Why Impulse Control is MORE Important Than Obedience

I recently had an inquiry from the adult child of a former client of mine.

He contacted me, first being adamant about how his dog is not aggressive.

Whenever someone tries to convince me how non-aggressive their dog is, I immediately know they are going to tell me about their dog’s aggression issues.

Sure enough, the dog is snarling and nipping at their child. Most of the time, the dog is affectionate with the child, but on occasion he snarls, growls, and nips him.

First off, let’s just admit that the dog has aggression issues.

Later to find out he doesn’t like new people, or other dogs, and shows extreme protective traits (all of which are signs of aggression).

I’m not sure why people spend so much time making excuses for dog aggression?

I understand that many dogs suffer from aggression, and the majority of people who seek me out have a dog with some kind of aggression issue (this is what I do for a living, after all!)

It is not my job to blame, only to help you come to a safe resolution and set up a proper training program for your puppy.

Impulse Control is MORE Important Than Obedience.

Here is the interesting part…

He has been to obedience school and is obedient, most of the time, when asked to perform in a training type of situation.

He knows

  • Sit
  • Come
  • Down
  • Heel
  • And the occasional trick

But he has absolutely NO impulse control!

He also

  • Jumps
  • Barks
  • Growls
  • Steals food
  • Mouths and nips in play
  • And often runs off leash

canine impulse control, dog training, puppy training, dog impulse control

Ironic, right?


Unfortunately, and oddly enough, I have seen many more dogs like this lately!

Their owners swear they are well-behaved because they sit when the owner tells them to sit, yet the dog is stealing food, jumping on everyone, and putting his teeth where they don’t belong.

I actually know a lot of competition obedience dogs that are like this; they are obedience stars in the ring, but have absolutely no manners at all at home!

Their obedience is conditional only in a few places.

Because manners and impulse control have never been taught or enforced.

So the dog gets used to doing everything that feels good to him, without ever learning to reign himself in with control.

Because of this, he is more apt to choose aggression when he is annoyed.

A normal dog would find another way to communicate irritation, like walking away, or whining or crying, because he has learned some basic control over his behaviors and emotions.

A dog with no impulse control doesn’t know how to do this, so he reverts back to the way he would communicate in a pack of dogs.

And, unfortunately for the dog and the family, they now can’t trust the dog around their child!

So when I am asked which is more important, impulse control or obedience,  I will adamantly answer impulse control!

Although, a good dog training program will teach both!  😉


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One Comment

  1. Beverly Scott says:

    Thank you for this article. I was told my dog is reactive, not aggressive. However, I can see that, yup, she is aggressive, even though she plays well with other dogs and is a sweet companion. Working on impulse control takes a lot of time, but even the modest progress she’s made is promising.


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