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!
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 pay attention to you at all on walks
Easily distracted or can’t focus
Rude in general
Appears hyper or anxious most of the time
Paces around the room often
Barks at everything
Can’t sit still & can’t relax
Gets frustrated easily and barks
Grabs treats or food
Gets possessive of toys or food
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
“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 Lindsay@ThatMutt.com.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
Lindsay Stordahl Lindsay Stordahl (with her mutt Ace) is the blogger behind That Mutt.
Julia Thomson Julia Thomson (with her mutt Baxter) writes regularly for That Mutt.
Barbara Rivers Barbara Rivers writes for That Mutt about raw dog food.
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