By Carol Besler-Snell on 07/24/2014
Impulse Control Exercises for Dogs
Most dogs and all puppies need help learning impulse control. What is it? It’s learning to control an urge to move forward to “explore” something rapidly. Some examples of dogs acting on impulses would be rushing out the door in front of you, jumping on people, lunging at dogs when meeting them, or eating food or treats too quickly or harshly.
Make a list of behaviors you wish your dog would not do (or perhaps do in a gentler fashion). Let’s say your dog rushes to eat his food before you can even set the bowl down. You must teach your dog to “prevent rehearsal” of that behavior by replacing it with another behavior. This comes through repetition. Here’s how:
- Using a calm, quiet voice, tell your dog over and over to Wait while trying to set down food bowl. Use your body to prevent dog from getting to bowl.
- Continue to say Wait. Stay calm and quiet.
- Slowly set bowl down and leave it there for a few seconds (still holding dog back) and then release with a clear “OK!” and let him eat!
Follow these steps every time you feed your dog! Rest assured that both you and your dog will get better with this lesson with practice and repetition. In time, you will see that you have “prevented rehearsal” of rushing the food bowl and replaced it with a “brain exercise” with a great reward on the other end: food! Plus the benefit of your dog pleasing you! (Tip, if your dog slows down to get the food but still EATS too fast, a couple of ideas are placing a ball in the bowl to slow down eating, or purchasing a special bowl with “troughs” that slow the dog down.)
This exercise is just one example of teaching your dog impulse control. The more behaviors you “slow down” through teaching, the more your dog learns to control his own impulses and go a little slower.
Do you need help coming up with an exercise for impulse control with your dog? Let us know! We love to brainstorm training ideas.