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Hurtta America sent over some free new gear for Barley and me to test – including the Trainer’s Vest.
Now, if there’s one thing I love in this world, it’s well-made gear that helps me and my dog get outside more.
I just LOVE the first thing it says on Hurtta America’s website: “There’s no such thing as bad weather.” The second half of that saying? “Only bad clothing.” It’s a mantra I’ve repeated to myself thousands of times as I psych myself up for a 50 kilometer cross-country skiing marathon or a rainy training run.
But I digress.
Sure, I’m pretty happy training Barley in my old Colorado College jacket or a random sweater. But let’s be honest: it’s nice to have gear that’s specifically made for a given activity. And I spend a lot of time training dogs.
The Basics of the Hurtta Trainer’s Vest:
- Sizes XXS – XXL
- Black color with reflective accents (though the grey trim is NOT reflective)
- Seven front pockets:
- 2 hand pockets, one of which has a detachable inner front pocket for sticky treats
- 2 zippered pockets sitting right on top of these – perfect for treats
- 2 zippered breast pockets, which I use for poop bags. One has a headphone hole, but is too small for my iPhone X with my Otterbox.
- A non-zippered breast pocket with an opening by your left collarbone, which is where I actually keep my phone.
- Water repellent material
- Hood hidden inside fashionable high collar
- HUGE back pocket for toys, leashes, or a water bottle.
- Clips for leashes or toys on strings – one below your left armpit and another below your right shoulder blade
My Opinion on the Hurtta Trainer’s Vest
The huge back pocket is PERFECT for hiding toy rewards!
Overall, I love this vest for outdoor training. I’ve found it a bit too warm to use inside my agility training building (which, luckily for us, is heated well) – but it’s perfect for outdoor training!
Hurtta does make an agility vest (which I haven’t tried) that might be better for this, anyway.
I’ve got a pretty small, sturdy build (read: kind of built like a 14 year old boy), so I don’t mind that this vest is unisex. I cinch down the waist a bit and am just fine with how it looks. But if you’re curvier than I am, you might find the hips or breast area is a bit tight.
I haven’t found much use for the clips for toys and leashes, to be honest. I don’t like the feeling of dangling leashes, and Barley just can’t handle training with a visible toy dangling (YET).
That said, I am planning on using the clips for bear spray this coming summer. Yes, living in Montana means bear spray is part of my regular hiking gear!
But I’m obsessed with the huge rear pocket for toys. I’ve put cheeseburgers (a recall jackpot), tug toys, frisbees, and target scents in there to great effect.
I also love having four front pockets. I generally use the two non-zippered pockets for my hands, while reserving the zippered ones for two different value of treats (usually kibble and Zuke’s minis). If I’m training with sticky treats, then I use the pocket with the washable interior.
While this vest certainly isn’t cheap, it’s not like my Northface vest was either. And let’s face it, I’m not going back to just having three measly pockets and no bear spray clips!
Having the right gear for the job is worth it. And if dog training is your job or a serious hobby, this vest is worth it!
Using the Hurtta Trainer’s Vest for Detection Training
I generally work on detection training using my Hurtta vest plus an awesome KAVU fanny pack.
The KAVU bag holds:
- A small first aid kit
- Training samples (usually scat, maybe an invasive plant or zebra mussels)
- Emergency snacks, both for humans and canines – usually Shock Blocks for me and some Ziwi Peak for Barley
- Nitrile gloves
- Business cards
Until I got the Hurtta Trainer’s Vest, I would also stuff my training rewards (usually a Chuckit! Ultra ball) into the top of the fanny pack. That means that when Barley would make an alert, I had to swing the fanny pack around to my front, rummage around in it, and then reward.
Now I keep the training rewards inside the large back pocket – MUCH easier!
I love being able to put drooly toys away inside a pocket that I’ll never really put my hands in. My hands get very cold very easily, and wet toys are the bane of my existence!
I also have started keeping some dog treats in the front pocket for easy access. While I don’t use them for rewarding Barley much during detection training, I’ve found them useful for handling other people’s dogs if they’re off-leash, out of control, and interrupting our training session. Easy access here is key!
An additional benefit I’ve found to using the Hurtta Vest plus the KAVU bag is that Barley knows we’re heading out to train. This allows us to get right to work because he’s already mentally prepared to work before I even give the cue.
The Drawbacks of the Hurtta Trainer’s Vest
So far, I’ve basically been singing the praises of this vest. That’s because I genuinely love it.
The only thing I don’t love about it is that it’s a bit of a medium layer – not super warm nor super insulating.
Because of its many pockets, you can only bask in its glory if it’s your outermost layer. That means that when I’m training in subzero temps with a down jacket on, I simply can’t use this vest to its full potential.
I suppose you could get a size larger vest and layer it OVER your bulky jackets, but then it’s not great for times you want to just wear a T-shirt.
In spring and fall, this vest is perfect. I expect it’ll be a bit too warm for most summer training.
Luckily for me, Missoula Montana rarely gets so hot that I wouldn’t use the vest. But for readers in Florida… this vest might simply be too warm for you. It’s made to be breathable, so we’ll just have to see how it performs in sunshine!
The only other gripe I have is that the removable pocket liner can be a bit tricky to re-install, leading to an incomplete “seal” and lost treats inside the pocket. Not ideal! I’ve learned to double-check the seal to accommodate.
But overall, I absolutely love this vest. I find myself hiking in it even when a simple treat pouch would do, just because I adore it!
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.