Teaching your dog impulse control is a crucial life skill that can keep them safe and stop undesirable behaviours like leaping up on people and dashing out of openings.
Teaching your dog to wait for authorization before performing a certain action is known as impulse control.
Many dog owners find it difficult to teach their dogs to wait patiently, but with consistent practise of the exercises mentioned in this article, your dog can master impulse control in no time!
How can I train my dog to manage their impulses?
We’ve all seen dogs that display self-control.
those who maintain their composure in the face of enthusiasm and use patience when pursuing their goals. Of course, we’ve all seen the impulsive dogs—the ones who can’t seem to handle excitement without being overly exuberant, aggressive, or reactive. This lack of impulse control can occasionally lead to problematic behaviours like chasing cars, barking for balls, and jumping to greet people. Can dogs that have trouble controlling their impulses learn this crucial life skill? Absolutely!
I recently enjoyed witnessing an Aussie-mix puppy learn about self-control from another puppy. The 14-week-old Australian puppy initially lunged and bit his playmate, a Spaniel/mix, a little too forcefully. When the Australian started acting out of control, the Spaniel quietly stopped the play and then calmly invited play from the Aussie. The Australian started to pay attention to his body, his passion, and his teeth with every repeated stop and start. He started moving slower, pouncing softer, and keeping his lips open instead of closing. This adorable young Australian gained impulse control skills during a thoroughly enjoyable play session. (The Spaniel also seemed to like the interaction!)
These puppies amply proved that experiences, acts, and the results of those actions are the best ways to acquire impulse control. Additionally, they demonstrated that when the penalties incorporate enjoyment, impulse control can be swiftly learnt.
The growth of impulse control is influenced by all kinds of consequences, including both favourable experiences (like invitations to play) and unfavourable experiences (like the play coming to an end). Thankfully, most dogs can pick this this crucial skill from us as well as from interacting with other dogs. Through a variety of fun games and interactions, you can assist your dog develop impulse control extremely effectively.
Relaxing Is Rewarding
Many dogs with impulse control issues truly don’t get that remaining quiet is a choice. The first stage is for these pups and dogs to realise that they can calm down and that calm conduct is rewarding. Here are two things you can do every day to teach your dog that remaining calm and relaxed is always a smart option.
Begin by simply catching your dog in a peaceful state, such as when she is curled up on her bed or relaxing on the patio. When your dog appears to be at ease, calmly approach her, provide quiet praise or a light touch, and then casually drop a reward close to her paws or nose.
Your dog could get up and follow you around the first few times you do this to see if you’ll give him any more treats. If she does, just resume what you were doing and don’t pay her any more attention. Your dog will eventually learn to immediately relax back in after receiving a reward after a few repetitions.
Rewarding your dog for unwinding at your feet is the second thing you can do. To prevent him from straying or engaging in other activities, start off with your dog on a short leash. Visit a peaceful area. Wait for your dog to lie down while standing or sitting. Please refrain from cueing or inducing your dog to lie down. It’s possible that you’ll have to wait far longer than you’d like to! nevertheless, simply wait. (Playing this game helps individuals learn impulse control; it’s preferable to wait for the dog to do the behaviour.)
Drop a reward between his front legs and calmly say, “Good dog,” as soon as your dog delivers the down. To keep your dog calm and content, you can give him more treats.
For this activity, avoid using a clicker or other reward marker since this may promote excitement rather than calm. Do not give your dog treats if they are fixed on you. Before you lay another treat at his feet, be sure he has forgotten about the food.
Waiting Is Worth It
One of the most popular exercises for impulse control is to just wait, and for good reason—it works! As the dog learns to maintain the sit or remain seated as you leave, impulse control is put into practise. When your dog maintains its sitting position in the face of escalating distractions, you can encourage impulse control by praising it abundantly.
Try incorporating “sit for everything” into your daily life to make waiting pleasant. Ask your dog to sit before giving him anything enjoyable or priceless in particular: Before going on a walk, sit down. To begin a game of tug, fetch, or chase, sit. Sit down for dinner and dessert. Before releasing the leash for a frolic around the woods, sit down. Have your dog wait patiently before doing something that makes him enthusiastic. Your dog will quickly come to equate sitting and being patient with the chance to enjoy exciting activities.
Advice: To start, only ask your dog to sit for a small period of time before letting him go for pleasure or food. What if your dog refuses to sit when you command it to? Try again after increasing the distance between your dog and the excitement. Increase the length of time your dog sits and gradually move toward the excitement. When your dog begins to anticipate the sit and offers it without your asking, be sure to praise him. Impulsive control is at work here!
Get High and Settle
The capacity to remain calm in the midst of excitement is a crucial trait for impulse control. My preferred game for teaching dogs to swiftly de-escalate when they’re extremely “high” is a tug/down/tug game. Your dog must be able to understand the commands “Drop it,” “Down,” and “Okay” or “Free” in order to play this game.
