(123)456 7890 demo@coblog.com

Teaching Your Dog Impulse Control and Patience

Teaching Your Dog Impulse Control and Patience

Impulse control refers to a dog's ability to resist their urges and impulses in order to wait for a reward or instruction from their owner. It involves controlling behaviors like jumping, barking, chasing, grabbing food or toys, and pulling on the leash. Teaching your dog impulse control is extremely important for several reasons:

  • It helps keep your dog safe. A dog with good impulse control is less likely to run into traffic or get into something dangerous.

  • It makes training easier. Impulse control allows your dog to focus on you and obey commands, even when there are distractions around.

  • It reduces problem behaviors. Many undesirable behaviors like nipping, rough play, and destruction happen when dogs act on impulse. Impulse control reduces these problems.

  • It allows for a better lifestyle. Dogs with impulse control can go more places and do more things with their owners.

  • It builds a bond between dog and owner. Mastering impulse control requires cooperation and teamwork between you and your dog.

  • It reduces stress. Impulsive behaviors often happen when dogs are overly excited or stressed. Impulse control results in a calmer dog.

The ultimate goal is to teach your dog to control their impulses and wait for direction from you, even when rewards like food, toys, and access to people or areas are present. With time and consistency, they will learn that good things come to those who wait!

How Impulse Control Develops In Puppies and Adult Dogs

Impulse control is something that develops over time, beginning in puppyhood and extending into adulthood. Here's an overview of how it progresses:

  • 8-12 weeks old – Puppies at this age have almost no impulse control. Everything is new and exciting, and they will explore, play, and chase without restraint. Start working on basic skills like attention and handling.

  • 3-6 months old – The beginnings of impulse control start to emerge at this adolescent stage. Puppies start to have brief moments of controlling urges. Use high-reward techniques to teach basic commands like sit, down, and stay.

  • 6-18 months old – Impulse control improves as pups grow into juveniles and young adults. At the same time, behaviors like chewing, jumping, and digging peak. Keep reinforcing and extending duration of commands. Start teaching "leave it."

  • 1-3 years old – Adult dogs begin to display reliable impulse control, if trained consistently from puppyhood. Impulsiveness decreases naturally with maturity. Maintain behaviors with ongoing practice.

  • 4 years old and up – Senior dogs have had a lifetime of impulse control training and generally display excellent ability to control urges and wait for direction. Keep reinforcing skills to maintain good behavior.

Impulse control is a lifelong training process! By understanding these developmental stages, you can tailor your techniques and expectations accordingly. The earlier you start teaching impulse control, the better the results will be as your dog matures.

Teaching Impulse Control With Food

Using food is an excellent way to teach impulse control and patience to dogs. Here are some methods:

  • Place training – Hold a treat in your closed hand and let your dog sniff it. Only give the treat when they stop pawing and mouthing your hand. Gradually increase the time before rewarding calm behavior.

  • Sit and wait – Have your dog sit and wait for permission before eating from a food bowl. Start with short time periods (5-10 seconds) and gradually build up duration.

  • Loose leash walking – Reward your dog with treats for walking by your side without pulling on the leash. Stop rewarding if they start to forge ahead.

  • "Leave it" command – Place a treat on the ground and physically block access to it while giving the "leave it" command. Reward with a different treat from your hand when they resist grabbing it.

  • Stay during meals – Feed your dog their meals in the crate or designated place. Reinforce staying in place until given a release command.

  • Impulse control games – There are many interactive games that require dogs to control their impulses, such as "It's Yer Choice" and the "Cookie Challenge." Look them up online for instructions.

Start in low distraction environments first before working up to highly distracting scenarios. Use high-value food rewards. Remain patient, as it can take hundreds of repetitions for a dog to master self-control around food.

Teaching Impulse Control With Toys

You can teach similar impulse control skills using toys:

  • "Take it" and "drop it" commands – Teach your dog to only take toys when given permission and to release them on command. Reward with praise and treats.

  • Fetch and "wait" – Practice fetch and have your dog sit and wait for your cue to chase the toy. Reward waiting patiently before throwing the toy again.

  • Tug of war rules – Only play tug of war for short intervals so your dog doesn't get over-excited. Stop the game if they get too worked up.

  • Chew toy rules – Give your dog a chew toy but set limits like no jumping on furniture or bothering guests. Reward calm chewing.

  • Rotate toy access – Rotate your dog's toys to make them more novel and exciting. This requires more impulse control to play appropriately.

  • Flirt pole – Use a flirt pole to simulate chase and "capture" while practicing obedience commands like wait, down, and leave it.

As with food, start teaching toy impulse control in low distraction environments first. Use high-value treats to reinforce desired behavior. Impulse control around toys develops over a long period, so be patient and persistent.

Impulse Control Around Other Dogs and People

It's also very important to teach your dog impulse control around other dogs and people, as these are highly stimulating for them. Useful techniques include:

  • Sit or down stays – Have your dog sit and stay or lay down while other dogs or people approach and pass by at a distance. Heavily reward ignoring them.

