How to Increase Your Dog’s Impulse Control – 5 Tips

How to Increase Your Dog’s Impulse Control – 5 Tips

This post is all about how to increase your dog’s impulse control. Or, self-control.

By that, I mean helping your dog control his impulses to things like grabbing food, chasing the cat, whining, nipping, barking or jumping.

It’s all about teaching a little bit of patience!

My dog Remy is an example of a dog with VERY limited impulse control, so I will be working on all of this right along with you!

How to increase your dog's impulse control

Why impulse control is important for dogs

Increasing your dog’s impulse control is important in general because it will help him be a more well-mannered dog.

While we often focus on getting our dogs and puppies to stop a specific “bad” behavior like jumping or nipping or barking, working on increasing the dog’s overall self-control is very important because it will spill over into ALL training.

A dog that learns some impulse control will have an easier time restraining himself from jumping on guests, barking at the cat or grabbing cupcakes off the table, for example.

Signs that your dog has little impulse control

Before we get into how to increase your dog’s impulse control, I want to share some classic signs that your dog might need some work (Remy!).

All dogs probably have an issue with at least 1 or 2 of these examples, but if your dog seems to have issues with nearly ALL of these he probably needs some work with impulse control!

Signs of low impulse control in dogs:

  • Doesn’t listen
  • Doesn’t pay attention to you at all on walks
  • Easily distracted or can’t focus
  • Immature
  • Rude in general
  • Appears hyper or anxious most of the time
  • Paces around the room often
  • Barks at everything
  • Whines often
  • Can’t sit still & can’t relax
  • Gets frustrated easily and barks
  • Grabs treats or food
  • Gets possessive of toys or food
  • No patience
  • Jumps on people or paws at people
  • Won’t stay when told
  • Mouths or bites people like a puppy
  • Obsessed with fetch or toys
  • Food or treat obsessed
  • Bites at your hand to get treats

Again, these are just some general examples. All dogs bark or whine at times, anxiety and aggression can be caused by a number of issues and most dogs are “rude” if they’ve had little training.

But if your dog seems to fit into many of the above categories, then working on impulse control would be a good place to start! Don’t worry, pretty much everything above describes my dog Remy so you are not alone. (God help me.)

How to increase your dog’s impulse control – 5 ideas

There are many ways to increase your dog’s impulse control but I decided to keep this list to five ideas. I’ll look forward to hearing your examples in the comments.

1. Work on basic obedience skills.

Sit, down, stay.

This is a foundation for building some self-control.

Most of us can figure out how to teach a dog sit, down and stay, but the hard part is working on this every day in order to build a rock-solid foundation.

We should all be working with our dogs every day on these basics so they will sit, lie down and stay on command even in distracting areas or when they don’t feel like it.

Obviously, it starts at home for a few seconds and then we need to look for ways to challenge our dogs more and more.

Increase your dog's impulse control - obedience

Maybe it’s something as simple as asking them to stay and then dropping treats on the ground as a distraction. Maybe it’s asking them to lie down before heading out for a walk.

Maybe we ask them to lie down and stay for a full minute before they eat rather than 3 seconds.

All our dogs are at different levels as far as basic obedience and there is always, always room for improvement.

I can’t stress enough how important these basics are.

Often, when someone emails me asking how to stop her dog from jumping or how to stop her dog from barking, it comes down to a lack of obedience training.

If your dog won’t sit when asked with no distractions, how on earth could the dog possibly have the self-control not to jump on someone in an exciting environment?

Taking any type of training class can really help. Don’t obsess about what “style” is best. Any training is usually better than no training.

2. Ask for a simple task before your dog gets what he wants.

Look for small ways to reward your dog for patience and self-control.

This isn’t about being “dominant” or “alpha.” It’s about encouraging patient behavior.

You don’t want a demanding, rude dog. You want a polite dog.

So, if your dog is pawing at you for attention, ask him to lie down before you pet him.

