how to teach your dog impulse control

Teaching impulse control for dogs – preventable dog training

How to teach your dog self control and impulse control and to avoid dangerous and frustrating moments with your dog

For the training below, you’re going to need some high-reward treats that your dog loves. I recommend mixing up treats to keep things exciting during your training. Need some suggestions? Check out our blog post here on the treats I use for training.

“When is my dog going to calm down? When will he stop stealing things from the counter? When will he start listening to me? When will he stop taking our kid’s toys?” I hear this a lot. The answer is as soon as you train your dog., training a few minutes a day can make a huge difference in how your dog behaves at home on the day to day. Also, many future behavioral issues are preventable by teaching your dog some simple impulse control behaviors. 

how to teach your dog impulse control

These are significant behaviors that I believe every dog should learn, no matter their age. I start these with puppies as then it can help me avoid dangerous situations later on and set my dogs up for success to understand what I’m asking. We can also then react appropriately instead of making a rash decision that may lead to a more dangerous situation all by teaching impulse control. 

These behaviors should be practiced in advance. When the time comes of a potentially dangerous situation, you are not using it as a teaching moment. Instead, you can use a behavior your dog already knows. See how that works? If your dog is holding an object he shouldn’t I want your natural reaction to be saying drop it, and your dog drops it… and not reaching for that sock straight from your dogs mouth.

How do you start? Teach the below behaviors and then practice everywhere. My goal is my dogs to sit when they want something, they don’t jump on me, they don’t bark at me … they sit. And you can get that too by reinforcing your dog sitting everywhere. Let’s get started, it will be fun!

  1. Sit and wait – I use this with every dog that comes here for training. My dogs learn to wait patiently, whether that’s before we walk out the door for a walk or at a cafe while I order my drink. Every dog should be able to calmly sit and wait without jumping, lunging, and barking. Start slowly with minimal duration, then work to practice with a more extended stay and in new environments. 

Try practicing this in your day to day lives together, from sitting and waiting at a cross walk to sitting and waiting for their dinner.

We have a blog post here digging into sit if you need a deep dive then the below videos.

  1. Go to bed – go to bed is part of platform training that I’m a huge fan of, where I love teaching my dogs to go somewhere and just settle and relax. Yes relaxing is a trained bheavior. This is so crucial to them being able to decompress, not jump on people at the door, and just chill out a little. This is also a great way to prevent counter surfing (we dig into that in this post here).
  1. Watch me – I love using watch me from getting my dog’s attention, getting them to focus and wait, and checking in with me. This is so important. It helps build engagement between us, as my dog will look at me first for something before acting impulsively and that all starts with a solid watch me. 
  1. Leave it – By teaching ‘leave it’ early on, we can use it to prevent unwanted biting, avoid picking up items that aren’t for dogs, ignore tempting things, and so much more! It’s an excellent way to teach early on what items in the house aren’t for picking up and prevent some hefty vet bills of a dog that has eaten things he shouldn’t have.

Need more help than the video below? We have a blog post breaking down teaching a leave it step by step for you here.

  1. Drop it – When we see our dog has something in his or her mouth, our first thought is to take it away, but that often leads to the dog guarding the item, running away with it, or even swallowing it. By teaching a drop it behavior and trading them, we can avoid these situations and have a solid response right away when our dog has something they shouldn’t in their possession.

Once your dog has mastered drop it, try incorporating it into your day-to-day games to step up impulse control practice. I love playing with a flirt pole or tug of war with a toy and testing my drop-it behavior (have some really good treats on hand to reward this).

Step by step directions for teaching a drop it can be found here if the video below isn’t quite enough.

I hope you avoid potential naughty bad behaviors from your dog by teaching these skills and also form a closer bond and have fun training together. 

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