s never shared me before, so we’re learning.
  • Pee and poop can and likely will happen in public at some point. You’re new, your dog is young and you’re learning each other’s language. Make sure you have a means to clean it up. We used a diaper, a poop bag and wipes to make it like Brooklyn had never lost control of her pea sized bladder. It’s since grown to roughly the size of a golf ball 😉
  • Stuffed animals can be a blessing and a curse. If your child is very, very stuffed animal oriented you’re going to learn very, very quickly about distraction training. J is after all very attached to Miss Kitty, and Miss Kitty has zero back up waiting in case something ever happens. We’ve tried, it never works. Brooklyn went after her once and we started distraction training with stuffed animals on the spot. It’s a very difficult process, especially when you have a very young child, but one you need to be aware of. If stuffed animals aren’t a big deal in your home you might be best leaving them behind when you come to training.
  • There will be dog hair everywhere. If you’re bothered by this, start getting ready for it as of this post. Seriously. You cannot escape it. It will be on your clothes, in your car, in your food…. It will be everywhere, and you oddly will feel so happy to see it once you see your dog and child meet.
  • You are going to meet a group of diverse families with children who have a wide range of needs. You will learn more in these two weeks about humanity than you might ever learn again in your life. You will see families gel in ways you think you only see on TV. I saw a family without a word rally around their daughter as she suffered a seizure, each fitting together like a piece of a perfect puzzle to make sure the daughter was beautifully looked after. I learned more about seizure disorders in those two weeks than I have in my whole life until this point. I saw the broad spectrum of autism displayed before my eyes and saw what Fetal Alcohol Syndrome really means. It was incredible. The children and families will cement a special place in your heart, which will grow exponentially from the experience.
  • The trainers are as invested as you are. They want your success as much as you do. They are there for you. They will help you with anything you need in terms of working with your dog. It does not matter if you’ve been around animals your whole life or never been in the same room with a dog alone before… They have got your back, as do your fellow families.

This experience is intense to say the least. I likely left out a lot, so this post may see a lot of edits. I hope this can help those looking forward to their training classes!