This is just one example. No, I don’t mean you can’t dish out free affection from time to time! I’m referring to demanding, rude dogs. Sometimes they need a little “tough love.”

If your dog is eager to head out for a walk, ask him to sit or lie down at the door. Same goes before eating or playing with a toy or entering the dog park or whatever it might be.

3. Play “leave it/take it” type games.

With these kinds of games, the dog is learning to control his impulse to grab the food.

There are all sorts of videos about this and you can adjust the rules to fit you and your dog.

The version I’m most familiar with is dog trainer Susan Garrett’s “It’s Yer Choice” game.

I couldn’t find a great video, but the one below from a different trainer gives you a general idea.

You start by holding small treats in your closed hand. Let your dog nose and mouth your closed hand and the second he stops nudging or licking your hand, you open your hand as a reward and pause.

If he goes for the treats, you close your hand again. If he waits, you pick up one treat from your other hand and give it to him.

No need to say “leave it.” Your dog is actually learning on his own that if he is patient, he gets the treat.  It’s his choice to get the treat or not. No verbal command necessary.

Very quickly, the dog will learn to back away from your hand in order to get the food faster. Even Remy learned this almost immediately, and the habit stuck with him. It’s really fun to watch them learn this so quickly.

Next, you can set the food on the ground, which the trainer does in the video above. If he goes for the food before you say “take it” you would just cover it with your hand (assuming he’s not food aggressive).

You can work on these games using your dog’s meals if you feed dry food. Feed some or all of his food by hand as you work on impulse control and “take it.”

4. Use a clicker and work on shaping new behaviors

A clicker is a very helpful tool because you can “mark” the behavior you’re looking for the instant it occurs. The sound and timing of a clicker is more consistent than a person’s voice.

Increase your dog's impulse control with clicker training

The reason a clicker can help with impulse control is because the dog is making decisions on his own. He chooses what behaviors to do in order to get the “click” and the treat. Order a clicker here.

Rude, “impulsive” behavior from my dog such as jumping on me or trying to grab the treats gets him nothing.

Sitting, lying down (or whatever we’re working on) gets him the click and a treat.

It’s a different way of training compared to the more traditional way of me telling my dog what to do.

His little mind goes to work as he tries to figure out what I want to get the “click.” See my post: Common clicker training mistakes.

You could use the clicker to train behaviors such as:

  • Place
  • Watch me
  • Tricks like spin, roll over or play dead

How to increase your dog's impulse control

5. Knowing when to tell your dog NO.

There is a time for stepping in and giving a firm “NO.”

You have to decide when it’s best to ignore rude behaviors from your particular dog and when you need to step in and growl a firm “no” or even give a correction with the leash.

This may sound harsh to some people, and we all train differently, but with my dogs there are certain behaviors that I won’t tolerate.

Growling or lunging at my cats is one example.

Both my dogs have tried this a few times, usually over food or guarding a dog bed.

I get right in their bubble and give a firm “NO, absolutely not!” Then I give the cold shoulder for a few minutes in disgust.

Working on all of the previous examples are very important over the long-term for building self-control. But I believe it’s OK to step in on occasion and give a firm correction so your dog gets the message, “Oh, Ok, that’s frowned upon. Got it.”

What ideas do the rest of you have for how to increase your dog’s impulse control?

As you can see, there are a variety of ways you can work to increase your dog’s impulse control ranging from basic obedience to conditioning the behaviors you want using positive reinforcement.

Let me know what ideas you have in the comments.

This post contains affiliate links.

Related posts:

Stop a dog’s whining

How to calm your hyper dog

Stop your dog from jumping on visitors

Stop a puppy’s biting

Holiday Dog Gift Boxes from I and Love and You

Holiday Dog Gift Boxes from I and Love and You

The new holiday dog gift boxes from the company “I and Love and You” are really cute, and I’m excited to share them with you!

