The best dog buttons and training program to teach your pet to communicate

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Speech pathologists use recordable buttons to communicate with nonverbal individuals.
  • These buttons can also help dogs and other animals communicate their needs and wants.
  • Read more below about the best dog buttons and training program to teach your dog how to “talk.”

Cognitive scientists and speech pathologists have long used pressable augmentative and alternative communication buttons – each representing an action, place, or object – to communicate with nonverbal individuals. One pioneering speech therapist, Christina Hunger, discovered dogs can use the method, too. By pressing buttons onto which a word or sound has been recorded, a dog can learn to “speak” in simple phrases like “play” and “outside.” Give them enough buttons and they can communicate their thoughts on almost everything. Get started with a beginner’s set of four to six buttons. For this guide, we’ve selected the best options, including budget, fully customizable, and light-up versions.

Here are the best dog buttons in 2021

The best dog buttons overall

Fluent Pet Get Started Kit dog buttons
A dog button system developed by a cognitive scientist

Fluent Pet’s Get Started Kit comes with six buttons and three nonslip tiles for organizing words and actions.

What we like: Fully customizable, comes with tiles to keep buttons organized, batteries included

Fluent Pet’s Get Started Kit was designed by a cognitive scientist to foster better communication between verbal and nonverbal individuals. The battery-operated system works for dogs, too, as proven by Bunny, a canine learner who has amassed hundreds of thousands of social media followers. The kit comes with everything you need to teach your dog, including six buttons with microphones for recording words and 67 stickers to identify the buttons visually.

Valli Parthasarathy, board certified veterinary behaviorist at Synergy Behavior Solutions in Portland, Oregon, recommends starting with words that can be clearly paired with something your dog regularly sees or does. “More abstract concepts such as emotions and time would be more challenging to teach,” she said. The buttons fit into three nonslip hexagonal tiles: one for actions, one for objects, and one for places. The tiles can be put together in multiple configurations and easily disassembled or added to. The kit arrives ready-to-use with batteries and a starter guide.

The best budget dog buttons

learning resources dog buttons
Budget-friendly buttons to get you and your dog started

Learning Resources Recordable Answer Buzzers are an affordable way to begin teaching a dog to use their words.

What we like: Includes four buttons in different colors, easy to press, comes with activity guide

Learning Resources Recordable Answer Buzzers, a tool that speech pathologists use to communicate with nonverbal individuals, are an affordable way to begin teaching a dog to “talk.” How quickly they learn depends on a variety of factors, said Sara Scott, a professional dog trainer in Oakland, California. “A dog with a long history of training may pick it up really quickly, but a dog who is green might take considerably longer. It also depends on how efficient you are as a trainer and how much work you’re putting in.”

This set comes with four easy-to-press 3-inch-diameter buttons in four different colors. Each button is powered by two AAA batteries and can record up to seven seconds of sound. Batteries are not included, but the set arrives with an activity guide to help you get started.

The best customizable dog buttons

talking tiles dog buttons
A set that can be fully customized with sound and pictures

Talking Products Talking Tiles are fully customizable with transparent covers and up to 80 seconds of recording time.

What we like: Fully customizable, can record sound using a computer or smartphone, includes six buttons in different colors

According to Scott, you can either teach your dog new words one at a time or work on a few words with different meanings simultaneously. Talking Products Talking Tiles comes with six buttons that can be fully customized with audio messages and images. Each 4-inch-wide hexagonal button holds up to 80 seconds of audio recorded with a built-in microphone or via a smartphone or computer using the audio-input jack. Further customize each button by adding a picture or symbol underneath the transparent cover. Each button runs on three AAA batteries, which must be purchased separately.

The best light-up dog buttons

Ritioner's Learning Answer Buzzers dog buttons
An excellent choice for dogs who are hard of hearing

Galapara’s LED Voice Recorder Buttons play sound and light up simultaneously each time they are pressed.

What we like: Light-up buttons, easy to press, records up to 30 seconds of sound

Galpara’s LED Voice Recorder Buttons are durable plastic buttons that glow with LED light when pressed. While this feature can be a useful cue for teaching any dog to communicate, it may be especially helpful for those who are hard of hearing. A visual signal like a light should work the same way to help a deaf dog to communicate as sound does for hearing dogs, said Scott.

The flash of the light can be paired with an action like going outside or playing with a toy. For those that can hear, these four differently colored, easy-to-press buttons can also record up to 30 seconds of sound. Each buzzer runs on two AAA batteries, which are sold separately.

The best potty button

Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0
An indoor or outdoor potty button with 38 bell tones and 4 volume settings

The Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0 works indoors or out so your dog can communicate when they need to potty or when they want to come in.

What we like: Easy to press, 38 customizable bell tones, can be used indoors or out, 90-day money-back guarantee

Teach your dog how to communicate when they need to go outside with the Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0. The bell consists of a plug-in receiver and an easy-to-press activator button. The 2-inch-diameter wireless activator button can be placed anywhere within 1,000 feet of the receiver using a 3M adhesive strip. The water-resistant button can even be placed outside for dogs who need to let you know when they’re ready to come in. To adjust the sound of the bell, choose from four volumes and 38 different ring tones.

The Mighty Paw Smart Bell also comes with a training guide to help you get started and a self-charging battery is built into the device. Just be sure that you are responsive to the bell after your dog learns to use it. “Once your dog understands that they can ask to go outside, you need to make sure that you prioritize meeting your dog’s needs,” said Scott.

The best dog button training program

Talk to the beans website
A program that offers step-by-step instruction, training videos, and a member forum

The Talk To The Beans training program teaches guardians and their pets how to communicate using buttons.

What we like: 12 training modules with instructional videos, a members-only forum, additional resources

If you love the idea of dog buttons but aren’t quite sure how to get started, Talk To The Beans will show you how. The online speech button training program provides 12 training modules that include simple, easy-to-follow explanations and videos to guide you through each step, from choosing your first word to building a vocabulary. In the forum, members can ask questions, share experiences, and troubleshoot problems.

The program, which can be applied to any style of dog button, doesn’t just work for dogs. Cats, birds, guinea pigs and horses can also learn to use buttons using the Talk to the Beans method during daily 10- to 15-minute training sessions. The website also offers additional resources, peer-reviewed research on speech button training, and links to button users on social media.

FAQs about dog buttons

Do dog buttons work?

Yes. A dog can learn to communicate using buttons programmed with words.


Can dogs talk using buttons?

Yes, sort of. A dog can learn how to communicate using programmable buttons but their ability to “talk” is not the same as ours, Pathasarathy told Insider Reviews. “It is unlikely that dogs understand human language in the same way that we understand human language,” she said. “Dogs learn that certain words are associated with certain activities, situations or items.”


How many words can a dog learn? 

Current research suggests that the average dog can learn around 160 words.


Can cats learn to use dog buttons?

Yes, though no formal research has been done on the topic. “Cats are as good at making associations as dogs so it stands to reason that they can also learn to use the buttons and associate them with certain situations or activities,” explained Parthasarathy.


Do dogs need buttons to learn words?

No. If you’ve trained your dog to sit, come, or stay, you’ve already taught them to recognize human language. “Dogs also learn words and phrases that are associated with certain outcomes such as [when] ‘do you want to go out’ equals being let outside or ‘dinnertime’ means food will be put in the bowl,” said Parthasarathy.

How do I teach my dog to talk using dog buttons?

Before your pet can learn how to communicate using dog buttons, they have to learn how to push the button with their paw or nose, said Scott. Begin by recording a word like “treat” on a button. Press the button to make the word sound, then immediately reward your dog.

Repeat this 10 to 20 times so your dog associates the pressing of the button with the treat, then wait in front of the button for your dog to begin exploring it. If they make a movement toward the button, even if they don’t manage to activate it, quickly press the button yourself and reward them with a treat. Eventually, they’ll hit the button on their own. Each time they do, immediately reward them with a treat. When you’re not training, put the button away so that your dog doesn’t become frustrated when pushing it doesn’t result in a treat.

Once your dog understands the concept of pushing the button, you can begin pairing it with objects and actions that appear in their everyday life. “Some of the easiest behaviors to teach first would be patterns of routines you already have set in your life,” explained Scott. Some good words to start with include “outside,” “food,” and “play”.

Both repetition and reinforcement are essential to your dog learning a new word. If you want to teach the word “outside,” for example, record the word on a button and place it by the door. Ask your dog to press the button, then immediately open the door to let them out. If your dog loves to go out, the action acts as positive reinforcement. But, if it’s not an activity they love, offer them a treat after they’ve gone through the door. Repeat the sequence every time you go to let your dog out. In time, they will understand that pushing the button opens the door and will begin to do it on their own.

While it’s much harder for dogs to learn more abstract concepts like emotions, dog buttons can be used to address some problem behaviors, according to Scott and Parthasarathy. “Using these buttons can potentially be helpful in cases where a dog uses an undesired behavior such as barking at their guardian to obtain something they want,” said Parthasarathy. The button doesn’t have to be pressed by the dog in order to be useful, said Scott. A shy dog who’s startled by sudden movement, for example, might appreciate a warning that you are about to stand up from your desk. Pressing a button that says something like “up” before you stand lets them know what’s about to happen.

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The 5 best dog collars in 2021, according to a professional dog trainer

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best dog collars are durable, comfortable, and will keep their looks over time.
  • A harness is a safer option for walking a dog, but a collar is important for attaching ID tags.
  • We tested and researched a variety of dog collars, including nylon, leather, and martingale collars.

The primary function of a collar is not to walk your dog but to keep them safe. In an emergency situation, the ID tags on your dog’s collar are the quickest and easiest way for someone to get your dog back to you.

The best dog collars are those that are comfortable enough for everyday wear but durable enough to stand up to your dog’s biggest adventures. For those who prefer not to use a harness for walks, the collar must also have strong hardware and fit well without chafing when attached to a leash. A dog’s physical safety is a crucial consideration as well – at the end of this guide, we discuss the risks of using prong and choke collars, which we do not recommend.

To choose the best dog collars on the market, I’ve combined what I’ve learned over a decade of experience with dozens of collars as a certified professional dog trainer with the advice of Melissa Bain, DVM, a veterinary behaviorist and professor of clinical animal behavior at UC Davis, and Carlo Siracusa, DVM, a veterinary behaviorist and associate professor of clinical behavior medicine at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

These are the best dog collars in 2021

The best dog collar overall

French bulldog wearing the Lupine Eco best dog collar overall

Featuring a lifetime guarantee and eco-friendly materials, the Lupine Pet Eco Dog Collar stands out for both its durability and sustainability.

Pros: High-quality hardware, comes in three widths, sizes cover necks from 8 to 28 inches, nine colors, made of recycled materials, lifetime warranty even in the case of chewing, affordable

Cons: Lacks padding and reflective materials

In the collar department, most dogs need nothing more than an attractive, functional collar made with high-quality materials. The Lupine Pet Eco Dog Collar has that in spades, and that’s not all: This collar is also made from recycled plastic bottles and comes with a warranty that protects your investment for life.

From its look and feel, you’d never know that the Lupine Pet Eco Dog Collar was made out of plastic waste. I like that it is both soft and strong while remaining attractive, with a two-tone woven texture available in nine colors. This collar comes in three widths (1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1 inch) and two sizes, appropriate for necks from 8 to 28 inches in circumference.

The Lupine Pet Eco Dog Collar is constructed with premium hardware and the custom-designed buckle made by YKK, the world’s largest zipper manufacturer, remains easy to buckle and unbuckle over time. The welded steel D-ring for holding tags, and clipping a leash if needed, is sewn firmly into the material. The collar comes with a lifetime guarantee, but chances are you won’t need it unless your dog turns it into a chew toy.

LupinePet Eco Dog Collar doesn’t get fancy with extras. It doesn’t have padding, lacks reflective materials, and there’s no way to have your dog’s name and phone number stitched into the strap. But for a basic dog collar that will last you a lifetime, you can’t go wrong with this product.

The best budget dog collar

small dog wearing budget-friendly blueberry pet dog collar

The Blueberry Pet Classic Nylon Dog Collar is an attractive, well-designed collar available in a range of colors and sizes.

Pros: Made from nylon with high-density webbing, buckles made from eco-friendly plastic, available in many colors and styles, metal D-ring is chrome-plated

Cons: May not withstand heavy chewing, the material may fray over time, may hold odors

If all you need is a basic, attractive collar that will hold up to everyday wear, the Blueberry Pet Classic Nylon Dog Collar fits the bill. Blueberry’s Classic Collar is made from durable nylon with high-density webbing, strong buckles made of eco-friendly plastic, and a metal D-ring coated in chrome. 

Though it won’t last forever the way our top pick will, this is a well-constructed collar. The company claims they’ve done over 600 laboratory tests to ensure the quality of their collars, and I haven’t found mine to stretch out over time, though some people have experienced fraying over time. 

The Blueberry Classic Nylon Dog Collar comes in a wide range of colors and patterns, from bright pink to subdued green and flowers to plaids. Matching leashes are also available. The Blueberry Classic can also be embroidered with your pet’s name and phone number for an additional four dollars.

This is a great choice for dog guardians on a budget who want their pup’s gear to look great.

The best leather dog collar

feminine looking person and a corgi wearing Perri's Padded Leather Dog Collar

Perri’s Padded Leather Dog Collar combines style and function for a comfortable, handsome collar.

Pros: Handmade, genuine leather and padded lambskin lining for comfort, durable stainless steel or solid brass hardware, resistant to wear and tear, available in a wide variety of colors and five sizes

Cons: Buckle and D-ring may be too close together on some collars, requires leather care

Leather collars offer a level of durability that nylon can’t provide. A good leather collar just gets softer and more supple with use. As long as your dog doesn’t turn it into a chew toy, a well-made one like Perri’s Padded Leather Dog Collars could last a pretty long time.

Perri’s leather collars are handmade by Amish craftspeople and lined with lambskin padding. I love that they look like luxury items, without the price tag. Even with extra padding, the collar doesn’t feel overly stiff, which is always a concern with leather products.

Perri’s collars are also surprisingly one-of-a-kind. They come in 42 different color combinations, including black or brown on the outside lined with bright, metallic, or patterned padding. The hardware on Perri’s Padded Leather Dog Collars is made of solid brass or stainless steel. Because it’s a handmade product, Perri’s collars occasionally have flaws, namely the buckle and D-ring being placed too close together to easily attach a leash if needed. You can return the collar for a replacement, however. Sizing can also run smaller or larger than advertised. 

Like any leather item, without semi-regular cleaning with a leather-care product, Perri’s collars will show some cracking and wear. But if you take care of this collar, it will take care of your dog, giving them years of comfort.

The best martingale dog collar

german shepherd wearing best martingale collar from If It Barks

Made with heavy-duty materials, the well-made If It Barks Martingale keeps dogs from escaping their collar.

Pros: Nonslip design prevents dogs from escaping, handmade in the US, made with extra durable nylon, the hardware is nickel-plated steel, size can be customized, available in two widths and up to 12 colors, can add a buckle for easy removal

Cons: May not withstand heavy chewing, the width may be too large for very small dogs

The If It Barks Martingale Collar is a well-made martingale constructed with heavy-duty materials. The brand has sewn its collar out of two layers of extra durable nylon webbing and added nickel-plated steel hardware to stand up to daily use. One of my favorite things about If It Barks is that if your pup has a neck too small or too large to fit into their standard sizes (small, medium, and large), they’ll customize a collar for them. 