When you initially start playing this game, keep the tempo moderate enough to maintain your dog’s composure. Use any cue you like to start a game of tug of war, such as “Tug!” or “Get it!” Use your cue to ask your dog to drop the toy after only a short while. When he drops it, start the game over right away by saying “Okay” or using your release cue. Once your dog understands that dropping the toy is what keeps the game going, repeat the initial step a few times.
Start a game of tug of war after asking him to “Drop it,” and then command your dog to “Down.” Give your release cue as soon as your dog touches the ground, then begin the game of tug with “Tug or “Get it! Ask your dog to put the toy down after a few iterations, and then watch for a down response. Keep waiting since your dog might attempt something new or experiment. Release your dog as soon as he tries the down and start another exciting tug-of-war match!
When your dog downs rapidly, you can begin to lengthen the period of time he remains down before you let him go. You might initially only hold him for two or three seconds, but you should gradually hold off releasing him until he begins to show signs of settling. For instance, I wait for my dog to become less excited, as shown by a change in her breathing pattern or softening of her gaze, and then I resume the tug of war.
Your dog can learn to listen, play, stop, and settle even in the face of rising excitement if you gradually up the game’s difficulty.
Advice: Play a very calm version of this game with only a brief period of tug if your dog gets overly enthusiastic while playing it. Try another comparable “get excited and settle activity,” such as sprinting around while stopping to relax, if your dog does not enjoy tugging. Alternately, use a flirt pole (a toy attached to a pole by a rope) to get your dog moving before introducing the stop and settle command.
Leave It Alone
Leave it (also known as “Off) is a very effective practise for impulse control. It entails getting the dog to look aside from what he is interested in and instead focus on you. My preferred method of initiating this behaviour is through a “Canine Zen practise. (Doggy Zen: You must leave the treat in order to receive the treat.)
Have a few very exciting goodies and one rather dull treat on hand. A bag or container should be placed behind your back with the nice rewards and the boring treat in it. Give your dog the uninteresting treat in a closed fist so she may sniff it but not eat it. Let your dog lick, sniff, and try to eat the treat off of your hand.
When your dog begins to step back from your treat or hand just a little, signal the event with a clicker or with a vocal cue like “Yes!” and reward them with one of the delicious treats in your other hand. Be very patient; it may take a dog one or two tries before giving up and backing off.
When your dog has figured out the game and has swiftly backed away from the reward in your fist, switch the hands holding the treat to mix things up a bit. Give the tasty goodie from your other hand as a reward once more.
Your dog will quickly back away from a dull goodie in either hand, so pause for a second after that (without immediately marking or rewarding the behavior). Keep a close eye on your dog since, nearly invariably, after a few seconds of not receiving the anticipated incentive, dogs will scan your face for clues, attempting to understand why they haven’t yet received a reward. Whenever he makes eye contact with you, click (or “Yes!” congratulate him.
Add a verbal cue like “good” when your dog effortlessly backs off a treat and makes eye contact with you afterward each time “Ignore it. initially provide the treat, then when your dog notices, say “Leave it, click or say “Yes!” and give your dog a treat when it makes eye contact.
As you wait for your dog to back away from your fist, remember to be patient and let your dog discover how he will ultimately be rewarded. You can advance this game by switching from holding the treat in a closed fist to an open hand, placing the treat on the ground, or substituting a toy for the reward. By gradually raising the level of difficulty, “Your dog will learn that leaving something alone is more thrilling and engaging than going for it if you give him the leave it task and large rewards.
Tricks for Tosses
Most dogs like playing, running, and chasing. same as the “Before you begin any active play-and-chase games like the sit for everything exercise described earlier, you can ask your dog to perform a different behaviour.
With this activity, you ask your dog to perform an active behavior—something that gets him moving—instead of just waiting for you toss a toy at him or let him run around with his friends. Ask your dog to perform tricks like hand-targeting, spinning, weaving his legs, coming to you quickly from a distance, or going in front of or behind the heel. Your dog will learn to pay more attention to you while his arousal level is still high if you ask him to perform an active task. This aids your dog’s education in “For some dogs, it can be quite difficult to get them to listen to you when they want to chase, run, or play.
Advice: Make things simple for your dog at first and request a trick he is quite familiar with. Some dogs will enjoy this game right away and think the tricks are all part of the fun, while others can get annoyed with the need to perform tricks in order to make the ball fly. Try asking for only one trick and rewarding with numerous tosses to keep your dog’s spirits and interest in the game strong.
It can take time and effort to develop impulse control, but it can also be a tonne of fun to practise with your dog. Make sure your dog understands that calm and focused conduct is the way to keep enjoyment happening and a terrific way to keep incentives of all kinds flowing, rather than making it all about self-containment.
Some dogs struggle with impulse control, so it’s crucial to balance all of your games and activities that teach impulse control with lots of opportunities for your dog to let free and have some unrestricted fun. In fact, to keep a dog interested in exercising impulse control, alternate a few minutes of discipline with several more of play.
For instance, if you are playing the tug-of-war game, every minute or so, take a short break and toss the toy to your dog, who may then run around and act silly with it. With my dog, I follow a formula whereby I include five minutes or more of energetic, expressive activities for every minute of impulse-control games.