The holiday dog gift boxes contain:

  • A holiday “ugly sweater” bandana (so your dog can participate in ugly sweater parties)
  • Soft training treats
  • Fresh breath bone chews
  • Beef gullet chew strips
  • Code for $5 off your next purchase

Holiday dog gift boxes

This post is sponsored by I and Love and You.

Leave a comment at the end of the post for a chance to win a FREE holiday dog gift box for your dog or a friend. Click here.

Holiday dog gift boxes from I and Love and You

These gift boxes for dogs are packaged and ready to place under the tree. So no wrapping necessary! They would make a cute gift for your own pup or for a friend or family member’s dog for the holidays.


Use code NICELIST2 for $2 off

I and Love and You only makes high-quality treats and chews with no artificial preservatives. Real meat is the first ingredient, and there are no fillers or by-products.

For each gift box purchased, the company donates a meal to a pet in an animal shelter waiting for adoption.

The three treats and chews included in each gift box:

The holiday gift boxes for dogs contain I and Love and You’s three most popular goodies for dogs. Each box is worth $35 in value for just $19.99, and shipping is free.

1. The Hip Hoppin’ Hearties. These are soft, heart-shaped training treats. They are grain free and include glucosamine.

2. Fresh All Rover Breath Bones. These chews are made with turkey and garnished with peppermint oil for fresh breath. They are grain free. Each bag contains five 3″ chews.

3. Cow Boom! Strips. These chews include one ingredient: 100% beef gullet from grass-fed, free-range cattle. Each bag contains five 6″ strips.

Order a box or give a box as a gift HERE.

Use code NICELIST2 for $2 off

What I like about the holiday dog gift boxes:

  • Really cute!
  • The treats and chews contain no grain, artificial preservatives or by-products
  • Real meat as the first ingredients
  • High-quality treats and chews – the best
  • Good value ($35 of products for $19.99)
  • Free shipping
  • Nice variety of training treats and chews
  • The bandana is a cute touch
  • No need to wrap the box unless you want to

I recommend these boxes for a gift for your own dog or as a gift for a friend or family member’s dog on your list. The ingredients are high-quality, and you can’t go wrong with these gift boxes.

Get a box here. Use code NICELIST2 for $2 off. Order by Dec. 17 in order to guarantee delivery by Dec. 25.


  • You don’t get to choose which treats are in the box (I don’t mind this at all! One less thing to worry about!)
  • Some dogs might have allergies to certain treats

These boxes might not be for you if your dog has allergies to chicken or beef. The breath bones might be small enough for some larger dogs to swallow whole, but most dogs will know to chew them up a bit first.

GIVEAWAY! Win one of the holiday dog gift boxes for your pup

I and Love and You is giving away a FREE holiday dog gift box to one reader of That Mutt.

To enter: 

Just leave a comment below so I know your dog wants in on the drawing! Has your dog been naughty or nice this year?

I will choose a winner at random on Tuesday Dec. 12 and announce them here and by email. Must have a U.S. mailing address to win.

All of That Mutt’s $7/mo Patreon members receive automatic entries into all giveaways, including this one (limited to first 90 people, 6 spots remain). Click here.

Would your dog like to win a holiday gift box?

Let me know in the comments!

Please share this post with anyone who might be interested in this cute holiday gift idea.

Related posts:

I and Love and You dog food review

Personalized dog Christmas stockings

Dog Bone Christmas Stockings

Dog Bone Christmas Stockings

One of That Mutt’s readers, Pauline, makes these adorable dog bone Christmas stockings, and she and I wanted to share them with you. This is a sponsored post.

Dog bone Christmas stockings

Pauline made personalized dog Christmas stockings for each of my dogs. One for my mutt Ace and one for my weimaraner Remy. My dogs didn’t have their own stockings until now!

The stockings are about 17″ long and 6″ wide with a bow and a loop to hang them.

The stockings are available in red, green or off white.

Personalized Christmas stockings

How to order dog bone Christmas stockings

The dog Christmas stockings are for sale on Pauline’s Facebook page.