I’ve found If It Barks Martingales to be much sturdier than the average martingale without feeling too stiff or inflexible. Unlike some collars of this kind, you can opt to add a buckle to this collar so that you don’t need to slip it over the head of a sensitive or hand-shy dog. However, it may not withstand heavy chewing and may also be overpowering for more petite dogs.

A martingale collar, or limited-slip collar, prevents dogs from escaping by tightening enough to keep the head from fitting through the loop of the collar. Unlike a choke collar, a martingale will never tighten more than a couple of inches and should not cause discomfort. On a dog that pulls frequently, a martingale, like any collar, could put dangerous pressure on the trachea and neck, according to Siracusa.

And, if you have a skittish, noise-sensitive, or Houdini dog, there’s always a risk that they will escape their collar. Some dogs, especially those with narrow heads like greyhounds and whippets, or with big, muscular necks, can lose their collars without even trying. “For dogs with relatively little difference between the head and neck diameter, a martingale is a good choice,” Bain added.

The best headcollar

person walking a dog wearing PetSafe Gentle Leader Headcollar

With a padded noseband, the Petsafe Gentle Leader helps to curb pulling without using a body harness or causing pain.

Pros: Padded noseband, sold in five sizes and eight colors

Cons: Dangerous for over-aroused dogs, dog must be desensitized to headcollar before use

A headcollar isn’t so much a collar as it is a harness for a dog’s head. Designed on the same principle as a halter for a horse, headcollars help to alleviate pulling in dogs by putting a walker’s control at the front of their pet instead of at their strongest point at their back.

One of the biggest problems with a headcollar is that chafing on the nose can occur, even in dogs that walk calmly. That’s one of the reasons we selected the Petsafe Gentle Leader Headcollar, which has a noseband padded with a layer of neoprene. It’s also our top pick for the best no-pull headcollar in our guide to the best harnesses for dogs.

Headcollars have their limitations. Bain advises against using a headcollar for a dog who is difficult to control and lunges on walks. For calmer dogs, however, Bain says headcollars “are very effective in helping to control dogs that pull, and can be the foot-in-the-door to help train dogs to walk nicely on leash.”

Bain prefers the affordable Gentle Leader “for its ease in fitting and use.” Indeed, this headcollar has only two straps, one around the nose and one around the ears, the latter of which is adjustable. The noseband attaches to the leash with a slip-loop to naturally size to your dog’s snout.

The Gentle Leader comes in five sizes and eight colors, and your dog will require desensitization before they are comfortable wearing it. But if you’re looking for an alternative to a harness for a dog that pulls on a leash, this headcollar is a good option for dogs that are not easily over-aroused.

What else we considered

a dog wearing the Coastal Pet New Earth Eco Friendly Soy Dog Collar
  • Coastal Pet New Earth Eco-Friendly Soy Dog Collar: This has been one of my personal favorites in the budget category for years for its softness, pliability, and durability. Made from soy fibers, the Coastal Pet New Earth Collar doesn’t retain smells and washes easily in the laundry. It was narrowly nudged out of our top budget spot due to the relative lack of colors, only 12 muted tones compared to the Blueberry Classic Dog Collar’s 22 (plus all the patterned options), and because pricing goes up for some sizes and shades. But if you’re looking for a good option for under $5, this may be the one for you.
  • The Company of Animals Halti Head Collar: The thing I like best about the Halti Head Collar is its additional safety tether, which connects the halter to your dog’s collar and will help you maintain control if a strap breaks or your dog worms out of the device. Like the Gentle Leader, the Halti also has a padded noseband and additional straps on the side of the snout to help balance out the halter and keep it in place.

Safety considerations for dog collars

Collars that add pressure or pain to your dog’s neck on walks, usually to prevent them from pulling away, should be avoided. “I do not recommend owners use prong or pinch collars on their dogs,” said Bain.

Even martingale-style collars can be dangerous for dogs that pull frequently because of the pressure they put on the neck. “It can cause problems to the trachea, it can cause problems to the bone structure of the neck, and then it can cause problems to the circulation that goes and comes from the brain,” Siracusa explained. 

Because of their design, some collars can also be dangerous when left on a dog without supervision. The martingale collar, for example, which has an extra loop of material that can get caught on things, should be removed after the walk is over, according to Whole Dog Journal. The head collar, too, should only be worn for walks. “Flat collars should be worn by dogs to hang their ID tags,” said Bain. She added they are relatively safe to keep on 24/7 as well.

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The 5 best flea and tick treatments for dogs in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Flea and tick medicines for dogs include topical spot-on treatments, oral preventives, and collars.
  • The best flea medicine for dogs is Advantage Multi, which treats and prevents more parasites than other topical products.
  • Before starting your dog or puppy on any flea control medicine, consult your veterinarian.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

There are many safe and effective flea control products for dogs, either available with a veterinarian’s prescription or sold over the counter. Many products kill and prevent other parasites, too, including ticks, heartworms, intestinal parasites, mites, and biting flies.

Choosing a safe and effective flea and tick medicine for dogs can be complicated. There are many products available and they’re all a little different. My background taught me a lot about parasite prevention and the various flea control products available today. I spent eight years working as a veterinary assistant in animal hospitals followed by two more decades as an editor for magazines in the pet and veterinary fields. Over the years, I’ve treated countless dogs for fleas, including my own dogs.

For this guide, I used the quick product reference guide published by the independent, nonprofit Companion Animal Parasite Council to research products. I selected products based on safety, the number of parasites targeted, products’ ease of use, and the minimum age the product can be used. Jump to the end of this guide to read more about our selection criteria. For additional guidance about treating and preventing fleas on dogs, I consulted with two veterinarians.

Before choosing a flea preventive for your dog, talk to your veterinarian who can advise you on what type of product might be best depending on your dog’s temperament and lifestyle, and what parasites are most prevalent in your location.

These are the best flea and tick medicines for dogs in 2021

The best topical flea preventive overall

Advantage multi for dogs best spot-on flea medicine overall

With just one easy monthly application, Advantage Multi for Dogs treats, controls, and prevents more parasites than any other topical product. 

Pros: Kills and prevents six types of parasites including heartworm, once-monthly treatment, easy to administer, safe for use in puppies 7 weeks and older and weighing at least 3 pounds

Cons: Does not kill ticks, not labeled for use in puppies younger than 7 weeks or breeding, pregnant, or nursing dogs

No preventive covers every single parasite that could harm your dog, but Advantage Multi for Dogs comes close. Advantage Multi is a topical spot-on product that contains the active ingredients imidacloprid and moxidectin to prevent flea infestations by killing adult fleas before they can lay eggs. It also prevents heartworm, mange mites, and three intestinal parasites: roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. As with all medications that prevent heartworm, your dog needs a heartworm test prior starting Advantage Multi and annually thereafter.

Advantage Multi is easy to use: Just apply every 30 days to the dog’s skin at the base of the neck between the shoulder blades. The liquid medication is absorbed and dries within hours. Unlike with some of the other topical preventives, you do not need to wear gloves to apply Advantage Multi. If you get the product on your hands, simply wash with soap and water. For the first 30 minutes after application, keep dogs from licking the application site, either on themselves or other treated dogs in the house. Children should not touch the application site for two hours after application.

Advantage Multi does not prevent ticks. If ticks are a concern and you wish to use a topical, consider another product like Frontline Plus for Dogs, Bravecto Topical for Dogs, or K9 Advantix II.

The best OTC topical flea preventive

Frontline plus for dogs is best OTC flea medicine

Available without a prescription, Frontline Plus for Dogs kills adult fleas, flea eggs, flea larvae, ticks, and chewing lice on contact.

Pros: Kills adult fleas, flea eggs, flea larvae, all life stages of ticks and chewing lice for one month; safe for use in dogs and puppies at least 8 weeks of age that weigh at least 5 pounds; safe for use in breeding, pregnant and nursing dogs; fleas don’t have to bite for it to work

Cons: Not recommended for puppies younger than 8 weeks of age; does not prevent any parasites other than fleas, ticks, and chewing lice

Frontline Plus is our top nonprescription recommendation because it kills ticks and fleas, controls flea infestations, and kills chewing lice, all with one easy application. When used primarily for flea control, each dose of Frontline Plus lasts up to three months. If ticks or biting lice are a concern, apply it monthly.

Frontline Plus been used and trusted by pet owners for more than two decades. Parasites die on contact — they do not have to bite your dog for Frontline Plus to work. Its active ingredients, fipronil and S-methoprene, work together to kill parasites and break the flea life cycle. Fipronil kills adult fleas and ticks. S-methoprene prevents flea eggs, larvae, and pupae from developing. Completely breaking the flea life cycle can sometimes take up to a month of consistent use, especially if your dog is heavily infested, because flea eggs can be in your home but not on your dog.

Frontline Plus is easy to use. Squeeze the entire contents of the tube onto one spot to your dog’s skin between the shoulder blades. The liquid medication spreads across your dog’s skin, then is stored in the oil glands. It distributes itself continuously via the hair follicles.

The best oral flea control product

simparica trio is the best dog flea pill

Simparica TRIO treats, controls, and prevents more parasites than any other oral product, offering a full month of protection with one easy-to-give flavored pill. 

Pros: Protects against more parasites than any other oral product, once-monthly treatment, safe for dogs and puppies 8 weeks of age and older weighing at least 2.8 pounds, easy to administer alone or in food

Cons: Not labeled for use in puppies younger than 8 weeks or breeding, pregnant, or nursing dogs

Our pick for best oral flea control product for dogs is Simparica TRIO, a chewable tablet that is fast-acting and kills more parasites than any other oral product. Simparica TRIO starts to work within four hours and kills 100% of adult fleas on dogs within eight hours.

Choosing between an oral or topical flea control product is tough for some dog owners. There are pros and cons to each type of product. In some cases, an oral preventive is a better choice. For instance, some dogs with sensitive skin can’t tolerate a spot-on. 

“Oral products have the benefit of broad coverage to reach every spot of skin without the chance of the product being washed off,” Crumley said. “Rarely, a pet will have mild intestinal upset with any oral product. If that occurs then that pet will do better with one of the system-absorbed topical choices.”

The liver-flavored flavored chewable tablets can be given with or without food once a month. In addition to providing a full month of protection against the most parasites of any other oral product, Simparica TRIO is also labeled for use in some of the youngest and smallest puppies and dogs.

Simparica TRIO contains three ingredients: sarolaner, moxidectin, and pyrantel. It requires a prescription from your veterinarian, as well as a current negative heartworm test. Simparica TRIO should be used with caution in dogs with a history of neurologic disorders such as seizures.

The best flea control product for young puppies

Capstar is the best flea treatment for puppies

Capstar for Dogs is safe for puppies as young as 4 weeks old and starts killing fleas within 30 minutes.

Pros: Safe for puppies 4 weeks of age and older weighing at least 2 pounds, safe for pregnant and nursing dogs, fast-acting treatment starts killing adult fleas within 30 minutes, easy to administer alone or in food, can be used with other flea control products, available without a prescription

Cons: Does not offer long-term protection, does not kill flea larvae or flea eggs, does not prevent any parasites other than fleas

Available without a prescription, Capstar for Dogs is the only flea control product safe for puppies as young as 4 weeks and weighing at least 2 pounds. With other topical and oral flea control product, puppies must be at least 8 weeks old and sometimes older. 

Fleas should be eliminated as quickly as possible for heavily infested dogs, especially young puppies. The active ingredient in Capstar, nitenpyram, works within 30 minutes and kills greater than 90% of adult fleas on dogs in as little as four hours.

Capstar’s protection against fleas lasts only 24 hours, but it is safe to give daily if necessary. This is helpful for young puppies that might not be old enough to use an oral or spot-on product that offers long-term protection. Owners should follow up with a flea control product that offers a month or more of protection once the puppy is old enough.  

The best flea collar

best flea collar for dogs: seresto

The Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs offers eight months of protection against fleas and ticks in all life stages.

A March 2021 investigation by USA Today reported 1,700 animal deaths and other adverse reactions linked to Seresto flea collars. It’s unknown if the EPA-approved pesticides used in the collar caused these incidents and this story is still developing. Always speak to your veterinarian if you have concerns before using a product and only purchase Seresto collars from authorized retailers.

Pros: 8 months of continuous protection against adult fleas, flea larvae, four species of ticks, chewing lice, and mange mites; lightweight and easy to wear; adjustable for dogs of all sizes; parasites don’t have to bite for it to work; safe for puppies 7 weeks of age and older

Cons: Not recommended for puppies younger than 7 weeks of age, children should not play with the collar, adjusting size can be tricky

Flea collars were once prevailing options for flea control, but most traditional flea collars don’t offer the same level of protection as topical and oral preventives. One noteworthy flea collar is the Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs, which uses sustained-release technology to provide eight months of continuous protection against adult fleas, flea larvae, four species of ticks, chewing lice, and mange mites.

In general, topical spot-on preventives and oral preventives are the easiest and most effective form of flea control for dogs, but the Seresto collar might be a good option in certain situations.

Lay said that traditional flea and tick collars are generally not very effective, and she has even seen allergic reactions and other issues with some of them. However, she has found the Seresto collar to be both safe and effective.

“I personally used a Seresto collar with my dog for years when we lived in Chattanooga—hiking in the mountains and camping amongst the ticks,” Dr. Lay said. “I often recommend it to clients who have pets that don’t tolerate topical or oral flea/tick preventives.”

The collar is nongreasy, odor-free, lightweight, and adjustable for dogs of all sizes. It can be worn alongside your dog’s regular collar and has a two-step safety system to ensure your dog will not be harmed if the collar gets caught on something.

The Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs contains imidacloprid and flumethrin, which are released in low concentrations over your dog’s skin and coat to kill fleas and ticks on contact — parasites do not need to bite your dog for the collar to work. It kills 100% of fleas within 24 hours of placing the collar on your dog. The collar is water-resistant and can stay on the dog even during swimming or bathing.

What else we considered

nexgard, bravecto, revolution, and k9 advantage ii flea prevention for dogs
  • Bravecto Chews for Dogs: Unlike most oral preventives, which must be given monthly, one dose of prescription-only Bravecto kills fleas for three months and ticks for up to two months. Bravetco doesn’t kill any parasites other than fleas and ticks. It cannot be used in puppies younger than 6 months old and should be used with caution in dogs with a history of neurologic disorders such as seizures.
  • Bravecto Topical for Dogs: With one application, this topical product kills fleas for three months and ticks for up to two months. Bravetco doesn’t kill any other parasites and cannot be used in puppies younger than 6 months old. It requires a prescription from your veterinarian and should be used with caution in dogs with a history of neurologic disorders such as seizures.
  • Comfortis: Comfortis is an oral product that kills adult fleas and prevents flea infestations for one month. It doesn’t kill any parasites other than fleas and cannot be used in puppies younger than 14 weeks old. Comfortis requires a prescription from your veterinarian.
  • Credelio: Credelio is an oral product that kills adult fleas and ticks and prevent flea and tick infestations for one month. It doesn’t kill any other parasites and requires a prescription from your veterinarian. It should be used with caution in dogs with a history of seizures.
  • K9 Advantix II: This is a topical spot-on product that repels and kills fleas, flea eggs, flea larvae, ticks, mosquitoes, and lice for one month. It also repels biting flies. We gave Frontline Plus for Dogs a slight edge over K9 Advantix II because it is effective against fleas, flea larvae, and flea eggs for up to three months (though if ticks are an issue, monthly application is required). Additionally, you must seek the advice of a veterinarian before using K9 Advantix II for breeding, pregnant, and nursing dogs.
  • NexGard Chewables for Dogs: NexGard is an oral product that kills adult fleas and ticks and prevents flea infestations for one month. It requires a prescription from your veterinarian and should be used with caution in dogs with a history of seizures.
  • Revolution for Dogs: Revolution is a monthly topical product that kills adult fleas and prevents flea eggs from hatching. It also prevents heartworm, treats and controls ears mites, and kills American dog tick, but it does not prevent any intestinal parasites, unlike Advantage Multi for Dogs. However, Advantage Multi does not kill ticks. Revolution requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
  • Trifexis: Trifexis is a monthly oral product that kills adult fleas, prevents flea infestations and heartworm, and treats and controls hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms. We gave Simparica TRIO a slight edge over Trifexis because it also kills ticks, mange mites, and chewing lice — though it does not kill whipworms. Trifexis requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a negative heartworm test and should be used with caution in dogs with a history of seizures.