Developing self-control can take some time. Some dogs are quick learners, while others require a little more guidance. The key to effective impulse-control training is exploration, consequences, and enjoyment, as the Aussie and Spaniel pups demonstrated.
Why is self-control crucial for dogs?
When you try to set the food bowl down, does your dog jump all over you? Do they paw and cry out for help? What about yanking on the leash or hurrying out the front door? Because dogs act according to what serves their needs at the time, these are all typical canine behaviours. They don’t have a lot of patience. In other words, they lack emotional self-control by nature.
Learn the Benefits of Emotional Self-Control
Most dogs need to learn emotional self-regulation, commonly referred to as impulse control. Demanding and impatient puppies don’t miraculously grow up to be patient and submissive adults. In fact, it’s likely that by the time your puppy reaches puberty, they will have have formed some undesirable habits if you don’t teach them any impulse control. Poor self-control is a factor in a lot of unpleasant dog behaviours.
A dog might pull on its leash, for instance, if it is impatiently waiting for you to catch up. Or they force open the container door in their eagerness to escape. They lack the patience to wait for what they desire. Their annoyance can result in a variety of disrespectful actions, especially in stimulating circumstances.
Your dog will be easier to live with if you teach them self-control. A calm dog behaves better and is less demanding. But your dog will also love it. They will feel more at ease and in charge of their surroundings rather than irritated by their demand for immediate pleasure. Instead of fighting you, they will learn how to achieve what they want.
Understand How to Teach Emotional Self-Control
In order to teach your dog self-control, there are a few essential components. First, demonstrate to them that you are the source of rewards rather than just the environment. Treats, toys, or even simple pleasures like a stroll or use of the yard might be used as rewards. Make it clear to your dog that you will get what you want if you just ask for it.
Second, demonstrate to your dog how to obtain those benefits. It’s up to you what actions you take. Depending on your preference, you might want your dog to sit or lie down. However, something as easy as standing with your four paws on the ground can also be effective. Set the bar high enough so that your dog can succeed while being consistent.
Play Games to Teach Emotional Self-Control
Although it may seem like a daunting task, games are the best way to develop emotional self-control. Your dog will learn the value of patience by playing games with rules designed to help them manage their impulses. Try these things:
Wait for Your Food Dish
A perfect time for some training is during meals. Teach your dog that good manners result in meals. The game’s rules are as follows:
1. Make sure your dog can’t reach the food bowl by holding it up high. Wait for your dog to sit or request a sit from them.
2. As soon as your dog sits, start lowering the food bowl. When your dog’s bum rises off the ground, elevate the bowl once again and either wait for the sit or make another sit request.
3. Use your dog’s rear to lower and lift the bowl repeatedly until they learn that doing so acts as a light switch, bringing the food closer when on the ground and farther away when in the air.
4. Add your release cue and let your dog eat once he or she has stayed sitting until the bowl is on the floor.
It is great for safety because it can stop your dog from ingesting harmful objects. However, it also teaches your dog that refusing to behave in a way that will earn a reward. You may train your dog to leave it by doing the following:
1. Hold out your fist in front of your dog with a reward inside.
2. Give your dog as much time as they need to paw and sniff your fist. Give them a treat from your other hand as soon as they start to retreat.
3. Start extending your hand so your dog can see the goodie once they can ignore your fist. If they get close, clench your fist once more. Reopen your hand if they move away. When your dog ignores your open hand, give them a treat from the opposite hand as a reward.
4. Next, try dropping the treat on the ground and stepping on it to cover it. Reward your dog once again when they withdraw.
Wait at the Door
Although you can educate your dog to wait at a door in your home, car, or kennel, it is ideal to start training in the house. Your dog will learn to wait by doing the following trick:
1. Start to open the door a crack after your dog has calmed down. When your dog approaches the door, shut it once more.
2. Carry on doing this up until your dog either retreats or remains still and waits. Now you can gradually open the door more, again shutting it as soon as your dog approaches.
3. Add your release cue and let your dog through the door once you can fully open it.
Settle on Cue
To educate your dog to settle down, try playing tug of war, using a flirt pole for chasing, or even just fighting with them. Simply insert peaceful intervals in the midst of the action. You can add a cue like “Settle Down” or “Relax” if your dog is aware of what you’re expecting. The game’s rules are as follows:
1. Begin by playing gently. Before you encourage them to calm down, you don’t want your dog to become overly enthusiastic. Stop playing the game in the middle and instruct your dog to sit or lie down. When they do, reward them right away by resuming the game.
2. When your dog consistently sits or lies down, cease requesting that they perform those actions and wait for them to do so when you stop playing. Reward once more by starting the game over.
3. After your dog performs the sit or down command, you can start to gradually up the ante before taking a break to relax.
You’ll be astounded at how quickly your dog learns impulse control if you choose activities that fit their nature. But in addition to these exercises, don’t forget to praise composure anytime you notice it. Give your dog a treat or a pleasant remark whenever they are being restrained so they will understand that it is worthwhile to keep their emotions under control.