  • Loose leash walking – Practice loose leash walking in environments with other dogs/people. Stop if they start to pull. Reward remaining focused on you.

  • Greetings – Ask guests to ignore your excited dog until they are calm. Reward calm behavior with attention.

  • Dog parks – Start in quiet times and reward your dog for focusing on you, rather than racing off to play. Increase distraction levels gradually.

  • Kennel – Kennel your dog when guests first arrive to avoid jumping and give them time to calm down.

  • Obedience commands – Practice obedience commands like "sit" and "down" around distractions to reinforce impulse control. Use high-value treats.

Appropriate socialization and conditioning are also very important. Expose your dog to a wide variety of controlled experiences starting in puppyhood. Seek professional advice if your dog displays poor social skills or reactivity. Patience and consistency are key.

Real Life Impulse Control Exercises

Once your dog understands the basic impulse control concepts, start practicing them in real life situations:

  • Waiting at doors and gates – Have your dog sit and wait before exiting, so they don't bolt outside.

  • Walking nicely on leash – Reinforce no pulling or forging ahead, even around distractions.

  • Greeting visitors politely – Ask your dog for a sit stay before petting or giving attention.

  • Ignoring food dropped on the floor – Praise your dog for leaving food alone unless given permission.

  • Staying off furniture – Reward your dog for staying on the floor, even when left alone.

  • Calm car rides – Give chew toys and use a barrier to prevent impulsive behaviors. Reward sitting, lying down, and waiting patiently.

  • Good play skills – Facilitate positive play with other appropriate dogs. Set limits on roughness. Reward polite, friendly behavior.

  • Being handled and groomed calmly – Give your dog something to focus on like a stuffed Kong and reward staying still.

  • Tolerating being alone – Gradually build up the duration your dog can stay calmly in a crate, room, or yard by themself.

With enough real life practice, your dog will generalize impulse control to almost any situation. Remember to always reinforce desired behavior and prevent problem behaviors from being rewarded or rehearsed. Consistency and patience are the keys to success!

Impulse Control Games and Exercises

There are many fun and engaging games you can play to help teach and strengthen impulse control skills:

  • Place training games – Gradually increase distance and duration for commands like sit, down, and stay. Incorporate distractions.

  • Obedience training – Practice heel, wait, leave it, come, and other commands around high levels of distraction. Use lots of small rewards.

  • Find it – Have your dog stay while you hide treats, then release to search and find them. Increase difficulty slowly.

  • Self-control challenges – Require your dog to display self-control before allowing access to rewards, like waiting patiently for you to fill their food bowl.

  • Tug of war – Enforce start and stop rules for this game and require a "drop it" command. Only tug for short intervals.

  • Flirt pole – Use a flirt pole to simulate prey but require obedience commands like wait, leave it, down before allowing access to the lure.

  • Impulse control trainers – There are specific toys like the Tug-E-Nuff, Manners Minder, and Buddy System designed to help teach impulse control.

  • Nosework and search games – Have your dog wait at the start line and work cooperatively during search activities.

  • Agility exercises – Pause frequently during agility to have your dog halt and wait at stations. Require focus and teamwork.

  • Tricks and mimicry – Tricks build impulse control as your dog must focus and listen. Mimicking behaviors like yawning teach attentiveness.

Make it fun while keeping training sessions short and structured. Always set your dog up for success at their current skill level. End on a positive note so they want to train again next time. Impulse control improves gradually – celebrate small victories!

Troubleshooting Common Impulse Control Issues

If you're struggling with impulse control training, here are some common issues and how to address them:

  • Rewarding unwanted behavior – Always wait for the desired response before rewarding, otherwise you may inadvertently reinforce the wrong thing.

  • Incorrect timing – The reward must come within 1-2 seconds of the desired response, or your dog won't connect it to the action. Watch your timing.

  • Poor motivation – Are you using rewards that are sufficiently motivating for your dog? Very high-value treats, toys, and praise are often needed initially.

  • Progressing too quickly – Break the training down into many small, achievable steps. If your dog fails frequently, go back to an easier version.

  • Distractions are too high – Control the environment so your dog isn't set up to fail. Minimize distractions at first and work up to more challenging settings.

  • Poor fitness level – Impulse control requires mental focus and stamina. Make sure your dog is getting adequate physical and mental exercise.

  • Stress or anxiety – Some dogs have trouble controlling their impulses when over-stimulated. Identify and minimize stressors when training.

  • Health issues – Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, chronic pain, and cognitive dysfunction can contribute to impulsiveness. Have your dog evaluated if issues persist.

  • Genetics and early environment – Some dogs were bred for low impulse control and may continue to struggle their entire lives. Manage the environment and seek professional help.

Stay positive – with time, patience, and consistency, you should see steady progress. Celebrate small wins and keep training sessions fun for both of you!