How we selected products

We consulted with two veterinarians for advice regarding the treatment and prevention of fleas and other parasites in dogs. Although this information guided us in our product selection, our veterinary experts did not endorse any of the products included in this guide unless explicitly mentioned in direct quotes.

We also conducted research using the quick product reference guide published by the independent, nonprofit Companion Animal Parasite Council. This helpful reference, which includes all FDA and EPA-approved parasite control products for small animals, lists each product’s active ingredients, how the product is used, and which parasites it controls.

Here are the main attributes we looked for:

Safety and efficacy: Only FDA- or EPA-approved products were considered for this guide.

Number of parasites treated: In general, the more parasites a preventive product covers, the higher it was rated. “Parasites cause skin disease just by their presence and they carry diseases, too,” said Crumley. “Small puppies can actually become anemic from the amount of blood these parasites steal from their growing bodies.”

The exceptions are Capstar, which is the only treatment available for puppies younger than 6 weeks and our over-the-counter pick, Frontline Plus, which treats fleas, ticks, and lice. Products that treat heartworm always require a prescription.

Ease of use: Products were rated lower if they were more complicated to use than a similar product. For instance, products ranked lower if the pet owner must wear gloves to apply the product or if children and pets need to be kept away from the treated animal for a specified amount of time.

Minimum age and weight: When comparing similar products, higher ratings went to preventives that can be used in younger animals (for instance, puppies 7 weeks of age instead of 12 weeks of age).

Types of flea control products

person applying topical flea treatment to dog

Here are the most common flea control products for dogs and how they work:

  • Topical preventives: Also called spot-on products, topical preventives are great for killing fleas and preventing flea infestations. As they dry, they spread across the entire body or may be absorbed through the skin into the pet’s system, leaving no residue behind. They are usually applied to the skin in one spot on the back of the neck once a month, although a few last longer than 30 days. “Some dogs with sensitive skin may react to a topical product,” Crumley said. “Dogs who swim frequently or are bathed frequently will lose the benefit of the topical product that stays on the surface of the skin.”
  • Oral flea control: Oral flea control products, or “flea pills,” are given to your dog by mouth to kill fleas. Some oral flea control products kill fleas for up to a month or longer; others must be given more frequently to continue killing fleas, as often as once a day.
  • Flea collars: These are worn around the neck, where they deliver flea preventive medication to your dog’s skin and coat. Some flea collars deliver preventive medication for a longer period than topical applications, making them a good choice for dog owners who don’t want to have to apply something every month.
  • Flea shampoos: These kill fleas that are currently on your dog. We do not recommend flea shampoos in place of other preventives since topical spot-ons and oral products are easier to use and more effective.
  • Flea spray: These are applied to the skin and coat. We do not recommend flea sprays since topical spot-ons and oral products are easier to use and more effective.

What you should know about fleas in dogs

If your dog has fleas, you want to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Dogs can pick up fleas anywhere, including your yard, local parks, the groomer, veterinary clinic, and boarding facilities, but even dogs that spend a lot of time indoors can get fleas if they hitchhike indoors on your clothes or shoes. Dogs that hike, camp, and explore wilderness areas can pick up both fleas and ticks.

What are the health risks to your dog?

Fleas are more than just a nuisance. These parasites can pose a threat to your dog’s health. A severe flea infestation can seriously damage your dog’s skin, induce an allergic reaction, or cause them to become anemic from blood loss. Fleas are also responsible for transmitting parasites like tapeworms.

“Regardless of where you live in the country, I promise there’s a flea or tick disease out there,” Lay said. “Fleas and ticks can really make a pet sick and what’s worse, they often carry other bad guys along with them.” These parasites can transmit things like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, cat scratch fever, and even the plague.

How to check a dog for fleas

Signs of fleas in dogs include scratching, skin irritation, and the presence of dark red or black specks on your dog’s skin, fur, bedding, or furniture. These specks, about the size of grains of black pepper, are called “flea dirt” and are flea feces, or digested blood.

Back when I worked in the veterinary hospital, I learned a handy trick to help find out if those little specks are regular dirt or flea dirt. Scoop some onto a damp paper towel. If the paper towel turns red, it’s flea dirt.

To check your dog for fleas or flea dirt, run a flea comb (a small, very fine-toothed comb) through your dog’s coat or part the hair with your fingers to examine the skin. If you find any live or dead fleas or flea dirt, your dog has a flea infestation.

What to consider when purchasing flea control products

Prescription vs. over-the-counter flea prevention and control

Some flea control products are sold over the counter. Other products require your veterinarian to write a prescription. You can purchase prescription products directly from your veterinarian or from online pet pharmacies and certain pet supply stores like Chewy, Petco, and Petsmart.

Prescription flea control products cost more than OTC products because they protect against more parasites, most importantly, deadly heartworms. Dogs must test negative for heartworms before starting a heartworm prevention product. Giving a heartworm-positive dog a prevention medication can cause rare but potentially very serious and sometimes fatal complications. You also want to know if your dog has adult heartworms because the preventive medication will not kill them — it only kills the larval stages of the heartworm.

Use parasite preventives year-round.

You might be tempted to only use parasite preventives in spring and summer, but don’t underestimate the resilience of fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and intestinal parasites. Veterinarians recommend that all dogs stay on broad-spectrum parasite preventives all 12 months of the year.

Heartworm treatment is long, costly, and dangerous. Dogs with adult heartworms can die even if treatment is initiated. This is why veterinarians recommend using a year-round heartworm preventive for all dogs, regardless of what part of the country they live in. Veterinarians also recommend year-round intestinal parasite prevention for all dogs.

Flea shampoos are usually unnecessary.

Decades ago, people might have just used a flea shampoo containing pesticides to kill fleas, but flea shampoos are no longer the gold standard. Veterinarian-recommended topical and oral flea control products are far more effective than flea shampoos.

“Most flea and tick shampoos are harsh to the skin and only remove the parasites present at the time of the bath,” Crumley said. “Most of them are not effective at treating ticks, either. The residual effect might last 24 or 48 hours at most, and then the nasties will be back.”

Lay notes that some pet owners want to use flea shampoos instead of veterinarian-approved oral or topical preventives because shampoos cost less. However, this approach could backfire.

“Besides not really preventing and being as effective at breaking the infestation/cycle, they can also sometimes cause additional reactions and allergies,” Lay said. “They are not meant to take the place of preventive options, so consult with your veterinarian on when and how to use them.”

Be wary of natural flea control products.

Both veterinarians we consulted do not recommend natural products in place of veterinarian-recommended topical and oral flea control products. While they can deter fleas and ticks, they won’t eliminate an infestation.

“If you use them, be prepared to apply them at least daily before your pet goes outside for the best chance of keeping the hitchhikers from latching on,” said Crumley.

If you also have cats at home, avoid natural flea control products containing essential oils as some of them can be toxic to cats.

Some flea products are dangerous to cats.

If you have cats as well as dogs, it’s important to understand that any product labeled for use in only dogs should never be used on a cat. Some ingredients that are well-tolerated by dogs can be toxic to cats. Any dog-only flea product can be harmful to cats, but they are especially sensitive to pyrethrins. If you’re looking for a product that’s safe for felines, read our guide to the best flea control products for cats.

Our sources

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The 4 best dog life jackets in 2021, with advice from veterinarians and pet safety experts

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A life jacket can prevent a dog from drowning and is recommended when a dog is in or around water.
  • Six experts shared what they look for in a dog life vest, such as strong handles and bright colors.
  • The best dog life jacket is the affordable, sturdy Outward Hound Granby Ripstop Life Jacket.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, DVM, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Some dogs seem born for the water while others would rather keep their paws firmly planted on the earth. But there’s one thing both water babies and poolside loungers have in common: A dog life jacket can keep accidents in and around the water from turning into tragedies.

No one life vest is ideal for dogs of every size, shape, and ability. Fiona McGlynn, contributing editor at BoatUS Magazine, told Insider Reviews that the best life jacket is one that fits properly, is comfortable in water and on land, and has plenty of functionality like durable handles and well-balanced flotation. We carefully considered the advice of McGlynn and five other dog water safety experts when developing our selection criteria for the best dog life jackets in this guide.

Here are the best dog life jackets in 2021

How we chose the best life jackets for dogs

There are currently no standards or certifications to guide pet guardians when selecting a quality dog life vest. “Unlike human flotation devices, canine flotation devices are not regulated,” said Lindsey Wolko, founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety in Reston, Virginia. “There has been very little scientific examination of the flotation needs of pets.”

For this guide to the best dog life jackets, we relied on the recommendations and experience of the experts we consulted, as well as two studies conducted on dog life vests in the 2010s. With the help of these resources, we came up with the following checklist of essential features, then used it to conduct a thorough analysis of the dog life jackets currently on the market. Those that best met the criteria were selected as winners.

The best dog life jacket overall

Best dog life jackets in 2021 plus water safety tips for dogs

The Outward Hound Granby Ripstop Life Jacket is built with comfort, safety, and affordability in mind for small and large dogs, alike.

Pros: Neoprene belly band, three adjustable straps, foam chin float, larger sizes have two lifting handles, reflective accents for better visibility, affordable, available in five sizes

Cons: Only comes in one color, hand wash only

Whether your dog is big or small, a natural swimmer or a natural sinker, the Outward Hound Granby Ripsto Life Jacket offers protection and comfort in and out of the water. In the 2012 dog life jacket evaluation conducted by the BoatUS Foundation, this one excelled in every category and was favored by the testing staff for dogs of all sizes.

The Outward Hound Granby Life Jacket is made of thick, buoyant foam panels inside a ripstop nylon shell. A flexible neoprene band fitted with three Velcro strips and two adjustable, quick-release buckle straps wraps around the belly. A third strap buckles at the chest.

A foam chin panel on the chest strap helps keep a dog’s head above the water, a feature veterinarian Gabrielle Fadl, medical director and vet at Bond Vet in New York City, likes to see in a dog life vest. In their tests, the BoatUS Foundation found the Granby’s flotation foam evenly distributed enough to keep a dog horizontal in the water. Out of the water, they noted that dogs wearing the vest appeared comfortable and their movement was not restricted.

While the extra-small and small sizes have one solid, padded handle for pulling a pup out of the water, the medium, large and extra-large jackets have two handles for better leverage and more comfortable lifting. The vest comes with multiple reflective accents that improve the likelihood of spotting a dog in the water. 

The Granby Life Vest is remarkably affordable, even for extra-large dogs. No matter their size, ability, or familiarity with the water, this is an excellent life jacket for every dog.

The best neoprene dog life jacket

Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket worn by an australian shepherd

The snug, low-profile neoprene Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket is insulated and comfortable in and out of the water.

Pros: Neoprene provides additional insulation and warmth, three adjustable straps, has a foam chin float, larger sizes have two lifting handles, reflective accents for better visibility, comes in five sizes

Cons: Straps may rub on barrel-chested or chubby dogs, only comes in one color

Neoprene dog life jackets are less bulky and more comfortable than other vests. They also offer insulation to keep a dog’s body temperature from dropping drastically in cold water. Even with its sleek design, the side panels of the Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket are packed with plenty of foam to keep even novice swimmers afloat.

The jacket has a neoprene belly panel fitted with two adjustable buckles. A third adjustable buckle strap at the chest has a foam insert to help keep a dog’s head above water. Unlike some of the other designs we selected for this guide, the straps do make contact with the dog’s skin at the edges, which could cause some discomfort and rubbing after a long day at the water’s edge, especially if your pup has a barrel-chest or a chubby belly.

This life vest comes in five sizes. The extra-small and small sizes have one sturdy handle at the back for lifting a dog out of the water in an emergency, while the larger sizes have two straps for better leverage. The Dawson Life Jacket has reflective accents for better visibility in the water.

In their dog life jacket evaluation, the BoatUS Foundation found that thinner neoprene vests like this one tend to bunch up less on a dog that is sitting or lying down out of the water, making them more comfortable overall. That combined with the additional warmth and insulation provided by the neoprene material make this as good of a choice for dogs who spend a lot of time in the water as it is for dogs who prefer to sun themselves on deck.

The best life jacket for small dogs

Dog wearing Ruffwear float coat dog life jacket while standing on a paddleboard

The high-quality Ruffwear Float Coat Dog Life Jacket fits snugly for dogs as little as 13 inches in length.

Pros: Two adjustable buckles and an adjustable telescoping chest strap, reflective accents for better visibility, comes in six sizes and three colors, D-ring for attaching a leash, machine washable

Cons: Pricey, no chin float

For smaller dogs, a life jacket should have the right balance of buoyancy and comfort without so much foam or fabric that it overwhelms little swimmers. The Ruffwear Float Coat, available in sizes for dogs as small as 13-inches long, has a tailored fit packed with foam flotation that doesn’t hinder the movement of short legs. 

Mark and Kristi Jagger, dog surfing instructors with the So Cal Surf Dogs Club in San Diego, California, told us that this jacket seems to fit the best and the handle on top of the coat makes for easy water retrieval. A 2017 study identified this vest as the best of those tested for keeping an incapacitated dog afloat in open water

The Float Coat wraps around the belly and secures with two adjustable buckle straps. The chest strap has an adjustable telescoping design that slips over the head. Depending on fit, the belly straps may partially rub against the skin or cause discomfort. Its nylon sides are packed with closed-cell foam, which helps to keep a dog upright while swimming. One sturdy handle is sewn into the back of the vest and there is also a D-ring for attaching a leash and a loop for hanging a light. It does not have a chin float.

This jacket comes in three bright colors, but McGlynn recommends skipping the blue one which would be harder to see in the water, even with the vest’s reflective trim. The jacket also comes in six sizes and can be washed in a machine on the gentle cycle in cold water, then hung to dry. Like all Ruffwear products, the Float Coat comes with a hefty price tag but with its durable construction, it will last and last.

While the jacket will work for any size dog, its snug fit and small sizes will keep little pups afloat in the water without compromising mobility or comfort.

The best life jacket for large dogs

golden retriever wearing Kurgo surf n turf life jacket for dogs.

The Kurgo Surf N’ Turf Dog Life Jacket scallop design and double lifting handles work well for large breeds both in and out of the water.

Pros: Three adjustable straps, two sturdy lifting handles, reflective accents for better visibility, comes in five sizes, two D-rings for attaching a leash, removable flotation layer, doubles as an on-land nylon vest, inner layer is machine washable

Cons: Moderately pricey, only comes in one color, no chin float

Kurgo’s Surf N’ Turf Dog Life Jacket is built tough for large, active dogs. The vest earned the highest score for extra-large pups in the BoatUS Foundation’s evaluation where reviewers particularly liked its two perpendicular lifting handles for hauling a dog out of the water and its scalloped design, which fit the shoulders and rear haunches well.

