Teaching Dogs Impulse Control
Teaching dogs impulse control will help in all facets of life with your dog. Dogs are very impulsive animals and often act without assessing situations or thinking about consequences. Examples of impulsive behaviors are jumping on people when greeting them, rushing out of doors, eating unknown food or items quickly, and pulling on the leash to sniff things. Teaching impulse control is teaching your dog to think before acting and gives them self-control in exciting or stressful situations. To teach your dog impulse control, think of all the things your dog LOVES and then make them work to get them. By doing this you are requiring that they stop and think about how to get the rewarding item (going for a walk, getting a treat, going out in the yard, etc.) and you are also teaching them about consequences. By listening to you and doing what you ask they get rewarded with the item they want. If they do not listen to you, they do not get rewarded. All good things now come through you. Here are some examples:
- Train a wait or stay command. With this you ask your dog to stay put in one location while you go about your business. This is useful when making food or going through doorways.
- Ask your dog to sit and wait at meal times. Your dog should not run up to you and start eating out of the bowl before you even put it on the ground! You could even set up a mat they have to sit on while you put the bowl down and they can only get off of it when you say OK. Every time your dog moves towards you before you say OK, pick up the bowl and start over. Gradually increase the amount of time they have to wait.
- Ask your dog to sit and wait at all doors and gates. This will help you walk through doors safely without getting pushed over, and can also prevent your dog from running out into a busy road.
- Teaching your dog leave it. There are many times our dogs try to eat unsafe things in our house or out on walks. Training a leave it commands help teach them to control their urges to immediately eat unknown items, and to instead come to you for a safe, yummy treat.
- Ask your dog to sit while you put on their collar or harness before a walk. It is no fun having to chase your dog all over because they are so excited to go for a walk that they cannot stay still. If at any point they get up before the collar is snapped, start over.
- Make your dog sit or stand calmly when greeting people. The general rule should be “all 4 on the floor” meaning all four paws should be touching the floor before they get to say hi to a person. If at any point they jump up, immediately stop giving the dog attention and wait for them to calm down again.
At The Good Dog Spot we work on impulse control all day long. Dogs have to sit and wait at all gates until their name is called to come through. They have to be calm in their crates before getting let out after nap-time. They have to maintain low arousal at playtime and listen to staff members, or else they get a time out from playing. Be sure to carry these practices over at home and soon you will have a dog with excellent self-control!