How to Teach Your Dog Impulse Control

Have you ever wished you had a really calm dog or well-behaved puppy? With impulse control training, your dog can learn how to remain calm, regardless of the situation.

Dogs are naturally impulsive creatures with much of their seemingly uncontrollable behavior being dictated by low levels of serotonin and dopamine. As a result, they are unable to inhibit certain behaviors and they also cannot delay reward gratification.

Why is Impulse Control Important?

The truth is that; a dog that is too impulsive can be difficult and frustrating to deal with.

It is vital for your dog to learn how to behave appropriately and how to control themselves in different situations. They need to learn how to become good canines.

Your dog must learn how to resist rushing through doors, grabbing things that they fancy, and dashing in between people’s legs.

They must control their desire to pee on your expensive Persian rug and steal things like chips from toddlers they meet, or even strangling the neighbor’s cat. I mean, a dog that cannot control themselves from doing these things is just tragic.

So, if you are dreaming of your dog one-day welcoming guests in a calm manner, and ensuring that everyone feels safe in your home, then, the sooner you teach them some impulse control, the better.

What is a Controlled End Game?

The end game of impulse control is a well-mannered dog and one that responds well to cues and signals. A dog that can sit, stand, walk, and come on command.

A dog that has control of their impulses will also obey your commands, even when other more interesting things are happening around them.

This is a dog that needs no supervision, and you can trust them not to destroy your home when you leave them alone all day.

Simply put; this is a dog that knows how to behave when confronted with different situations that are likely to cause them to overreact.

Tips for Teaching Dogs Impulse Control

To inspire calmness from your dog’s training, you must first prepare them to by building up the their attention levels and focus.

Teach Your Dog How to Look Directly at You

This is the first step. Teaching your dog to offer you their full attention and focus willingly.

  • Using your clicker, and some treats, make some noise in the direction of your dog. When they look at your clicker, drop a treat for them to enjoy.
  • After eating the treat, the dog will decide whether to look at you again so they can receive another treat, or go back to what they were doing before the interruption.
  • If the dog decides to look back at you, click and give them another treat. Do not be afraid to heap praises on the dog and show them how proud of them you are.
  • This process doesn’t necessarily require a verbal cue, but some people use “look at me” to attract their dog’s attention. What you want is your dog’s desire to stop what they are doing and look at you.

When you constantly build on this behavior, your dog will learn how to focus more on you, as you carry all the sweet and delicious treats, and it will seem better for him to look at you than anything else.

You can increase the length of time that the dog has to look at you for a reward, and if they start getting jumpy or pushy wanting more treats, ignore them completely.

Teach Your Dogs How to Patiently Wait for Their Treats

For this to work, you need to use a treat that you know your dog absolutely loves such as ham, or any other.

Perform the first step above. Keep waiting for your dog to look at you and then give the prized treat as a reward.

It is a challenging step, especially if the dog loves the treat, and they are likely to push, pull, and even jump up to be rewarded with the treat, but stand your ground, as you are in training mode.

The Hand Game (Leave it!)

  • Place some treats on your palm. Leave your palm open for the dog to have a look at the treats. If the dog grabs them, close your hand immediately, and only open your hand again when the dog sits back down.
  • Keep your hand open all the time, unless the dog tries to grab and snatch the treats away from your hand.
  • If the dog starts to nudge or scratch your hand, keep the hand closed and wait for them to calm down.
  • That is how this step is done. Keep the hand closed, when the dog is calm, give them the delicious treat.
  • After a continued practice of this process, the dog will learn how to respect you and your space, and they will always look at you for direction, on whether or not they should reach for a treat.

You can also practice “leave it.” This involves leaving a treat or a toy for your dog on the floor, and only rewarding them with the treat when they do not reach out for it.

Teach Your Dog to Settle Down and Stay Calm

Not many dogs are able to calm down, and most of them need to be taught how to relax.

For this to work, you need to find a chair or a mat for your dog to sit quietly, as you work on something else, such as making dinner or even working on your laptop.

You must always use the same thing when training your dog, so they can remain calm and settle down as you work. 

A dog can also be taught where to go and what to do, and once they do as instructed, give them the treat to reward good behavior.

Rewarding Your Dog for Being Patient

Once you have taught your dog some impulse control techniques, you can then try to apply this to other daily routines and experiences.

Many people will have their dogs sit down and wait for them to finish eating before they feed their dogs, while others will ensure that the dog is calm and sitting at the right place before they allow visitors in the house.

When taking your dog for a walk, ensure they are first calm before opening the door, and also ensure that your dog has completely calmed down before greeting them when you enter in the house in the evening.

Deciding on how you wish your dog to react for different situations will teach them to learn to obey your commands when the situation calls for it.

You must, however, be consistent, regardless of the situation. A dog that has been taught how to remain calm is a manageable dog.

After some time, remaining calm will become so natural to your dog, that you may not even have to teach them some other important behaviors. They will start doing them on their own.

One of the things you must never forget to do when your dog learns good behavior is to REWARD them. Dogs thrive on rewards, and as such, when they are rewarded, they know they have done a good thing, and they will keep repeating it.

Do not ever leave your precious puppy guessing whether they have been good or not. Always praise them for being good, and show them.

Impulse Control Training Tips Summary

Here are some important points to remember when teaching your dog to remain calm and settled.

  • Calmness can be taught, but it also requires a teacher who practices what they preach.
  • When a dog is aroused, they can behave more aggressively, compared to other types of situations.
  • Taking breaks during exciting games will teach your dog how to transition from excitement to calmness.
  • Using a clicker while training your dog is very effective, and it will teach them how to remain calm as the clicker catches their attention.
  • Always have treats for your dog, and stash them all over the house, such that you can reward your dog at any time for lying down, sitting, resting on their mat, and any other calm behavior they may exhibit in your presence.
  • Whenever you reward your dog for a behavior you like, they are most likely to repeat it.
  • If you happen to reward your dog for something you did not like, they will inadvertently do it again, so be keen not to reward unwanted behaviors.
  • Managing the environment around your dog will help keep them from barking whenever you do something around them such as opening a window.
  • Teach your dog simple commands such as wait, leave it, watch me, and drop it. These will help them learn impulse control.
  • You can use your dog’s mat as a relaxation tool, which can be carried anywhere.

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