This jacket is also more versatile than the others we considered for this guide. It has two built-in detachable layers, one stuffed with foam for flotation, the other a simple nylon ripstop shell that can be worn as an extra layer for on-land adventures. This vest has two adjustable buckle straps on its belly panel and a third adjustable strap at the chest. Two metal D-rings are sewn into the top of the vest, one of which doubles as a bottle opener. It does not have a chin float.

Kurgo’s Surf N’ Turf Dog Life Jacket comes in five sizes but only one color: red with grey reflective trim. The inner layer is machine washable on the gentle cycle after removing the flotation device. It should be hung to dry. While the jacket is moderately pricey, it comes with Kurgo’s lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects.

With its two-layer design, solid double lifting straps, and athletic fit and styling, the Kurgo Surf N’ Turf is a sturdy option for large breed swimming and sea-faring dogs.

FAQs about dog water safety

dog wearing ruffwear life jacket and dog without life jacket, both in water.jpg

Learning about the risks dogs face when in and around the water can help ensure they stay safe. We tackle some of the most frequently asked questions below.

Can all dogs swim?

 “While doggy paddling is instinctual to many dogs, not all dogs know how to swim,” said Fadl. “It’s crucial to allow your dog time to learn, and their time in the water should always be supervised for their safety.”


What dogs are more vulnerable to danger in the water?

Whereas some dogs are natural water babies, others may be more likely to experience challenges, even if they’ve entered the water willingly. McGlynn told us that older pups or those with limited mobility may be more likely to tire out when swimming and, when tired, may be more susceptible to dangers like rip currents. Dogs with lower body fat like greyhounds and boxers may also struggle in the water if their body temperature drops too low.


For what activities should a dog wear a life jacket?

Anytime a dog is in or around water, even if it’s just a swimming pool, a life vest is worth considering. Accidents can happen even if you have a strong swimmer. Boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding are all activities in which a dog should wear a life vest and in dog surfing, life vests are mandatory. “A lot of dog owners use them for fun on the beach, too,” said McGlynn. “Just swimming and retrieving, there could be currents that pull them out.” Ultimately, though, it’s up to pet parents to determine whether their dog should wear a life jacket based on the dog’s experience in and around the water, said Wolko.


Should my dog wear a life jacket around the pool?

If you have a dog that has spent little time around a pool, putting them in a life vest is just common sense, said Wolko. Only after a dog has been properly introduced to a pool, including how to use the stairs to exit the water, is it okay for strong-swimming dogs to go life vest free. Even if your dog has pool experience, they should wear a life vest when visiting unfamiliar pools that may be designed differently.


What color life jacket is best spotted in the water?

All of the experts we consulted told us dog life vests are easiest to spot in the water when they are brightly colored. “Colors like blue and gray are not going to stand out as well in the water,” said McGlynn. Reflective accents sewn into the exterior also help improve visibility.


Can a dog still drown while wearing a life jacket?

Unfortunately, it is possible for a dog to drown while wearing a life vest. “Dogs who are not well supported from a flotation perspective can panic or tire from treading water, increasing the risk of drowning,” said Wolko. Dogs wearing life jackets may also face extreme danger if they become trapped under the water or if waves or rapids are splashing in their nose and mouth, McGlynn added. A life jacket that is properly fitted can help minimize the risk, as can educating yourself about canine water safety before enjoying the water.

How to fit your dog for a life vest

A life jacket that fits properly is essential to keeping a dog safe in and around the water. The best way to ensure proper fit is to take your pup into a brick-and-mortar store to try your options rather than ordering online, according to several of our experts. Because dogs come in so many different shapes and sizes, what fits one comfortably may not be appropriate for another.

When fitting a dog for a life jacket, McGlynn told us to look for a vest that fits snugly but has no buckles or straps that are tight enough to ride up or rub against the skin. She also suggested examining how the life jacket fits both when a dog is lying down and standing up. If your dog will be wearing a life vest for several hours, it should be comfortable in every position.

Chest girth, neck girth, and weight are also crucial considerations when fitting a dog for a life jacket. Take the following measurements to narrow down the size that’s right for your pup.

Chest girth: A dog life vest is fitted according to the width and shape of a dog’s chest. To get their chest girth, measure the circumference around the widest part of the chest right behind the front legs. You’ll get the most accurate reading when your dog is standing in a relaxed position. If their chest girth falls between sizes, choose the larger option.

Neck girth: A dog life vest should not be so tight around the front of the chest and neck that it may press against the windpipe. To determine girth, measure the circumference of your dog’s neck around it’s thickest part, just below the collar. When in doubt, size up! 

Weight: While you can’t fit a dog for a life jacket by knowing their weight alone, it’s important to make sure the vest size you’ve chosen can support their weight in the water. If your dog is heavier than recommended for the life jacket that fits them best, either size up or look for a different brand that is labeled for their weight.

Our sources

To come up with the selections for this guide, we consulted with a variety of experts on dog water safety including a veterinarian and surf dog instructors. Each answered questions via phone or email in March 2021. Our advisors include:

We also consulted the following online sources:

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The 5 best dog shampoos in 2021, according to a veterinarian

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Bathing your dog helps keep their skin and coat clean, healthy, and moisturized.
  • Dog shampoos are gentle on a dog’s sensitive skin and can be used to manage skin conditions, such as allergies.
  • Our top pick for the best dog shampoo is Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo, an organic, all-natural shampoo.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, DVM, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Bathing your dog is a key aspect of responsible dog ownership. A good bath with a high-quality dog shampoo helps keep a dog’s skin and coat clean, healthy, and moisturized. Whether a dog bath is fun or feels like a chore to you, the dog shampoo you use plays a big part in maintaining optimal skin and coat health.

As a veterinarian, I understand that a dog’s skin and coat are windows into a dog’s health. Many factors, such as environmental allergies, can make a dog’s skin itchy, dry, and irritated. Likewise, systemic health conditions like malnutrition can cause a dog’s hair to become dry, brittle, and possibly fall out. Regular bathing, along with a healthy diet and routine preventive care, plays an important factor in a dog’s overall health and well-being.

Dog shampoos are not one-size-fits-all, though. For example, there are whitening shampoos for dogs with white fur. There are also dog shampoos that are formulated to kill fleas and ticks, as well as shampoos that cater specifically to a puppy’s sensitive skin.

With so many types of dog shampoos, it can be challenging to decide which one is best for your dog. To help you narrow down your choices, I researched 14 dog shampoos and evaluated them using multiple criteria, including ingredients, ease of use, and purpose (e.g, flea and tick prevention).

For additional insight on dog shampoos, I interviewed Karen Todd-Jenkins, a relief veterinarian in Trenton, New Jersey, and Cherese Sullivan, a relief veterinarian in Houston, Texas.

Individual dogs can have specific bathing needs, so work with your veterinarian to determine how often you should bathe your dog and what type of shampoo you can use to keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy.

Here are the best dog shampoos in 2021

The best dog shampoo overall

earthbath oatmeal and aloe shampoo bottle

Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo is an organic, all-natural, hypoallergenic shampoo that soothes and moisturizes the skin without causing any additional irritation.

Pros: All-natural and organic ingredients, soothes and moisturizes the skin, does not wash away topical flea and tick treatments, lathers well and rinses easily, free of soap and synthetic fragrances, 100% biodegradable, safe for puppies at least 6 weeks of age

Cons: Might not be effective if a lot of dirt is present

The ideal dog shampoo will do more than just clean your dog and make them smell good; it will also restore moisture to their skin and leave their fur feeling soft. Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo does all of these things, while also being gently formulated and safe for puppies at least 6 weeks of age, making it our top overall choice.

The shampoo is especially useful for dogs with sensitive skin. Skin conditions like environmental allergies to dust and pollen can make a dog’s skin itchy and extra-sensitive. Other substances, such as synthetic fragrances, can also irritate a dog’s skin and cause persistent itchiness. Dogs with sensitive skin need a shampoo that is hypoallergenic, meaning it is free of ingredients that could irritate the skin.

The colloidal oatmeal and aloe vera in this shampoo relieve itchiness and restore the skin’s moisture. It is free of ingredients like soap and synthetic fragrances that could cause further skin irritation or allergy flare-ups. Its fragrance is from natural vanilla and almond oils.

The shampoo is 100% biodegradable, cruelty-free, and will not wash off topical flea and tick treatments.

The best flea and tick shampoo for dogs

image of a bottle of sentry flea tick shampoo for dogs

Sentry Flea and Tick Shampoo with Oatmeal for Dogs and Puppies works quickly to kill fleas and ticks for up to 10 days.

Pros: Free of pyrethrin, kills fleas quickly, soothes irritated skin, lathers well, safe for puppies at least 12 weeks of age

Cons: May stop working sooner than expected, scent may fade quickly

Flea and tick prevention comes with the territory of dog ownership. Although flea and tick preventives, such as topical spot-on treatments, are the primary and most effective form of prevention, flea and tick shampoos can provide additional protection from these tiny pests.

Sentry Flea and Tick Shampoo with Oatmeal for Dogs and Puppies earned the top spot for flea and tick shampoos. Importantly, it is free of pyrethrin, a synthetic insecticide that is commonly found in flea and tick shampoos. “Pyrethrin-based flea shampoos should be avoided because pyrethrin can be toxic to puppies and small dogs,” says Sullivan.

Instead of pyrethrin, this shampoo has the synthetic insecticide permethrin, which quickly and effectively kills fleas and ticks, including deer ticks. It also contains piperonyl butoxide, which enhances permethrin’s flea- and tick-killing abilities.

This formula includes oatmeal to soothe skin that’s become red and irritated from the near-constant scratching from flea and tick bites. It is safe for puppies at least 12 weeks of age.

The shampoo should be left on for at least five minutes to work most effectively. It lathers well, so a little goes a long way.

Flea and tick shampoos are medicated shampoos and should be used only when directed by a veterinarian. Skin conditions often have similar symptoms, like irritated skin. So, what looks like a flea problem might be something else, such as a yeast infection. “I normally discourage using a medicated shampoo unless we know what we’re treating,” says Todd-Jenkins.

The best waterless shampoo for dogs

a dog being sprayed with begleys waterless dog shampoo

Begley’s Natural No-Rinse Waterless Pet Shampoo provides a thorough waterless clean with natural ingredients.

Pros: Natural ingredients, distributes quickly across the skin and coat, does not leave a residue, 100% biodegradable, cruelty-free

Cons: Sprayer may break, scent is short-lived

There are times when a full dog bath isn’t convenient or practical. Begley’s Natural No-Rinse Waterless Pet Shampoo is an easy-to-apply, lightly scented shampoo that cleans and deodorizes without drying the skin.

This shampoo for puppies and adult dogs contains a proprietary natural enzyme blend that provides a deep clean by removing the residues of protein, fat, and starch from a dog’s fur and skin. It also contains naturally occurring biosurfactants, which are produced by microbes and give an extra boost to the shampoo’s cleaning power.

It is available in four different natural, essential oil-based fragrances: lavender, citrus, oatmeal mango, and tea tree. The ingredients are biodegradable, making it a safe choice for dogs and the environment.

The shampoo distributes quickly and easily across a dog’s skin and coat and doesn’t leave any product residue after it’s wiped off with a towel. For the face, the manufacturer recommends spraying the shampoo on a damp cloth first and then gently rubbing the face, being careful to avoid a dog’s eyes.

“Waterless shampoos are often helpful in specific situations, such as after surgery when a dog’s incision site has to stay dry,” says Sullivan. Dogs that suffer from incontinence or don’t like being bathed can also benefit from the quick cleans that a waterless shampoo provides. Waterless shampoos are a good solution when there’s a long time between grooming appointments.

Be mindful that waterless shampoos might not provide the same level of cleaning that a bath can provide. Bathing a dog with water and shampoo does a superior job of mechanically removing dirt and debris from the fur, says Todd-Jenkins.

The best shampoo for puppies

earthbath ultra mild puppy shampoo bottle

Earthbath Ultra-Mild Puppy Shampoo is a gentle, tear-free shampoo that contains natural and organic ingredients for cleaning puppies and detangling their coats.

Pros: Tear-free formula, natural and organic ingredients, does not wash away topical flea and tick treatments, free of soap, lathers and rinses well, safe for puppies at least 6 weeks of age

Cons: Cherry scent may be off-putting

Unlike other puppy shampoos that we considered that contained synthetic ingredients, Earthbath Ultra-Mild Puppy Shampoo uses natural and organic ingredients to clean, condition, and detangle, making it our top choice for puppy shampoos.

A puppy’s skin is more sensitive than an adult dog’s skin. Because of this, puppy shampoos are formulated to be extra-gentle while still being effective at cleaning and moisturizing the skin and coat. This shampoo contains ingredients such as aloe vera and various vitamins to moisturize and nourish a puppy’s skin and coat.

The shampoo is safe for puppies at least 6 weeks of age and does not wash off topical flea and tick treatments. For the first few weeks of life, puppies have trouble regulating their body temperature, so they can get cold easily. Because of this, it is recommended that puppies not be bathed until they are at least 6 to 8 weeks old, after they’re better at regulating their body temperature.

Earthbath Ultra-Mild Puppy Shampoo lathers well and rinses easily, which helps if you have a squirmy puppy that doesn’t like to hold still for a long bath. The gentle, tear-free formula will not sting a puppy’s eyes, but it’s a good idea to take extra care to avoid the eyes, nose, and mouth when bathing a dog.

The best whitening shampoo for dogs

chris christensen white on white dog shampoo bottle

Chris Christensen White on White Shampoo for Pets is gently formulated to whiten and brighten a dog’s coat.

Pros: Free of bleaching ingredients, gentle formula does not irritate the skin, lathers and rinses easily, light scent, can be used on all coat colors, lasts up to 4 weeks

Cons: May leave a purple tint on the fur if not used properly, puppies may not sit still for the 10 minutes that the product must stay on

Dogs with white fur need more than just a regular shampoo. They need a shampoo that also removes discoloring stains (e.g., urine and food stains) that are more obvious on white coats.

Chris Christensen White on White Shampoo for Pets whitens and brightens a dog’s fur for four weeks without relying on harsh chemicals like bleaching agents. It also removes yellow stains and provides a deep clean. As a bonus, the shampoo can be used on dogs with any coat color to increase the fur’s luster.

Whitening shampoos are primarily classified as bluing, enzymatic, or clarifying. Bluing shampoos, also called optical brighteners, contain blue or purple color enhancers that absorb and reflect light to hide stains. Enzymatic shampoos break down proteins that cause discoloration. Clarifying shampoos strip dirt from the hair cuticles.

This shampoo has a purple color that provides the optical brightening effect. It should be left on for up to 10 minutes; if left on for longer, it may leave a slight purple tint on the fur.

Although the shampoo’s formula is gentle, the manufacturer recommends testing the shampoo in a small skin area if a dog has allergies. It is safe for use in puppies at least 16 weeks of age and adult dogs.

How we selected dog shampoos

We consulted with two veterinarians to learn more about dog shampoos. They did not provide specific product recommendations but did lend their clinical expertise regarding how dog shampoos can be used for different purposes, such as soothing itchy skin or whitening the fur.

We also researched how dog shampoos work. For example, we studied the common insecticides — permethrin and pyrethrin — found in flea and tick dog shampoos.