Why Impulse Control Sometimes Deteriorates in Older Dogs

It's common for dogs that were well-trained when young to start displaying impulsive behaviors as seniors. There are several reasons this can happen:

  • Cognitive changes – Impairments in memory, judgment, learning, and attention can occur. This reduces a dog's ability to control their impulses.

  • Decreased inhibition – The senior brain undergoes changes that can lower behavioral inhibitions. This causes more impulsive actions.

  • Pain or discomfort – Degenerative joint disease, dental disease, and other conditions may cause pain that alters behavior and temperament.

  • Deafness or blindness – Sensory deficits require dogs to adapt, which is cognitively demanding. Behaviors may change as a result.

  • Confusion – Canine cognitive dysfunction creates increased disorientation, anxiety, restlessness, and confusion for dogs.

  • Loss of previous owner – Rehoming causes stress and uncertainty that may reduce a senior dog's coping skills.

  • Boredom – Retired dogs have more free time so require more enrichment. Insufficient outlets can lead to impulsive behaviors.

  • Loss of social group – As owner schedules, family structures, and other pets change, dogs can experience isolation and act out.

To help senior dogs, stick to routines, use cues like flags and lights to compensate for sensory loss, address any medical issues, provide plenty of enrichment, and have patience! Many older dogs can regain impulse control.

Special Considerations for Impulsive Dog Breeds

Certain breeds are prone to behaviors stemming from low impulse control, such as:

  • Herding breeds – Heel nipping, chasing movement, barking, circling, hyperfocus. Example: Border Collies.

  • Sporting breeds – Jumping, mouthing hands, destructive chewing, hyperactivity. Example: Labrador Retrievers.

  • Hounds – Following scents, baying, wandering, stubbornness. Example: Beagles.

  • Terriers – High prey drive, digging, barking, aggressiveness with other dogs. Example: Jack Russell Terriers.

  • Northern breeds – Pulling on leash, chasing small animals, escaping. Example: Siberian Huskies.

  • Guarding breeds – Wariness of strangers, reactivity, territorial behaviors. Example: German Shepherds.

For these types of dogs, focus on channeling their breed-specific traits into appropriate outlets rather than suppressing behaviors. Extra vigilance is required to prevent rehearsal of unwanted habits. Find tasks that provide mental stimulation and a "job" to do. Be realistic – their genetics will often trump training. Patience and management are key.

Using Management Tools When Needed

For dogs with very low impulse control, management tools can be helpful during the training process:

  • Muzzles – Allows socialization and handling while preventing biting and scavenging food/objects. Introduce conditioning slowly.

  • Tethers or tie-downs – Keeps dogs close so you can interrupt and redirect. Don't leave unsupervised.

  • Baby gates and pens – Provide physical limitations and boundaries indoors and out.

  • Crates – Secure dogs when you can't actively supervise. Make it positive with treats and toys. Avoid using as punishment.

  • Head halters – Help control pulling and add an element of finesse for reactive/aggressive dogs. Proper conditioning is essential.

  • Calming aids – Ask your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication or natural calming supplements to reduce overall stress and impulsivity.

  • Pheromones – Products mimicking natural "appeasing" pheromones may reduce reactivity, barking, anxiety, and impulsive behaviors.

These tools are not solutions by themselves, but can be helpful backups during the training process. With time, your dog should require less management as their impulse control improves. Never use punitive corrections, or you risk increasing anxiety and diminishing trust. Compassion, patience and rewards get the best results!

Know When to Seek Help From a Professional

If you've diligently worked on training impulse control but your dog's behaviors are dangerous, negatively impacting quality of life, or not improving, it's advisable to seek professional guidance. Warning signs include:

  • Aggression – Growling, lunging, snapping, or biting people or other pets.

  • Self-harm – Licking, chewing or harming themselves if over-stressed or under-stimulated.

  • Destructiveness – Chewing, digging, scratching that causes property damage.

  • Excessive reactivity – Uncontrolled barking, whining, jumping, spinning, pacing.

  • House soiling – Repeated elimination accidents despite adequate potty opportunities.

  • Bolting or escaping – Running away when doors or gates are open, even into danger.

  • Anxiety – Panting, trembling, hiding, excessive vocalizing from stress.

  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors – Tail chasing, sucking, chewing, staring, etc.

  • Medical issues – Rule out conditions contributing to the behaviors, like thyroid disorder, pain, or cognitive dysfunction.

Reaching out to a certified dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist can provide objective guidance on impulse control training, management strategies, medication if needed, and environmental enrichment. They will evaluate all factors and help design an effective behavior modification plan tailored to your individual dog.

Impulse Control Is a Journey

Teaching a dog impulse control is an extensive, lifelong training process. While challenging, it is also extremely rewarding to see your dog develop skills like patience, self-control, focus, and cooperation. When internalized, impulse control allows dogs more freedom and opportunities to enjoy life with their families and human companions. With consistency, patience and upbeat training methods, you'll be amazed at what your dog can accomplish!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *