3 Dog Training Exercises For Training Better Patience & Impulse Control
I wrote an article about impulse control a few months ago! Teaching Your Dog the Importance of training for Patience using Impulse Control
I think one of the biggest “sources” of behavior problems that I see with dogs is their lack of impulse control.
They are used to getting what they want when they want it, or they are adept at rewarding themselves (by digging, stealing things, jumping up etc.).
And, when we allow our dogs to reward themselves or we reward them for their mere existence we are in turn creating little furry monsters.
Human life is full of impulse control.
I can’t punch the guy sitting next to me and take his Cheetos even if I am hungry and Cheetos are my favorite treat.
Drooling on his shoes or staring in his eyes while he eats is also not likely to get me rewarded.
Our hands get slapped and we get told NO as soon as we begin toddling around and exploring our world and we make wrong choices.
Eventually we learn appropriate manners and how to ask for the things we want.
In essence, we control our impulses to eat whenever and whatever we want, say whatever we want, and do other inappropriate things that social norms don’t allow.
Sure you can take your pants off and run around at 2 but it really isn’t allowed as we age.
However sometimes we allow our dogs to have all kinds of inappropriate behaviors without addressing them.
We allow our dogs to steal food.
Steal our things.
Jump on us.
Bite or nip us.
Tug on the leash, etc.
Dogs Can’t Learn Obedience if They Have No Impulse Control
It is pretty simple.
Dogs really can’t learn any form of obedience if they don’t have the simple ability to control their own impulses.
This is the basics of the basics.
And, interestingly, I have seen some dogs who have learned to control their impulses while training but cannot leave food or toys alone to save their souls.
It is like they compartmentalize training and only do it under certain circumstances.
None of us wants a dog that can’t control himself in most situations!
So we must teach him impulse control in all places and in all things.
In my first article we spoke about impulse control as it relates to food and treats.
Our dogs should not be allowed to steal food from the floor, the counter, our hands.
And, they shouldn’t be allowed to dive head first into their food dish without being told.
It is good manners to teach your dog to wait until he is told to eat!
It also ensures that he is less likely to steal from children or others that he deems weaker than himself.
I say “less likely” because you actually have to train for this if you have children or others from whom he likes to steal!
From food you can move to toys!
Toys are my dogs’ favorite things!
All I have to do is touch their favorite toys and their eyes light up!
However, me handling their toy is not an excuse to be jumped on or mauled for said toy.
I don’t want my dog to think he can grow pogo sticks for legs the moment I touch his tennis ball (for reasons tennis balls may be dangerous for your dog click here) or tug toy.
I actually have to teach impulse control.
As with Food
As with food, I teach my dog if he gets snatchy, the toy will disappear.
I will only play with him if he has good manners!
Once he learns some basics, I can tell him to sit or lay down prior to my throwing his toy for him.
The mental stimulation required to do obedience while over stimulated by toy throwing is exhausting, and I like an exhausted dog!
So, I try to use obedience as much as possible in order to get my dog stimulated and play with him!
This also adds excitement and joy to my dog’s obedience, which gets us closer to a beautiful animated obedience routine when we compete!
After all, obedience should be as fun and game based as possible.
Taking it to the Next Level
After your dog has learned not to snatch his toys, to bring them back, and to listen to obedience before you throw or play with them; it is time to up the ante.
Have you ever seen a dog that could balance food or a toy on his face without putting it in his mouth?
Perhaps you have seen the dogs who are told to “stay” while their owner throws their favorite toy.
These are exemplary illustrations of excellent impulse control!
Make it difficult
Don’t feel guilty.
I think, often, people feel sorry for these dogs who have learned the utmost forms of impulse control.
They think it is mean to teach the dog to balance the ball on his nose, or to hold a treat in his mouth without eating it.
I think that this is the most supreme source or impulse control and thinking.
Dogs like to think!
Dogs like to learn.
They want to be stimulated.
They want to be interacted with.
They want to be played with!
And the more you fulfill those needs, they less they need to do naughty things like snatch the things they want.
So get started with your dog.
If he lunges toward his toy, make it disappear, until he is showing you an acceptable behavior.
Next ask him to do obedience in order for you to play with him.
And, from there move your criteria to include advanced obedience like a sit stay as you throw, bounce or play with the toy while teaching your dog that controlling himself and his urges will end up in the ultimate reward!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.