Here are the selection criteria that we used to evaluate shampoos:

  • Ingredients: We analyzed the ingredients list of each shampoo to identify natural and synthetic ingredients. Preference was given to shampoos that contained 100%, or nearly 100%, natural ingredients.
  • Age: Except for puppy shampoos, shampoos were rated higher if they were safe for puppies and adult dogs. They were rated lower if they were for use only in adult dogs or did not specify an age group or life stage on the product label.
  • Ease of use: We read customer reviews to determine how convenient the shampoos were to use. For example, more preference was given to shampoos that lathered and rinsed out well than those that lathered poorly.
  • Scent: Shampoos with light, long-lasting scents were rated more highly than shampoos with an off-putting or short-lived scent.
  • Purpose: Shampoos that delivered on their claims, according to customer reviews, were rated more highly than those that were not as effective as promised.
  • Safety for puppies: Preference was given to shampoos that were safe for use in puppies over those that were either only for adult dogs or did not indicate safety for puppies on the product label.

What else we considered

  • Oster Oatmeal Essentials 4-in-1 Dog Shampoo: Oster Oatmeal Essentials 4-in-1 Dog Shampoo contains natural oatmeal, vitamin B5, and coconut-based cleansers to clean, condition, soothe, and detangle. We liked that this shampoo is multipurpose. However, the product label did not indicate whether it was safe for puppies, earning the shampoo a lower ranking.
  • Natural Chemistry Natural Flea and Tick Shampoo for Dogs: Natural Chemistry’s Flea and Tick Shampoo is free of pyrethrin and contains natural botanical extracts, such as cedar oil, to repel fleas and ticks. It also targets other pests, such as mites and mosquitoes. However, natural flea and tick repellents are less effective than synthetic insecticides. “By the time an owner spends weeks or months trying to use a natural product to control fleas, their house (and all their pets) might be infested,” says Todd-Jenkins.
  • Greenbone Lavender and Chamomile Dog Shampoo: Greenbone Lavender and Chamomile Dog Shampoo uses natural ingredients to repel fleas and ticks. It did not earn our top choice because, like Natural Chemistry Natural Flea and Shampoo for Dogs, its natural repellants are less effective than synthetic insecticides. Also, products that contain essential oils are not safe for use in households with cats, Sullivan told us.
  • Well & Good Hypoallergenic Shampoo: Well & Good Hypoallergenic Shampoo contains natural ingredients: shea butter to moisturize the skin and honey to add luster and shine to the coat. It is unscented, making it a good choice for dogs that are sensitive to fragrance. This shampoo lost out to Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo because it is more expensive for the same quantity of product.
  • Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Hypoallergenic Shampoo: This shampoo contains natural ingredients, such as lactic acid, to maintain skin moisture and allantoin to relieve dry, scaly, and irritated skin. It did not earn our top ranking because it is indicated for use in adult dogs only.
  • Burt’s Bees Waterless Shampoo with Apple and Honey for Dogs: Burt’s Bees Waterless Shampoo is a 99.7% natural shampoo that can be used when a bath with water isn’t practical. We liked the natural ingredients in the shampoo, but the shampoo’s scent is off-putting and short-lived.
  • Hartz Groomer’s Best Waterless 3-in-1 Solution Dog Shampoo: Hartz Waterless Shampoo cleans, freshens, and deodorizes without the need for water. Also, a little goes a long way, and the shampoo does not leave residue on a dog’s coat or skin. However, its ingredients are nearly all synthetic, including synthetic fragrance, earning this product a lower rating.
  • Synergy Lab’s Veterinary Formula Solutions Puppy Love Shampoo: Synergy Lab’s Puppy Shampoo is a gentle, tear-free formula that is safe for puppies at least 6 weeks of age. It lathers well, but its thick consistency makes it challenging to rinse out. The shampoo’s scent can last for up to a week after a bath, but the light fragrance may not be enough for some pet parents.
  • Wahl White Pear Brightening Shampoo for Pets: Wahl’s White Pear Brightening Shampoo contains plant-derived ingredients and has a pleasant pear scent. Although the shampoo is purple, it does not turn the dog’s coat purple. It has a thick consistency and lathers well but may come out of the bottle too quickly at bath time. And it contains more synthetic ingredients than what we found in Chris Christensen White on White Shampoo for Pets, our top choice of whitening shampoos.
  • Nature’s Miracle Supreme Odor Control Natural Whitening Dog Shampoo: Nature’s Miracle Whitening Shampoo contains natural ingredients, such as awaphui extract, to naturally whiten a dog’s coat. It lathers and rinses out easily and has a pleasant scent that is not overpowering. It did not earn the top ranking because it’s formulated for use only in adult dogs.

FAQs

a person drying a dog off with a towel after a bath

Deciding on a dog shampoo can be challenging, so pet parents like yourself commonly have questions about the shampoos and dog skin conditions.

Can I use human shampoo on a dog?

The short answer is no. The skin has a pH, which indicates how acidic something is: the lower the pH, the more acidic. The pH of human skin is approximately 5, while canine skin pH is slightly higher (5.5 to 7.5), meaning that human skin is more acidic than canine skin.

Shampoo for human skin is too acidic for a dog’s skin and could irritate a dog’s eyes. “In general, I advise pet owners to use pet-specific shampoos whenever possible,” says Todd-Jenkins.

When should I see the vet for my dog’s skin problems?

Dog shampoos can work well at managing various skin conditions in dogs, but they are not a cure-all for skin problems. Skin conditions often need veterinary care to be adequately controlled and treated. Here are some indications for when you should take your dog to your vet for skin issues:

  • Hair loss
  • Bad odor on the skin
  • Skin lesions, such as ulcers
  • Lumps and bumps on the skin
  • Excessive chewing, scratching, and licking
  • Skin problems that appear suddenly and worsen quickly

The earlier that you can take your dog to the veterinarian, the better, notes Sullivan. “Early intervention leads to quicker recovery, comfort, and, often, less expense,” she says.

What is the best type of shampoo for my dog?

That depends on various factors, such as your dog’s skin and coat health. For example, if your dog has dry and itchy skin from environmental allergies, a shampoo for sensitive skin would be a good choice. If you live in an area with abundant fleas and ticks, a flea and tick shampoo could accompany your dog’s flea and tick preventative. Puppies need specific puppy shampoo that is formulated for their extra-sensitive skin.

Your veterinarian can help you determine the type of shampoo that would be best for your dog.

The importance of bathing your dog

Bathing is part of the overall grooming process, which includes regular brushing and nail trims. But why is bathing so important? Bathing has many benefits, which our experts pointed out:

  • Prevents matting of the hair
  • Promotes skin exfoliation
  • Removes loose hair
  • Cleans dirt and debris from the coat

Bathing your dog also allows you to check for external parasites, such as fleas and ticks, explains Todd-Jenkins. Bath time also gets a dog used to being touched, promoting a strong human-animal bond, she adds.

Bathing Do’s and Don’ts

Whether you’re new to dog baths or have been bathing your dog for a while, there are some bathing do’s and don’ts that are good to keep in mind, according to our experts.

Do’s

  • Do bathe your dog regularly to prevent matting. Most dogs do just fine with one bath a month, but check with your veterinarian to determine a good bathing frequency for your dog.
  • Do contact your veterinarian if you notice any skin abnormalities, such as scabs, hot spots, or bald spots, at bath time.
  • Do use age-appropriate shampoos. This is especially important for puppies because shampoo product labels might not indicate a minimum age (e.g., 6 weeks of age). “When in doubt, err on the side of caution,” advises Todd-Jenkins.
  • Do pay attention to your dog’s behavior at bath time. Are they anxious or uncomfortable? Your veterinarian can recommend strategies to reduce your dog’s bathing anxieties.
  • Do go to a groomer if bathing your dog at home is proving to be too difficult for you. If your dog needs a medicated shampoo, take that shampoo to the groomer.

Don’ts

  • Don’t use human shampoos, unless advised by your veterinarian, because the pH is too acidic for a dog’s skin.
  • Don’t use medicated shampoo unless recommended or prescribed by your veterinarian.
  • Don’t assume that all herbal or organic ingredients in dog shampoos are safe. Check with your veterinarian if you are unsure about the safety of a particular shampoo’s ingredients.

Our sources

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 4 best dog dewormers and parasite prevention medicines in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Intestinal parasites pose serious risks to your dog’s health.
  • The best dog dewormers treat many common intestinal parasites and are easy to administer.
  • We did the research to determine the best topical and oral parasite prevention medicine for dogs.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, DVM, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Intestinal parasites, often called worms, are microscopic organisms that live inside your dog, where they silently cause harm. Common intestinal parasites in dogs include roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. Some worms, like roundworms and hookworms, can take up residence in humans, too.

If your dog has worms, you need to eradicate them quickly and prevent them from returning. Deworming medications kill the parasites your dog already has, and intestinal parasite preventives, most of which are given monthly, prevent future worm infections. Some products also kill fleas, ticks, and heartworms.

Choosing among the many safe and effective parasite preventives for dogs can be difficult. After speaking to veterinarians, we chose products based on safety, efficacy, number of parasites targeted, and products’ ease of use. Read more about how we selected products at the end of this guide.

Different drugs kill different worms, so you must always visit your veterinarian for a fecal test before giving your dog a dewormer. Your veterinarian can advise you on what product might be best depending on your dog’s temperament and lifestyle and the parasites that are most prevalent in your area. Many of these treatments also require a prescription from your veterinarian.

Here are the best dog dewormers and parasite preventives in 2021

The best broad-spectrum dewormer for dogs

drontal plus dewormer for dogs

No other dog dewormer kills as many different types of worms as Drontal Plus.

Pros: Veterinarian recommended, kills four types of worms, safe and reliable, kills all parasites within seven days, low risk for side effects

Cons: Not for puppies younger than 3 weeks old or those weighing less than 2 pounds

Drontal Plus is a safe and effective broad-spectrum dewormer that eliminates multiple types of parasites with one dose. It kills tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms within seven days. Just offer the Drontal Plus Taste Tab flavored chewable tablet to your dog alone or with a small amount of food.

Drontal Plus features three powerful active ingredients: pyrantel pamoate, praziquantel, and febantel, which together cover four species of tapeworms, two species of hookworms, two species of roundworms, and whipworms.

The dewormer has a very low risk for side effects and is safe for puppies as young as 3 weeks old and weighing at least 2 pounds. It requires a prescription from your veterinarian, and a vet visit is also important because your dog may have other parasites that even a broad-spectrum dewormer can’t eliminate.

When using a broad-spectrum dewormer like Drontal Plus, your dog may require one or more follow-up treatments to make sure all the worms are eliminated. If your dog has fleas, they should also be treated with a flea control product to prevent future tapeworm infections.

The best tapeworm dewormer for dogs

droncit tapeworm medicine for dogs

A single dose of Droncit safely and quickly kills tapeworms within 24 hours.

Pros: Kills four species of tapeworms, works within 24 hours, easy-to-administer tablet, long-trusted brand, affordably priced per pill

Cons: Some dogs may experience salivation, vomiting, or diarrhea after taking; not for puppies less than 4 weeks old

One Droncit tablet works to paralyze and eliminate the four most common species of tapeworms within 24 hours. Its active ingredient, praziquantel, is effective and safe for adult dogs and puppies 4 weeks of age and older. The tablet can be fed whole or crumbled and mixed with food.

The treatment is conveniently and affordably sold per pill, unlike the other tapeworm dewormer we considered, Bayer Tapeworm Dewormer, which contains the same active ingredient praziquantel but is only sold in a five-pack.

Dogs commonly become infected with tapeworms by ingesting fleas. For this reason, it’s important to treat your dog for fleas to prevent future infections.

The best oral parasite preventive for dogs

trifexis oral dewormer

Trifexis treats and controls three common intestinal parasites, kills adult fleas, and prevents heartworm infection with just one monthly chewable pill. 

Pros: Protects against three intestinal parasites, heartworms, and adult fleas; once-monthly treatment; safe for dogs and puppies 8 weeks of age and older weighing at least 5 pounds; tablet is easy to administer

Cons: Does not kill or treat tapeworms, not labeled for use in puppies younger than 8 weeks or weighing less than 5 pounds

Our pick for best oral parasite preventive for dogs is Trifexis, a chewable tablet that treats and controls hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms. It also kills adult fleas and prevents heartworm.

Given once every 30 days, Trifexis uses spinosad and milbemycin oxime to prevent, treat, and control parasites. While it does not kill or treat tapeworms, it kills adult fleas, which are responsible for transmitting the parasite. The beef-flavored flavored chewable tablet should be given with food for maximum effectiveness.

Trifexis is safe for puppies as young as 8 weeks old and weighing at least 5 pounds. However, puppies less than 14 weeks of age might experience a higher rate of vomiting than older dogs. This parasite preventive requires a prescription from your veterinarian as well as a current negative heartworm test. It should be used with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or breeding females.

The best topical parasite preventive for dogs

advantage multi for dogs

With just one simple monthly application, Advantage Multi for Dogs treats, controls, and prevents more parasites than any other topical product.

Pros: Kills and prevents six types of parasites, once-monthly treatment, easy to administer, safe for use in puppies older than 7 weeks and weighing at least 3 pounds

Cons: Does not kill ticks; not labeled for use in puppies younger than 7 weeks or breeding, pregnant, or nursing dogs

No single preventive covers every parasite that could harm your dog, but Advantage Multi comes close. Containing the active ingredients imidacloprid and moxidectin, the topical treatment prevents three common intestinal parasites: roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. It also prevents flea infestations by killing adult fleas before they can lay eggs and prevents heartworm and mange mites.

Choosing between an oral or topical parasite product can be a tough decision. Sometimes dogs do better with one versus the other. “Some animals can’t tolerate or have a food allergy to an oral product so they must use a topical,” said veterinarian Melissa Smits, a partner at Fort Morgan Veterinary Clinic in Colorado. “Or their skin may be sensitive to a topical so an oral is better.” If there are no tolerance issues, it usually comes down to owner preference.

Advantage Multi is easy to use: Just apply it every 30 days to your dog’s skin at the base of the neck between the shoulder blades. The liquid medication is absorbed and dries within hours. Unlike with some of the other topical preventives, you do not need to wear gloves to apply Advantage Multi. If you get the product on your hands, simply wash them with soap and water. For the first 30 minutes after application, keep dogs from licking the application site, either on themselves or other treated dogs in the house. Children should not touch the application site for two hours after application.

You must obtain a prescription from your veterinarian to purchase Advantage Multi. As with all medications that prevent heartworm, your dog needs a heartworm test prior starting Advantage Multi and annually thereafter.

How we selected products

While researching and writing this guide, I drew from my eight years of experience as an assistant in veterinary hospitals and two decades of experience as a writer and editor in the pet and veterinary fields. I conducted research using the quick product reference guide published by the independent, nonprofit Companion Animal Parasite Council. This helpful reference, which includes all FDA- and EPA-approved parasite control products for small animals, lists each product’s active ingredients, how the product is used, and which parasites it controls. 

Here are the main attributes I looked for:

  • Safety and efficacy: Only FDA-approved products were considered for this guide.
  • Number of parasites treated: In general, products that covered more parasites received higher ratings. This did not apply to tapeworm dewormers, which are only intended to treat one parasite.
  • Ease of use: Products received lower ratings if they were more complicated to use than a similar product. An example: Lower ratings were given if gloves must be worn to apply the product or if children and pets need to be kept away from the treated animal for a period of time after application.
  • Minimum age/weight: When comparing similar products, higher ratings went to preventives that can be used in younger animals.