To order, just click on the blue “send message” button at the top right of her page and type something like “Hi, I would like to order a stocking.” Then Pauline will get in touch with you.

If you let her know That Mutt sent you, she’ll give you $1 off your stocking. She is taking orders now through Dec. 16.

The cost is $18.99 for a plain stocking or $32.99 for a personalized stocking with your dog’s name.

 Order here. (Click on the Send Message button to order.)

Ace and his dog bone Christmas stockings

Pauline accepts payments through PayPal. She does not ship outside the U.S.

Some of her children and friends have dogs, so Pauline said she decided to create these cute stockings for them because she loves sewing. Now she makes and sells the stockings on her Facebook page.

Are you interested in these personalized dog Christmas stockings?

Head over and leave Pauline a message HERE to order. Click on the blue Send Message button and tell her you’d like to order. Save $1 if you tell her That Mutt sent you.

(You’ll need to have a Facebook account.)

Dogs with their personalized dog Christmas stockings

I think the dog stockings are really cute, and I hope you like them too.

Please share this post with anyone you think might be interested in a stocking.


Related posts:

New Year’s resolutions for your dog

Puppies as Christmas presents

DIY bone garland

Holiday dog gift boxes

Interview: Creator of #WeRateDogs

Interview: Creator of #WeRateDogs

If you’re not following WeRateDogs on Twitter, go ahead and do so now because you’re missing out.

I’ve been following the account for awhile, but I started loving WeRateDogs after I saw this interaction:

WeRateDogs now has more than 4.46 million Twitter followers and creator Matt Nelson recently released a book where he “rates” the most “hilarious and adorable pups you’ve ever seen.”

Book by creator of #WeRateDogs

The book #WeRateDogs is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other places where books are sold.

I had the chance to interview Matt for this week’s “5 Question Friday.”

Here were my 5 questions for Matt Nelson, creator of #WeRateDogs:

Creator of #WeRateDogs

That Mutt: What do you say when someone asks, “So what do you do?”

Matt: When people ask what I do, I try to stay as ambiguous as possible.

I usually keep the conversation from going anywhere beyond that I work for myself and it’s social media related. If they ask further questions I just say that it’s dog related.

Occasionally, I’ll ask if they’ve heard of WeRateDogs. Probably 50% of people who I’ve asked are familiar with it and can connect the dots from there.

From there, my only option is to have a very lengthy conversation about all the nuances involved in the business.

TM: Why does your rating system suck? I mean, you give them all 11s and 12s, it doesn’t even make sense!

Matt: That was the turning point for my account.

That interaction shot us into a whole new level of internet fame. I’m still selling products with “they’re good dogs, Brent” on them. (See the shop page.)

They're good dogs Brent tshirt

TM: Are they really ALL such good dogs?

Matt: They all are definitely good dogs.

TM: Will you rate this dog?

Matt: This is Ace. He is an elder doggo. Knows things about fetch younger puppos could only dream of. 13/10 wise af

TM: Is there anything you would like to say to That Mutt’s readers?

I hope they enjoy the book! Get it here.

Thank you, Matt!

If anyone has any questions for Matt about #WeRateDogs, please leave them in the comments.

For more from Matt and WeRateDogs:

Book by creator of #WeRateDogs

Get the book: #WeRateDogs

WeRateDogs on Twitter: @dog_rates

WeRateDogs shop:

“5 Question Friday” is a new feature on That Mutt where I interview authors, trainers, veterinarians, bloggers and others who work with dogs. It’s a way to share different opinions and experiences. If you would like to be featured, please email

Recent “5 Question Friday” interviews:

Author and trainer Marc Goldberg

Author Laura Koerber

Chain Slip and Martingale Collars – Mighty Paw Review

Chain Slip and Martingale Collars – Mighty Paw Review

Mighty Paw sent each of my two dogs a chain slip collar and a chain martingale collar. A martingale collar is similar to a slip collar, but it is limited in how far it can tighten.

