5 Easy Ways to Teach Your Dog Impulse Control
You’ve been waiting forever for dinner. You start shifting in your seat, salivating over the delectable smells from the kitchen. Do you wait patiently, knowing good things are coming? Or do you slam your silverware around, sigh loudly, or call out random one-liners to whoever’s working hard in the kitchen?
In dog speak, this is displayed by whimpering, barking, pacing, or jumping... and with some dogs, a lack of impulse control can even be destructive.
Just like we were taught basic manners at an early age, teaching self-control when your pal is still a puppy is ideal — but don’t fret if you’ve got an adult dog. These 5 cues are as easy for your dog to learn as they are to teach!
Here’s all you need to get started:
- Tons of small, pea-sized treats.
- A training clicker. If you don’t have one, saying “yes!” works, too!
- 1 to 2 minutes, twice a day...
...and of course, your dog!
This is one of the first commands puppies and dogs learn — and for good reason. It’s common to tell a dog to sit any time they’re prone to jumping on visitors or running out the door. To teach it, show your dog the treat, then slowly move it over their head until their rump drops down. Click or say yes and give the treat!
It’s not uncommon for young puppies to need a little help at first with sit, so it’s okay to guide their bottoms down — GENTLY. If they’re resisting, simply start over.
Once they have this down, begin saying sit as you move the treat up and over, and marking and rewarding as they do it. And once they’ve made the connection and have mastered their sit, slowly introduce them to new temptations and time increments.
So, how many times has your dog almost knocked you over when you’re setting their food down? The best time to practice wait for impulse control is before meals, because your dog is eager and will work for their food the same as they will for treats.
When you lower the food bowl, wait for your dog to back away from the bowl. Any time they rush forward, move the bowl back up. It might take several times before you’ll get it to the floor. Once your dog is able to wait before advancing on the bowl, even if it’s just for one second, say, “okay!” and let them dig in!
Introduce the word wait once they’re consistently waiting a second or two before moving. If your dog already knows sit, you can cue him to do so before introducing wait.
Not only is this a good game to divert your puppy or dog from nipping and licking at everyone’s hands and faces, but it also helps teach confidence — and can be useful for distracting your dog from fearful situations, too.
Place your dog in sit and have a treat closed in each hand. Move one hand close enough to their nose so they can smell the treat while the other is behind your back. When their nose touches hand 1, click or say yes — then give them the treat in your other hand.
When your dog is consistently touching your hand with their nose, start cueing them with the word touch. You can work on increasing distance, too. Pretty soon, you’ll be trading nipped fingers and slobbery cheeks with nose boops!
4. Leave It
This game teaches your dog that ignoring something they want will make something even better appear. I use leave it on walks with my dog — and to keep her away from the cat toys, too!
You can start teaching leave it the same way as touch, or you can set out a toy that your dog really loves — but keep it right by you. As they approach the toy, let them see the treat in your hand. When they ignore the toy for the treat, click or say yes — then let them devour the reward!
Introduce the cue leave it once they’re regularly switching from toy to treat, and begin increasing the distance between the treat and the toy.
For me, place was like the final exam on impulse control for my dog. This will take patience and time, but I promise it’s worth it!
Choose a mat, blanket, or bed that you want to use for your dog’s place. Lay it out on the floor in front of you and offer your dog a treat. Then, toss another treat a few feet away. When they return from grabbing it... wait. When they move forward enough to where their paws touch the mat, click or say yes, then toss another treat.
Repeat this as long as it takes until your dog gets all four paws on the mat, then lays down, and so on. Remember to keep the time increments and session small, so they have a better chance at being successful!
Another option is to capture your dog in place. I laid a big dog bed behind my desk, and any time my dog would go near it... then step on it... then lay on it... I’d give her an enthusiastic yes with a bit of her beloved air-dried venison.
At first, she only stayed on her bed for a minute or two if I was lucky. Now, a month later, she stays contently in her place for 20 to 30-minute stretches... even longer if she decides to nap!
If you haven’t already phased out treats and switched to rewarding with praise, you can do that now. And work on these cues every day! If your dog is like mine, they’ll test the boundaries if you stop making them wait at the door or for dinner.
Are you working on impulse control with your new puppy or dog? Let us know — we love connecting with our readers!
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