What else we considered

  • Bayer Tapeworm Dog Dewormer: This product contains the same active ingredient (praziquantel) as our top choice for tapeworms, Droncit, but it’s only sold in a five-pack unlike Droncit which is affordably priced per pill.
  • Heartgard Plus: Given monthly, Heartgard Plus (ivermectin and pyrantel) treats and controls heartworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Our top pick for best oral preventive, Trifexis, is effective against an additional parasite: adult fleas, which are also responsible for transmitting tapeworm. Heartgard requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
  • Interceptor Plus: Given monthly, Interceptor Plus (milbemycin oxime and praziquantel) treats and controls roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms and also prevents heartworms. Trifexis beat out Interceptor Plus because it kills adult fleas in addition to preventing three common intestinal parasites and heartworm. Although Trifexis doesn’t prevent tapeworms, it kills fleas, which transmit tapeworms. Interceptor Plus requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
  • Iverhart Max Soft Chews: Given monthly, Iverhart Max treats and prevents heartworms, tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms. It does not prevent whipworms or kill fleas like Trifexis. Iverhart Max requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
  • Sentinel Spectrum: Given monthly, Sentinel Spectrum treats and controls tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, heartworm, flea larvae, and flea eggs — almost as many parasites as our category winner Trifexis. Trifexis doesn’t prevent tapeworms, but we gave it a slight edge because it kills adult fleas, which transmit tapeworms. Sentinel Spectrum requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
  • Simparica Trio: Simparica Trio treats, controls, and prevents more parasites than any other oral product, including adult fleas, flea larvae, ticks, heartworm, hookworms, roundworms, mange mite, and chewing lice. However, because intestinal parasites are the primary consideration in this guide, Trifexis gets the nod for preventing three intestinal parasites compared to Simparica Trio’s two. Simparica Trio requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.

Types of worms and their signs and symptoms

dog with parasites

Most dogs will contract intestinal parasites at some point in their lives. Some of the most common worms seen in dogs are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. In adult dogs, parasite infestations may cause mild to moderate digestive symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and gas. However, heavy infestations, especially in young puppies, can lead to severe issues.

“They can cause intestinal problems, malnutrition, anemia, growth problems in puppies, and even potential autoimmune issues,” Smits said. “Also important is the zoonotic risk — potential spread to human family members.”

  • Roundworms: These parasites are common in dogs, especially puppies, and are 3- to 6-inches long, smooth, and round-bodied. You might not know your dog has roundworms, particularly if they have only a few. In puppies, large numbers of worms may cause a pot-bellied appearance, vomiting, diarrhea, low appetite, dull coat, and restricted growth. You might also see roundworms in your dog’s stool or vomit. Roundworms are zoonotic, which means they can be spread to human family members.
  • Tapeworms: Dogs pick up tapeworms when they ingest an infected adult flea. As the tapeworm grows, segments break off and pass in your dog’s stool. If you see something in your dog’s feces that resembles grains of white rice, or you notice them licking or biting the area under their tail, they could have a tapeworm infestation.
  • Hookworms: Hookworms are blood-sucking parasites that attach to the wall of the intestines. These tiny worms are nearly invisible without the assistance of a microscope. Signs of hookworm infection in dogs include anemia, weight loss, bloody diarrhea, dull coat, and growth restriction. Hookworms are zoonotic so they can be spread to human family members.
  • Whipworms: Whipworms are relatively large intestinal parasites (about a ¼-inch long) that reside in the cecum and large intestine, where they wreak serious havoc. Dogs with heavy whipworms are likely to experience concerning symptoms, such as watery, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

What you should know about parasite prevention for dogs

Best dog dewormers in 2021

Dogs should be on parasite prevention year-round.

Veterinarians recommend a broad-spectrum parasite preventive that treats, prevents, or controls intestinal parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms; heartworms; fleas; and ticks.

“Many adult dogs may be asymptomatic carriers,” according to Kelley Lay, a relief veterinarian who practices in Nashville, Tennessee. “Parasites are not always able to be seen in feces and so you may not even know the problem is there. This can lead to infections that linger undetected for a long time.”

Veterinarians recommend keeping dogs on a broad-spectrum parasite preventive all year, not only in the spring and summer months. Different parasites are active during different months, and parasite activity varies. Parasites can also become active earlier than expected, including during the winter.

“You cannot fully predict or control the environment your dog is in,” Smits said. “I live in Colorado, which overall has a low incidence of heartworms and [has] freezes with no mosquitos in the winter. Except, I have killed mosquitos in my house in February. My dogs find rodents in the backyard with tapeworms and potentially fleas. We just found tapeworms in February.”

Your veterinarian can help you choose the best product or combination for your dog.

Although different parasite preventives cover many different parasites, no one product covers every single internal and external parasite that could affect your dog. For instance, one product may cover fleas, heartworm, and intestinal parasites, but not ticks. Another may cover fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites, but not heartworm. Talk to your veterinarian to help you decide which product will be best for your dog.

“This is the most important part of having a relationship with a veterinarian in your area,” Smits said. “We are trained to know what parasite problems we have in our area are, what lifestyle risks are important to consider, and overall, what is best for an individual pet and lifestyle.”

You should always take your dog to the vet before giving them a dewormer.

If you suspect your dog has worms, it’s important to take them to the veterinarian for a physical exam and a fecal test to determine what type of worms they have.

“Not all intestinal parasites are created equal and there is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to deworming medications,” Lay said. “Your veterinarian will perform the appropriate tests to diagnose which type of intestinal parasites are present, and therefore which medication will appropriately target the problem.”

Even though some dewormers do not require a prescription, do not skip the vet visit since different drugs treat different worms. Although a broad-spectrum dewormer kills several different types of worms, certain single-celled microscopic parasites (protozoa), including coccidia and Giardia, cause symptoms similar to those caused by intestinal parasites, but they are not true worms. They require different prescription medications to treat them.

In addition to conducting a fecal test, your vet can also determine if your dog may have other health issues that need to be addressed. Depending on the type of worms found, your dog might need follow-up deworming and a follow-up fecal exam to ensure no parasites remain.

Natural dewormers aren’t necessarily a better option.

Check with your veterinarian before using natural dewormers with your dog. “While ‘natural’ deworming products may have some effect on intestinal parasites, I’ve consulted with numerous clients over the years who have tried them with repeated failure,” Lay said. “Also, there’s unfortunately still many unknowns and variables when it comes to many of the natural products.”

Lay noted that conventional, veterinarian-recommended dewormers are both effective and safe to use. “Like any medication, we can’t assume there will be zero side effects 100% of the time, but the veterinary-approved products have been around a long time, have gone through stringent drug trials and studies, and are proven to carry minimal to no risk,” she said.

Expert sources

We consulted with two licensed veterinarians for advice regarding the treatment and prevention of intestinal parasites like tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms as well as heartworms and ectoparasites like fleas, ticks, and mites. Although this information guided us in our product selection, our experts did not specifically endorse or recommend any of the products in this guide.

  • Melissa Smits, DVM, partner at Fort Morgan Vet Clinic
  • Kelley Lay, DVM, a relief veterinarian and student program director and operational coach at Blue Heron Consulting
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The 3 best bark collars and deterrents in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Bark collars are designed to help break excessive barking habits. We spoke with veterinary behaviorist Katherine Houpt, a professor at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, to better understand how these collars work.

It’s important to understand that barking is a natural way that dogs communicate with each other and with humans. Training your dog to stop barking by identifying the root of the behavior and using positive training techniques should always be your first attempt.

“Dogs hardly ever bark just for the sake of barking – they usually have a reason for it,” Houpt said. “If you can find the reason for it, you might be able to eliminate the barking without having to punish the dog.”

The collars in this guide work by administering an unpleasant stimulus when your dog barks. The stimulus could be a vibration, high-pitched sound, or scented spray. Other anti-bark collars administer a static shock, but we do not endorse their use as they can cause both physical and psychological harm to a dog. You can read more about each type of collar at the end of this guide.

The various types of no-shock bark collars can be safe and effective when used properly. Houpt explained that timing is important with these collars. The collar must be triggered immediately after the bark in order for the dog to make the association. The stimulus is meant to deter a dog from barking through causation – a dog will associate barking with discomfort. However, if used incorrectly, they can create additional stress for a dog.

Based on this information, we researched the best spray, ultrasonic, and vibration bark collars. If you’ve been thinking about getting one for your pet, be sure to consult your veterinarian first.

Here are the best bark collars in 2021

The best spray bark collar

PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer product image

With three levels of correction, a spray, a tone, and a vibration, the Petsafe Remote Spray Trainer Collar is one of the more versatile bark collars available. 

Pros:Three training options, remote range of 300 yards, includes one unscented and one citronella cartridge, rechargeable

Cons: Not for dogs under 8 pounds, manual control only, refills needed frequently

Spray collars work by releasing a plant-based fragrance, usually a citronella spray, each time a dog barks. While we humans may enjoy the smell, dogs typically do not.

Houpt conducted a study comparing citronella collars to shock collars and found the spray collar to be more favorable. “The owners of the dogs were happier with the citronella collar. Also, it may annoy them, but it doesn’t hurt the dog,” she said.

The Petsafe Remote Spray Trainer comes with three training options: a spray, a tone, and a vibration. Each training option must be manually activated using the remote control when within a range of 300 yards of the rechargeable collar. A tone can be set to accompany either a spray or a vibration.

The collar can be loaded with a scented or an unscented canister. The scented canister emits a lemon odor that is 1% citronella and 99% aerosol, while the unscented canister is 100% aerosol. Each canister provides up to 35 sprays and can be used on dogs larger than 8 pounds.

According to Houpt, the use of citronella won’t have any adverse effects on the dog or make the dog sick. Although this is her preferred type of bark collar, she said that some dogs, particularly larger ones, will get used to it and it will lose its effectiveness.

According to Houpt, the use of citronella won’t have any adverse effects on the dog or make the dog sick. Although this is her preferred type of bark collar, she said that some dogs, particularly larger ones, will get used to it and it will lose its effectiveness.

The best vibration bark collar

Dogrook Collar Main

With seven levels of vibration and sound, the DogRook Bark Control Collar is a shock-free alternative to static shock collars. 

Pros: Seven levels of vibrations and sounds, water-resistant

Cons: Not for dogs under 11 pounds, may not work for large dogs or those with thick coats

Instead of emitting a shock, the Dog Rook Bark Control Collar vibrates when it detects barking, offering seven levels of sound and vibration. When your dog barks, the collar will administer a short beep, then a longer beep, then a beep plus vibration, and so on up to seven levels. Once the collar reaches the seventh level, it will enter a one-minute hibernation mode.

The Dog Rook Bark Control Collar comes with two sets of plastic prongs, one shorter and one longer, for both short- and long-haired dogs. The prongs are designed to detect movement of the vocal cords so the collar should not activate if another dog is barking nearby.

Dog Rook’s anti-bark collar is adjustable for dogs weighing 11 to 110 pounds, of all breeds and ages. When fitting the collar, make sure that it is not too tight or restricting but that the probes are within a finger’s thickness of the dog’s skin so they feel the vibration.

Although Houpt doesn’t have experience using vibration collars, she said in general, “I think they can wear their [bark] collars all the time, but you have to be careful because if you have them tight enough to be effective, it may actually do skin damage.” The manufacturer advises that the collar be worn no longer than 8 to 12 hours at a time. If worn longer or fitted improperly, the probes can rub and irritate the skin.

The best ultrasonic bark deterrent

modus ultrasonic bark control device

The Modus Ultrasonic Bark Control Device is a manual, standalone device that you can use to help curb your dog’s barking or discourage other unwanted behavior.

Pros: Simple and easy design

Cons: Manual control only, some dogs will habituate to the sound, any dog within range can hear it

The Modus Ultrasonic Dog Bark Deterrent emits a high-pitched frequency when a dog’s bark is detected. When your dog barks, just press the battery-powered control device and a 25,000-Hz signal will sound. Most ultrasonic deterrents start at frequencies around 25,000 Hz so that only dogs can hear them. Dogs are capable of hearing frequencies as high as 47,000 Hz to 65,000 Hz, while adult humans cannot hear frequencies above 20,000 Hz, according to the American Kennel Club.

With this collar, your dog will hear the sound when they are within 16.4 feet of the device. But, remember, any dog within range can pick up the frequency, so it’s best to use it in a single-dog home. It should also not be used with puppies younger than 6 months old.

Although there is a range restriction, this device is a great tool because it allows you to correct different types of barking in various situations. Houpt explained that dogs bark for many reasons. Sometimes they bark to alert us of an intruder, and sometimes they bark because they want the Thanksgiving leftovers. 

But this collar may not be a long-term solution. “The ultrasound usually works at first, and then the dogs habituate to it,” Houpt said. What works on one dog may not work on another. Users have found similar results using the Modus, while others have been able to curb their dog’s barking when necessary.

Prior to using the Modus, it’s best to have a veterinarian check your dog’s hearing and assess their demeanor to determine if an ultrasonic deterrent is the best bark-control tool for them.

Types of bark collars

Houpt helped us understand how each type of bark collar works. These are the four types of bark collars:

  • Spray bark collar: These collars release an unpleasant plant-based scent around your dog’s nose. Most spray collars use citronella, which is a natural repellent. While we may enjoy this smell, bugs and animals do not.
  • Ultrasonic bark collar: A dog’s hearing is far more sensitive than ours, making them able to hear pitches and frequencies we cannot. Ultrasonic bark collars, when triggered, will produce an “annoying” high-pitched sound that only dogs can hear.
  • Vibration bark collar: When triggered by your dog’s bark, this type of collar will activate a series of vibration intensities. These are more of an annoyance to the dog, and if used properly, the dog will associate the vibration as a result of the bark.
  • Static shock collar: Houpt advises against the use of a shock collar and some retailers, like Petco, no longer sell these static collars, which can cause both physical and psychological harm. When a dog barks, this type of collar emits a static shock through electrodes on the collar. These shocks are similar to what we feel when we get shocked by static electricity. Many collars offer various settings and intensities depending on the dog’s size and severity of the barking. 
  • Static shock collar: Houpt advises against the use of a shock collar and some retailers, like Petco, no longer sell these static collars, which can cause both physical and psychological harm. When a dog barks, this type of collar emits a static shock through electrodes on the collar. 
    Static shock collar: Veterinarians, including Houpt, do not recommend these collars and some retailers, like Petco, no longer sell static collars, which can cause both physical and psychological harm. When a dog barks, this type of collar emits a static shock through electrodes on the collar. According to a study by the University of Lincoln in the UK, positive reinforcement training is more effective than a shock collar when training a dog not to bark.

What we’re currently testing

Below are the bark collars we’re testing for an update to this guide in summer 2021. 

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The 6 best dog shampoos in 2021 for fleas and ticks, grooming, and skin irritation

  • Bathing your dog regularly helps keep their skin and coat clean, healthy, and moisturized.
  • Dog shampoos are formulated to be gentle on a dog’s sensitive skin and free from harsh ingredients and fragrances.
  • Our top pick is Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo, which cleans and deodorizes without irritating sensitive skin.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, DVM, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Bathing your dog is a key aspect of responsible dog ownership. A good bath with a high-quality dog shampoo helps keep a dog’s skin and coat clean and moisturized. Whether a dog bath is fun or feels like a chore to you, the shampoo product that you use plays a big part in maintaining optimal skin and coat health.