I like having a variety of collars on hand, and a chain collar works well for my weimaraner during obedience classes.

I can give a gentle tug on the collar and the chain makes a “zzzzt” noise to get his attention.

This post is sponsored by Mighty Paw. Leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of a chain slip collar or a chain martingale collar for your dog. 5 winners.

Chain slip and martingale collars—Mighty Paw review

My thoughts on the new chain slip and martingale collars from Mighty Paw

These are high-quality training collars for dog owners who prefer a traditional chain-type collar. I like the darker look to these compared to other chain collars I’ve seen.

There are two options, the slip collar version or the limited-slip version (martingale).

Here are pictures of each, so you can see the difference with the martingale first followed by the standard slip collar.

Mighty Paw martingale collar

Mighty Paw slip collar

I had never seen a martingale collar made from all chain before, and I like the concept. I had only used martingales made from part nylon and part chain.

Chain slip and martingale collars work well for dogs who need gentle reminders not to pull. You can tug gently on the leash to get the dog’s attention.

Chain martingale collar

Martingale collar

If your dog is especially powerful and unruly, these types of collars mighty not give you enough control. It all depends on the individual dog.

A nice thing about slip or martingale collars is they tighten under pressure so they can prevent a dog from slipping out. For example, a greyhound’s head is typically narrower than her neck making it easy to back out of a standard collar.

Ordering information: chain slip and martingale collars

Mighty Paw’s chain collars are available on Amazon. Use code MP20Mutt for 20% off all Mighty Paw products. Click here

View the chain slip collar here

View the chain martingale collar here

Pros of the chain slip and martingale collars from Mighty Paw

  • Nice look and color
  • Option of martingale or slip collar style
  • High-quality and durable
  • Made with gunmetal and resists corrosion
  • Weather resistant chain won’t tarnish, according to Mighty Paw
  • Martingale collars are recommended by a wide variety of dog trainers
  • Mighty Paw offers a 90-day money back guarantee

I recommend either of these collars if you like to train or walk your dog on a traditional chain training collar or if your dog needs something more than a regular buckle collar to reduce pulling.

These work well for obedience training but need to be kept high on the neck right behind the dog’s ears. I like using a chain collar when I go to obedience classes with either of my dogs.

Chain collar

Chain slip collar

Cons of the chain collars

  • It’s hard to get the correct size of the martingale collar. Read the size chart carefully and make sure to measure your dog’s neck. Since these are chain collars, you can’t adjust the size like you can with most nylon martingale collars
  • The chain gets a little heavier on the larger sizes. I prefer the smaller sizes (20″ and under) because the slightly thinner chain links “glide” and release easier than the larger sizes.
Chain martingale collar

Size chart for chain martingale collar

These collars are not for you if you’d rather not use a chain-type collar on your dog. If that’s the case, I recommend looking at Mighty Paw’s standard martingale collar made with nylon or their padded sport collar. Both are high-quality collars.

You also wouldn’t want to leave a chain collar on your dog all the time for safety reasons. Slip and martingale collars are specifically for training.

Giveaway! Win a free collar for your dog

Mighty Paw is giving away a free collar to FIVE readers of That Mutt. The winners will be able to choose between a chain slip collar or a chain martingale collar.

To enter, just leave a comment below. Why are you interested in these collars?

I’ll choose the winners at random on Thurs Dec. 7 and announce them here and notify them by email.

Chain slip and martingale collars

Mighty Paw chain slip collar

Would your dog like a chain slip or martingale collar from Mighty Paw?

Let us know in the comments!

Please share this post with anyone who might be interested in these types of collars.

View all of Mighty Paw’s products on Amazon HERE. Use code MP20Mutt for 20% off all Mighty Paw products.

Other Mighty Paw reviews:

Metal buckle collar review

Padded sport collar review

Traffic leash review

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