Many dog owners use human shampoo on their dogs, but these products can damage a dog’s skin and leave the skin vulnerable to problems like flaky skin and infections. The best option is to purchase a shampoo designed specifically for dogs. The products below are formulated for a dog’s pH and gentle on sensitive skin.

Keeping a dog’s skin and coat clean is important, but know that you can have too much of a good thing. Too-frequent shampooing could strip their coat of the natural oils that nourish and moisturize the skin and coat. So, not only is it important to avoid bathing them too often but you also need to use a high-quality product when you do wash them.

The shampoos recommended here are not intended to treat medical conditions. Speak to your veterinarian and read our guide to the best medicated dog shampoos if you are looking to manage a specific condition.

Here are the best dog shampoos in 2021

The best overall

Earthbath dog shampoo

Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo combines all the good things that you’d want in a dog shampoo into one product.

Pros: All-natural ingredients, soap-free formula, relieves itching, soothes dry skin, promotes healing, moisturizes skin, pH-balanced to clean and deodorize, won’t wash away flea and tick products,100% biodegradable, cruelty-free

Cons: May not be suitable for dogs with allergies and extra-sensitive skin, scent may fade over time, may not be powerful enough for very strong odors

When shopping for dog shampoo, look for a product that will clean and deodorize a dog’s skin and coat without irritating their sensitive skin. We recommend Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo, which is a gentle and effective formula for animals 6 weeks and older.

The shampoo contains natural ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and aloe vera to soothe skin irritation, relieve itching, and moisturize a dog’s skin The soap-free, pH-balanced formula effectively cleans and softens the coat, and vanilla and almond extracts leave a pleasing scent. It is light enough that it won’t wash away flea and tick control products.

In addition to being all-natural, it is 100% biodegradable and cruelty-free.

The best for puppies

Isle of Dogs dog shampoo

Isle of Dogs Tearless Puppy Shampoo gently cleanses a puppy’s sensitive skin and coat and can be used as a face wash without irritating the eyes. 

Pros: Gentle enough for puppies and as a face wash, fresh orchid scent, natural odor-neutralizing ingredients, lathers well for deep cleaning, no harsh fragrances

Cons: Orchid scent may be overpowering, may not be powerful enough for strong odors

Like adult dogs, puppies can have sensitive skin. To care for your puppy’s skin, choose a formula that is strong enough for deep cleaning but gentle enough not to irritate or damage your puppy’s skin. Isle of Dogs Tearless Puppy Shampoo is a puppy-safe shampoo that cleans and deodorizes without the use of harsh chemicals or fragrances.

The shampoo is made with gentle cleansers that are safe for your puppy’s sensitive skin and coat. It is a tearless formula that won’t irritate their eyes if you use it as a face wash, and it leaves behind a fresh orchid scent. The formula’s odor-neutralizing ingredients provide long-lasting freshness.

Even though the shampoo can safely be used to wash your puppy’s face, take extra care not to get the product in their eyes, nose, or mouth.

The best for fleas and ticks

Adams dog shampoo

Adams Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo is made with natural pyrethrins and an insect growth regulator to kill fleas on contact and provide 28 days of protection.

Pros: Made with natural pyrethrins instead of synthetic permethrins, contains Precor insect growth regulator, kills fleas and ticks in all life stages, protects for a full 28 days, contains natural ingredients to soothe and moisturize skin, gently cleanses and softens coat, safe for puppies over 12 weeks

Cons: Not recommended for puppies under 12 weeks, some users find the odor to be too strong, must  be worked into a thick lather for maximum efficacy  

Not only can fleas make your dog’s skin irritated and inflamed, but these tiny, pesky parasites can make their way into your pet’s bedding, your furniture, your carpet — and eventually onto you.

Adams Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo is a highly effective formula that kills fleas in all life stages and is also effective against ticks and chewing lice.

Adams Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo contains natural pyrethrins to kill adult fleas, ticks, and lice in puppies 12 weeks and older. It also contains Precor, an insect growth regulator that prevents eggs and larvae from developing into biting adults. While these ingredients are safe for dogs, they are toxic to cats and potentially fatal. Never bathe your cat with this product.

In addition to powerful active ingredients, this formula also contains natural ingredients like coconut extract, oatmeal, and aloe to help soothe and moisturize your dog’s dry, irritated, and itchy skin. The gentle formula works into an easy lather to cleanse your dog’s coat, leaving it soft, shiny, and clean. It also provides a full 28 days of protection against fleas, ticks, and lice.

Be aware that flea shampoos kill adult fleas that are currently on a dog but are less effective — and harder to use — than flea preventatives. An oral or topical spot-on flea preventive is the best line of defense against fleas and should be the first choice to prevent flea problems on a dog.

The best for sensitive skin

4 legger dog shampoo

4 Legger Conditioning Shampoo is free from the synthetic and harsh ingredients that might irritate a dog’s sensitive skin.

Pros: No synthetic ingredients, no detergents or sulfates, biodegradable and cruelty-free, gently cleanses and moisturizes, safe for dogs with allergies and sensitive skin, mild but pleasant scent, safe for puppies and dogs of all ages

Cons: May not be strong enough for dogs with thick double coats, thin consistency

Shampoos, particularly all-natural shampoos, that are free of harsh ingredients are generally the safest option for dogs with sensitive skin and seasonal allergies. Our recommendation for organic dog shampoo is 4 Legger Conditioning Shampoo because it is USDA-certified organic and free from synthetic ingredients that might irritate your dog’s skin. This formula is safe for dogs in all life stages.

4 Legger Conditioning Shampoo gently cleanses and moisturizes your dog’s skin and coat, leaving them smelling fresh and clean. It is minimally processed, meaning that the ingredients remain as close as possible to their original, natural form.

Ingredients are sustainably sourced and biodegradable.

The best heavy-duty shampoo

Synergy dog shampoo

With three times the cleansing action of ordinary dog shampoos, Veterinary Formula Triple Strength Dirty Dog Concentrated Shampoo tackles even the toughest dirt and odors.

Pros: Contains three times the cleansing power of ordinary shampoos, lathers well for a deep clean, made with an exclusive “dirt repel” formula, natural ingredients to soothe and moisturize skin, doesn’t leave behind a sticky residue, concentrated formula doesn’t require mixing, does not remove topical flea and tick control treatments, gentle enough to be used frequently

Cons: Triple strength formula may be too strong for dogs with very sensitive skin, bottle may leak when not stored or handled properly, green apple scent sometimes wears off quickly

For a shampoo to take on even the dirtiest, smelliest of dogs but gentle enough to soothe and moisturize their skin, our top choice Veterinary Formula Triple Strength Dirty Dog Concentrated Shampoo.

The Triple Strength Dirty Dog Concentrated Shampoo contains three times more active cleansing ingredients than the average dog shampoo. Free from harsh ingredients and irritating fragrances, this formula contains a variety of foaming agents and natural ingredients like aloe vera and shea butter to leave your dog’s skin healthy and their coat clean.

This shampoo also contains a “dirt repel” formula to keep your dog’s coat cleaner longer.

Despite this shampoo being heavy duty, it is gentle enough that it won’t remove topical flea and tick control products on your dog’s skin or strip away the skin’s natural oils. Also, it can be used frequently, if needed. Always talk with your veterinarian about how often you should shampoo your dog.

The best for sensitive skin

Vets Best dog shampoo

The Vet’s Best Hypo-Allergenic Dog Shampoo uses a soap-free, tearless formula that works fast to soothe dry and irritated skin.

Pros: Hypoallergenic formula, soap-free, tearless, cleans and moisturizes sensitive skin and coats, helps relieve itching and dryness, does not interfere with flea and tick products

Cons: Scent may be too strong for some people, may not be effective against severe allergic reactions, not recommended for nursing or pregnant dogs

Seasonal allergies can cause dogs to feel persistently itchy, leading to constant scratching and licking that damages the skin and leaves it vulnerable to infection and other skin problems.

Our top pick for a hypoallergenic dog shampoo that gently cleanses while soothing dry skin and relieving itching is Vet’s Best Hypo-Allergenic Dog Shampoo. This soap-free, tearless formula won’t interfere with your dog’s flea and tick control products, either.

Vet’s Best Hypo-Allergenic Dog Shampoo removes allergy-inducing substances like pollen from the skin and features natural ingredients like aloe vera and vitamin E to soothe itching, relieve allergies, and moisturize dry and brittle coats. It won’t irritate their sensitive skin or leave behind a sticky residue. Plus, it will leave them smelling clean and fresh.

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21 of the best dog foods in 2021 for puppies, adult dogs, and seniors

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Best dog food brands in 2021
  • There are many excellent dog food brands, but finding the right food for your pet is not so simple.
  • We spoke to veterinarians and an animal nutrition expert who guided us in selecting nutritious dog food.
  • Here are some of the best dog foods, including kibble, canned food, fresh food, and puppy, senior, and grain-free diets.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Choosing a healthy dog food can be an overwhelming process. The brands and formulas we’ve highlighted here are a sampling of the many excellent options available, and each recommendation was evaluated based on standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) as well as consultation with veterinary experts. (Products have been independently chosen by us based on our research and years of experience; none were recommended by our experts who maintain impartiality.)

The advice in this guide is tailored to the “average dog” – a sedentary or moderately active dog that is either a healthy weight or slightly overweight, does not have a specific health condition, and is not a working or performance dog. Each dog food was evaluated based on its nutritional adequacy, calorie content, guaranteed analysis, and ingredients.

At the end of this guide, you’ll find complete details on our methodology and the experts we spoke with, as well as information on how to read a pet food label, calculate your dog’s caloric needs, and find a food your dog likes to eat. You can also use this knowledge to evaluate any other brands you might be interested in trying.

Not all dogs are the same, so always consult your veterinarian before introducing new foods to their diets.

Here are 21 of the best dog foods you can buy in 2021

The best adult dry dog food

Dog Food_Adult Dry

Dry dog food is a practical option for many pet owners: It’s cost-effective, has a long shelf life, and is easy to store and serve. Always check a pet food label to ensure the food is AAFCO complete and balanced for your adult dog’s life stage — “maintenance” for adults and “growth” for puppies and pregnant or lactating females. 

For adult dogs, we recommend foods containing moderate protein (the AAFCO minimum is 18% for adults) and low to moderate fat. Pet owners often assume more protein is better since dogs evolved as carnivores, but this is not so, according to Kelly Swanson, PhD, professor of animal and nutritional sciences at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Domestic dogs are actually omnivorous and do not require extremely high protein concentrations in their diet. “From a pet health perspective, the protein quality and digestibility are most important,” he said.

When shopping for dog food, look for meat sources of protein such as whole meats and meat meals at the top of the ingredients list. Complementary proteins like rice and beans may also be included. Swanson likes to see fat concentrations below 20%, although he doesn’t get too concerned about fat content for healthy-weight pets who do not have conditions like pancreatitis or gastrointestinal disease.

Veterinarian W. Jean Dodds, owner of Hemopet Holistic Care Veterinary Clinic, looks for a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods on the list. These include high quality meats or fish, some carbohydrates, a mixture of vegetables, and some fruit, including berries. 

Many foods also contain extra ingredients like omega fatty acids for skin and coat health, probiotics for digestion, and glucosamine, chondroitin, and green-lipped mussels for joint support.

Our picks for adult dry dog food:

The best adult wet dog food

Dog Food_Wet Food

Wet food is particularly appealing to dogs. Pet parents often like it for this reason, and because it has a long shelf life when unopened. 

We selected wet foods that meet AAFCO complete and balanced standards, which are the same as those that apply to dry food. However, wet food generally contains more protein and fat and fewer carbohydrates, so be sure to talk to your veterinarian before switching your dog to a wet diet, especially if they have trouble digesting a lot of protein or fat.

Although the same standards apply to dry and wet food, it can be hard to compare their labels. Kibble has very little moisture, while canned food contains a lot of water. To understand a wet food label, you need to look at the percentages of protein, fat, and fiber on a “dry matter basis.” Read these instructions from the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University to calculate them yourself, call the food manufacturer, or ask your veterinarian for help. For the foods below, we contacted the manufacturer.

When shopping, be on the lookout for wet dog food that is 100% meat. More protein might seem like a good thing, but these foods are for supplemental feeding only. “Dogs have evolved from wolves to become obligate omnivores,” said Dodds. This means that they need more than just meat in their diet. Small amounts of meat-only wet foods can make tasty meal toppers for your dog’s complete and balanced dry food.

Our picks for adult wet dog food:

The best fresh dog food

Dog Food_Fresh Food

Fresh dog food is minimally processed, made with wholesome ingredients, often without preservatives, and cooked a short time before your dog eats it. All this means fresh dog food is some of the most expensive food you can buy.

Some dog food companies cook fresh, individually customized food and ship it directly to your door, usually via a subscription. It must be stored in the freezer, thawed in the refrigerator, and fed within a few days of opening the package. 

Always check that the fresh food you plan to feed your dog is AAFCO complete and balanced and not intended for supplemental feeding. Most companies tailor the calorie content of the meals to your specific dog based on weight, breed, and activity level. 

When choosing a healthy fresh dog food, look for the same beneficial ingredients you would for any dog food: meat sources of protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, marine sources of fat, and healthy extras like omega fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin, and probiotics.

Our picks for fresh dog food:

The best budget dog food

Dog Food_Budget

The phrase “you get what you pay for” holds true for dog food. Food made from organic, non-GMO, or human-grade ingredients comes with a premium price tag. 

The good news is, it’s not necessary to go broke to feed your dog a great diet. If you’re looking to spend less, many high-quality dog foods provide excellent nutrition at a lower cost. 

We don’t advise buying the cheapest food available — to keep the price down, such foods contain lower-quality ingredients and more fillers. As with any diet, choose the appropriate food for your dog’s life stage and check for the AAFCO complete and balanced statement on the label.

Our picks for budget dog food:

The best grain-free dog food

Dog Food_Grain Free

Grain-free diets aren’t necessarily superior to diets that contain grains, but they can be helpful for dogs that are allergic or intolerant to specific grains. There is also a misconception that these dog foods are carbohydrate-free, but the necessary carbohydrates just come from non-grain ingredients like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, and tapioca.

Something worth mentioning in any discussion about grain-free food is the fact that the FDA continues to investigate a potential link between dogs fed grain-free diets and the development of a heart condition called non-hereditary dilated cardiomyopathy. For now, no firm correlation between grain-free diets and cardiac issues has been scientifically supported. However, it’s possible we may discover more in the future. Always talk to your veterinarian about feeding your dog a grain-free diet.

Our picks for grain-free dog food:

The best dry puppy food

Dog Food_Puppy

Puppy foods are formulated to be energy-dense, which means they are higher in fat and calories to fuel growing bodies. 

To ensure the food you’re considering is appropriate for puppies, check the label for an AAFCO complete and balanced statement that says it’s intended for growth for all life stages. A food labeled “maintenance” is only intended for adult dogs.

Some puppy foods are made specially for small breeds or large and giant breeds, but there aren’t any official AAFCO nutrient standards for these designations. “Balancing the nutrient needs of dogs given their wide size variety and ages is wise and common sense,” said Dodds.

Small breed puppy foods usually have a smaller kibble size for smaller mouths and are often slightly higher in calories to account for the higher metabolisms of these breeds. Puppy foods for large and giant breeds generally contain more protein; less fat; fewer calories; and an ideal balance of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D to encourage slower growth to support joint health and prevent obesity.

Our picks for puppy food:

The best dry senior dog food

Dog Food_Senior Dog

Senior diets are intended for the unique needs of older dogs. “Senior diets are formulated to target some of the common ailments of older pets, such as joint health, digestive health, immune health, and possibly others,” said Swanson. 

These diets may contain higher amounts of protein, higher quality protein to maintain muscle, fiber to aid in fecal elimination, additional antioxidants to limit oxidative stress and aid in immune response, and additional omega-3 fatty acids for cognitive performance.

Since older dogs are often less active, these diets typically contain fewer calories. Some foods are also lower in protein, but contrary to popular belief, healthy senior dogs may actually benefit from more protein than younger adult dogs. If your dog does not have health conditions, look for a senior diet that is lower in fat and calories and contains extra protein — the AAFCO minimum protein for adult dogs is 18%.

Our picks for senior dog food:

Our methodology

I’ve been fortunate to interview many veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists throughout my 20-year career writing and editing for pet and veterinary publications, and I’ve fed my own dog many different dog food brands. 

For advice on what to look for in a healthy dog food and what to avoid, I consulted two veterinarians and a professor of animal and nutritional science. Although this information guided me in my product selection, our veterinary experts did not specifically endorse any of the products included in this guide. This makes sense since a veterinarian’s goal is to find a food that best fits each individual dog, rather than making broad recommendations. 

All the foods mentioned in this guide are complete and balanced according to the guidelines established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), contain high-quality ingredients, and offer appropriate levels of protein, fat, and fiber for their respective categories. 

I also consulted educational materials from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the Global Nutrition Guidelines published by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).

Here are the main attributes we looked for, in order of importance:

AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement: The most important benchmark of a healthy dog food is a statement on the label that says it meets the nutritional standards established by the AAFCO, demonstrating that the food is complete and balanced for the dog’s life stage. All foods mentioned in this guide are AAFCO complete and balanced. Read more about those standards and definitions in the next slide.

Guaranteed analysis: The guaranteed analysis lists the percentages of the most vital nutrients in the food: protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. Sometimes, other nutrients like glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega fatty acids are also listed in the guaranteed analysis. Foods selected in this guide contain moderate to high protein (AAFCO minimums are 22% for puppies and 18% for adults) and low to moderate fat (AAFCO minimums are 8.5% for puppies and 5.5% for adults).

Ingredients list: The ingredients list can be tricky to navigate, especially when taking water content into account, but in general, you want to see clearly identified animal sources of protein at the top of the list. Whole meat is great, but it is heavier due to its moisture content. Once that water is removed, the meat content might not be as high as you think. Don’t automatically write off meat meals. High-quality meat meals can be an excellent source of protein — the water has been removed, so they may provide more protein than whole meat. The ingredients lists of all the foods in this guide contain animal sources of protein at the top of the list.

Healthy extras: According to Swanson, some foods contain extra ingredients intended to support healthy skin, coat, and joints. Some of these may include additional long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA; usually supplied by marine-based oils or meals), omega-6 fatty acids (safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, flaxseed, etc.), glucosamine, chondroitin, green-lipped mussels, and additional vitamins (vitamin A, biotin) and minerals (zinc, copper). Probiotics, prebiotics, and yeast fermentation products may also boost gut health.

Calorie content: The calorie content of dog food is listed in kilocalories, or k/cals. When dogs consume too many calories, they are at risk for becoming overweight or obese. Less-active dogs need fewer calories and very active dogs like performance or working dogs need a food that is more calorie dense. For most dogs, being able to eat the largest volume of food while staying within the ideal daily calorie range will help them feel more satisfied. In general, such foods rated higher in our selection process. Check out this calorie calculator to determine how many calories your dog needs. Your veterinarian can also evaluate if the amount you’re feeding is appropriate.

Feeding trials: It’s great if a food has undergone feeding trials in addition to a laboratory analysis of the food’s ingredients. If the nutritional adequacy statement on the label has language like “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [product] provides complete and balanced nutrition for [life stage]” it means the food has been proven via feeding trials to be palatable, digestible, and able sustain pets over time.  

Expert formulations: Choose a pet food manufacturer that works closely with a veterinary nutritionist or other professional with a master’s degree or PhD in nutrition, animal science, or a related field. Manufacturers may employ one or more full-time nutritionists, or hire one or more nutrition consultants. For this guide, we prioritized brands that have a dedicated nutrition expert on staff to align with WSAVA recommendations.

Next-level ingredients: Seeing natural, organic, or human-grade ingredients on the label is nice, especially if you believe in the health benefits of organic foods. Wild-caught fish are as natural as you can get and, unlike farmed fish, are not treated with antibiotics or medications. Some foods use eggs and meat from cage-free chickens and turkeys, which is a bonus if you care about the welfare of the animals you — and your pets — eat. That said, ingredients in dog food need not be human-grade, organic, wild-caught, or cage-free to be healthy and nutritious for pets.

AAFCO standards

The Association of American Feed Control Officials is a private nonprofit corporation that defines ingredients and establishes nutritional profiles for animal feed and pet food. AAFCO establishes model language for states and other governing bodies. It does not regulate, test, approve, or certify pet food. The US Food and Drug Administration, which is a voting member of AAFCO, regulates pet food labels at the federal level. States also regulate pet foods, and most have adopted the model pet food regulations established by AAFCO.

Dog foods that meet the nutritional standards established by AAFCO may use a statement on the label that says the food is complete and balanced for the dog’s life stage according to the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile. There are three life stages: 1) maintenance, for adult dogs more than 1 year old, 2) growth, for puppies less than 1 year old, and which also includes pregnant and lactating females, and 3) all life stages, which is any dog of any age.

Foods that do not display language asserting that they are complete and balanced as determined by AAFCO standards are labeled for supplemental or intermittent feeding only. Those foods should never be a dog’s sole diet as they are not nutritionally adequate.

Foods can meet AAFCO standards in two ways:

  1. Guaranteed analysis: Nutrient profiles are determined through laboratory analysis of the food. Foods that meet AAFCO standards as per nutrient profiles will display language like “formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for [life stage].” You can always contact the company to confirm the nutrient profile of the food also meets nutritional levels established by the AAFCO.
  2. Feeding trials: Pet foods can also meet the standards through feeding trials, where the food is fed to animals under controlled conditions and the outcomes are monitored. Feeding trials are not perfect, and they are also very expensive, so not all companies perform them. However, it’s nice to see them, though they should not replace nutrient profiles. If you see language like Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [product] provides complete and balanced nutrition for [life stage]” it means the food has been proven via feeding trials to be palatable, digestible, and able sustain pets over time.

How to read a pet food label

Dog Food_Read Pet Food Label

Dog food packages feature attractive images and targeted descriptions intended to sell you on the quality and healthfulness of the food, but if you really want to know whether a dog food is high quality and a good choice for your dog, learn what to look for on the label.

A great place to start is this handy reference from the WSAVA about interpreting food labels. The most important information to look for on a label is the AAFCO complete and balanced statement, the guaranteed analysis (crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, and moisture), and the calorie content statement.

The ingredients list is also important, but it can be difficult for the average pet owner to know how well their dog will do on a diet just based off the ingredients.

“Although many pet owners make their decision based largely on the ingredient panel, it is only one of many considerations,” Swanson said. “Without knowing the exact formula and percentage of each ingredient, it is not too useful. What is more important is that the dietary formula is complete and balanced.”

Certain terms on pet food labels can be confusing and even misleading. “Terms like ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are very common in the industry today,” Swanson said. “While both terms were intended to highlight higher quality ingredients, they do not guarantee high quality.” He explained that quality depends on both the raw ingredients and good manufacturing practices. “Like other ingredients that do not carry these terms, they are highly variable due to differences in soil quality (plants), feed quality (animals), ingredient storage, ingredient handling, etc.,” he said.

If you find reading pet food labels confusing, your veterinarian can talk to you about your dog’s individual needs, help you choose an appropriate food, and advise how much to feed.

FAQs about dog food

FAQs about dog food

What is the best food I can feed my dog?

It’s important to find a food your dog likes eating and thrives on, but this may involve a bit of trial and error. Individual dogs digest food differently. Some dogs do better with more protein, some need less. Some dogs can tolerate higher levels of fat; others need less. Dogs also handle amounts of fiber differently. Your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist can help you sort out what diet will work best for your dog.

“Dogs are individuals,” said veterinarian Carol Osborne, of the Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “What works well for Dog A, might not work well for Dog B. If you want to know if a food is good for your pet, look at your pet. Your pet is a reflection of what he or she is eating.”

Outward signs of good health include clear eyes and nose, ears that aren’t smelly, and a coat that isn’t dry, flakey, or shedding excessively. Your dog should not be vomiting or experiencing diarrhea. “Soft stool is not normal,” Osborne said. “Bowel movements should be formed and homogenous. You should not be able to make out the pea, the piece of corn, the carrot. [Homogenous stool] means the food has all been digested.”

What is human-grade dog food?

Pet foods that use the term “human-grade” must follow strict rules. The term may only be used if it applies to the finished food as a whole — not individual ingredients. Both the ingredients and finished product must be documented to be stored, handled, processed, and transported according to the current good manufacturing practices for human-edible foods, and the label must clearly state that the food is intended for dogs.

Swanson has tested a few human-grade pet foods in his lab over the years. “While I don’t have a strong preference to any one type or brand of diet, I can say that the human-grade foods I have had experience with are highly palatable, highly digestible, and resulted in a low volume of stool that allowed for easy clean up,” he said.

Is a raw diet good for my dog?

A raw diet consists of uncooked meat, bones, and vegetables. Raw pet food poses dangers to both dogs and humans. Veterinarians told Insider Reviews that despite some reported benefits, there are too many risks for pets, including bacterial infections, nutritional deficiencies, and injuries from bones in the food. In addition, people who are immunocompromised, elderly people, and young children are at risk of bacterial infections if they live in a household where a dog is fed a raw diet. For more information, read the statements from the FDA and CDC regarding the health and safety risks of feeding raw dog foods.

Our sources

  • Dr. Kelly S. Swanson MS, PhD, is a professor of animal and nutritional sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois. Dr. Swanson’s lab conducts research on nutrition-related problems like obesity and intestinal health. Dr. Swanson is the Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition.
  • Jean Dodds, DVM, obtained her veterinary degree from Ontario Veterinary College. A clinical research veterinarian for more than 50 years, Dr. Dodds has more than 150 research publications. She is the founder of Hemopet, the first nonprofit national animal blood bank. Dr. Dodds is the developer of NutriScan, a food sensitivity and intolerance diagnostic test for dogs, cats and horses. She co-authored two books with Diana Laverdure, The Canine Thyroid Epidemic: Answers You Need for Your Dog (Dogwise, 2011) and Canine Nutrigenomics: Foods that Heal Your Dog (Dogwise, 2015).
  • Carol Osborne, DVM, is founder and director of the Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. She is author of the books Naturally Healthy Cats (Marshall, 2006) and Naturally Healthy Dogs (Marshall, 2006) and hosts a weekly National Pet Talk AM radio show broadcast. Dr. Osborne has appeared on Good Day L.A. and Today in New York, where she was the on-camera staff veterinarian.
  • Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) 
  • World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Global Nutrition Guidelines 
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The 5 best dog buttons to teach your pet to communicate in 2021

  • Speech pathologists use recordable buttons to communicate with nonverbal individuals.
  • These buttons that record and play sound can also help a dog to communicate their needs and wants.
  • We chose the best dog buttons, including budget and light-up versions.

Cognitive scientists and speech pathologists use pressable buttons – each representing an action, place, or object – to communicate with nonverbal individuals. Dogs can use the method, too. By pressing buttons onto which a word or sound has been recorded, a dog can learn to “speak” in simple phrases like “play” and “outside.” Give them enough buttons and they can communicate their thoughts on almost everything. Get started with a beginner’s set of four to six buttons. For this guide, we’ve selected the best options, including budget, fully customizable, and light-up versions.

Here are the best dog buttons in 2021

The best dog buttons overall

Fluent Pet Get Started Kit dog buttons
A dog button system developed by a cognitive scientist

Fluent Pet’s Get Started Kit comes with six buttons and three nonslip tiles for organizing words and actions.

What we like: Fully customizable, comes with tiles to keep buttons organized, batteries included

Fluent Pet’s Get Started Kit was designed by a cognitive scientist to foster better communication between verbal and nonverbal individuals. The battery-operated system works for dogs, too, as proven by two canine learners, Bunny and Stella, who have amassed hundreds of thousands of social media followers. The kit comes with everything you need to teach your dog to “talk,” including six buttons that have microphones for recording words and 67 stickers to identify the buttons visually. The buttons fit into three nonslip hexagonal tiles: one for actions, one for objects, and one for places. The tiles can be put together in multiple configurations and easily disassembled or added to. The kit arrives ready-to-use with batteries and a starter guide.

The best budget dog buttons

learning resources dog buttons
Budget-friendly buttons that speech pathologists use to communicate with nonverbal individuals

Learning Resources Recordable Answer Buzzers are an affordable way to begin teaching a dog to use their words.

What we like: Includes four buttons in different colors, easy to press, comes with activity guide

Learning Resources Recordable Answer Buzzers, a tool that speech pathologists use to communicate with nonverbal individuals, are an affordable way to begin teaching a dog to “talk.” The set comes with four easy-to-press 3-inch-diameter buttons in four different colors. Each button is powered by two AAA batteries and can record up to seven seconds of sound. Batteries are not included, but the set arrives with an activity guide to help you get started.

The best customizable dog buttons

talking tiles dog buttons
A set that can be fully customized with sound and pictures

Talking Products Talking Tiles are fully customizable with transparent covers and up to 80 seconds of recording time.

What we like: Fully customizable, can record sound using a computer or smartphone, includes six buttons in different colors

The six buttons included in Talking Products Talking Tiles can be fully customized with audio messages and images. Each 4-inch-wide hexagonal button holds up to 80 seconds of audio recorded with a built-in microphone or via a smartphone or computer using the audio-input jack. Further customize each button by adding a picture or symbol underneath the transparent cover. Each button runs on three AAA batteries, which must be purchased separately.

The best light-up dog buttons

Ritioner's Learning Answer Buzzers dog buttons
An excellent choice for dogs who are hard of hearing

Ritioner’s Learning Answer Buzzers play sound and light up simultaneously each time they are pressed.

What we like: Light-up buttons, easy to press, records up to 30 seconds of sound

Ritioner’s Learning Answer Buzzers are durable plastic buttons that glow with LED light when pressed. While this feature can be a useful cue for teaching any dog to communicate, it’s especially helpful for those who are hard of hearing. For hearing dogs, these four differently colored, easy-to-press buttons can also record up to 30 seconds of sound. Each buzzer runs on two AAA batteries, which are sold separately.

The best potty button

Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0
An indoor or outdoor potty button with 38 bell tones and 4 volume settings

The Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0 works indoors or out so your dog can communicate when they need to potty or when they want to come in.

What we like: Easy to press, 38 customizable bell tones, can be used indoors or out, 90-day money-back guarantee

Teach your dog how to communicate when they need to go outside with the Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0. The bell consists of a plug-in receiver and an easy-to-press activator button. The 2-inch-diameter wireless activator button can be placed anywhere within 1,000 feet of the receiver using a 3M adhesive strip. The water-resistant button can even be placed outside for dogs who need to let you know when they’re ready to come in. To adjust the sound of the bell, choose from four volumes and 38 different ring tones. The Mighty Paw Smart Bell also comes with a training guide to help you get started and a self-charging battery is built into the device.

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