How Long Do Puppies Cry At Night?

How Long Do Puppies Cry At Night?

How long do puppies cry at night? It depends on the puppy. I’ll give my tips on what to do to stop the crying so hopefully you and your puppy will be getting a good night’s sleep sooner rather than later!

I prefer to use a kennel/crate for all puppies. By that, I mean an indoor crate to keep your puppy safe and out of trouble when you can’t supervise such as while you’re sleeping.

Nearly all puppies will cry, bark, whine and howl the first night home, unfortunately.

If at all possible, I recommend bringing your puppy home on a Friday or Saturday or on a day when you don’t have to work the next few mornings.

The crying and howling is heartbreaking and stressful to listen to but unfortunately it’s totally normal. It’s rare for a puppy not to cry that first night home.

My 8-week-old weimaraner puppy Remy howled and cried almost non-stop for the entire first night home. I assume the poor guy missed his mom and siblings or just the familiarity and comfort of his original home. He thought his little world was turned upside down, which I guess it was!

How to stop my puppy from crying at night

As hard as it was, I ignored Remy the entire night. I did not comfort him, though I wanted to. I did not scold him, and I did not let him out for a potty break. He was in his kennel from about 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. (More on night-time potty breaks below.)

How long do puppies cry at night?

It depends.

Some puppies cry every night for the first one or two weeks while others only cry the first few nights.

Your puppy might cry the entire night or he might only cry for an hour or so until he passes out. They are all different.

Some puppies whimper softly and some scream and carry on like they’re being harmed!

Remy cried the entire first night (nonstop for 7 hours) and then he didn’t make a peep the second night because he was so tired! Haha!

How long do puppies cry at night?

How to decrease a puppy’s crying the first couple nights home

Remember, almost all puppies cry the first few nights so you probably won’t be able to STOP the crying. These ideas should help decrease the crying and help your puppy adjust faster to the new routine.

You should pick and choose what might work well for your situation.

Make the kennel/crate as comforting as possible.

  • When you pick your puppy up from the breeder or shelter, bring a small towel and put it with the puppy and her siblings for a few minutes to get their scent on it. Put that towel in your puppy’s crate.
  • Put soft, comforting blankets in your puppy’s kennel and a soft toy.
  • Try a heartbeat toy (I haven’t tried this, have you?). Similar to the old trick of a ticking clock in a pillow case to mimic a “heartbeat.”

Heartbeat toy for puppies

  • Put chew toys in the kennel like bully sticks.
  • Feed your puppy her meals in her kennel.
  • Put your puppy in her kennel for at least a few minutes (keep it fun and positive) during the first day home so it’s not a complete shock the first night.
  • Keep the kennel in your bedroom next to your bed the first few nights. This is somewhat comforting to some puppies.

Ask your puppy’s breeder, foster home or shelter for their tips.

  • Ask your breeder or shelter to introduce your puppy to a crate so she’s somewhat used to it.

Stay strong!

  • Ignore the crying! Very important.
  • Accept that you won’t get much sleep the first night.
  • Wear ear plugs.
  • Don’t feel guilty.
  • Apologize to any neighbors, roommates or whoever else might be bothered by the crying.
  • Know that it will get better! The second night will likely be easier than the first night.

Plenty of interaction throughout the day.

  • Limit the time in the kennel during the day but use it for a few minutes to help her get used to it.
  • Plenty of interaction, training, exercise, love and play during the day of course.

Do puppies need a potty break in the middle of the night?

This also depends on the puppy. I would ask your puppy’s breeder for his or her opinion based on the age and breed of your puppy. Breed-specific rescue groups or experienced shelter workers also have a lot of knowledge.

After consulting with my puppy’s breeder and the owners of other larger breeds, I decided my 8-week-old weimaraner puppy could hold it for 7 hours at night. This turned out to be true. He never had an accident in his kennel. I would let him out at about 10 p.m. before I went to bed and then at 5 a.m. when I got up.

One rule of thumb I hear repeated online is a puppy can hold it a little longer than one hour per month of age. However, most puppies can hold it longer than that at night.

It’s better to stay up a bit later than you’d like and to get up a bit earlier than you would prefer just so you can limit the habit of going to your puppy in the middle of the night. You want to teach him to sleep through the night as quickly as possible.

If you think your puppy needs a potty break in the middle of the night, do your best to go to the puppy when he’s quiet. I recommend setting your alarm for 2:30 or 3. That way you are deciding this, not him.

Can puppies hold it all night?

If your puppy seems to be howling literally nonstop, then try to at least wait for him to be quiet for 5 seconds. Take him directly outside (no playing, no attention) and then back in the crate. He’ll probably cry again, so just be a “mean” dog mom or dad and ignore him.

You don’t want to start the habit of going to him every time he cries/howls. Puppies are little devils and they learn very quickly that barking will get them what they want (attention). So do your best to ignore all crying and only go to your puppy when he’s quiet. Easier said than done, but it’s very important or you’ll create a monster!

So, how long do puppies cry at night? …

Here’s how it went with my 8-week old weimaraner:

Night #1: Remy cried nonstop from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. or so. The crate was in our living room. I think having it in our bedroom might’ve helped.

Night #2: Not a peep! I think he was exhausted!

Night #3: About 2 hours of crying. I think we had moved the crate to our bedroom for a few nights by night #3.

Night #4: No more night crying. Woo hoo!

We moved the crate back to the living room after a few nights because we sleep better in general without our pets in our bedroom. It’s fine if you want your puppy to sleep in your bedroom if that’s what you prefer.

Now, getting our puppy to stop crying at 5 a.m. because he wanted to start his day was another challenge. Remy had a bad habit of crying every morning because wanted to get up and eat! This seems to be a common problem with puppies and young dogs. For that issue, see my post: How to get your puppy to sleep in.

Have you raised a puppy? What did you do to stop your puppy’s crying at night?

Let me know in the comments! Please share this post with anyone who recently got a puppy.

Other resources:

Where should my new puppy sleep?

Your puppy’s first night home (Puppy in Training blog)

Kennel training to prevent your dog from destroying your stuff

How to stop your dog from whining for attention

How to stop your dog from crying all day

This post contains affiliate links.

GoodBoy Bark Collar Review and Coupon Code

GoodBoy Bark Collar Review and Coupon Code

This GoodBoy bark collar review is designed to help you decide if an anti-bark collar is right for your dog.

Bark collars are not for all dogs, and that is OK. We are lucky to have so many training options. That Mutt is a blog for honest, respectful discussion.

This post is sponsored by GoodBoy. Use code Mutt15 for 15% off all products from GoodBoy. Shop here.

We also have a giveaway going on. Leave a comment at the end of this post for your chance to win a free bark collar. Click here.

Nuisance barking is probably the #1 complaint people have about dogs!

Barking is a real problem for some families, causing stress between spouses or roommates, problems with neighbors, issues with landlords or even police.

In our case, I was considering a bark control collar for my weimaraner for a specific issue: protest barking in his kennel. Nothing serious, but the barking causes my husband and I some stress.

I say “protest barking” because my dog is kennel trained but there are specific instances where he will bark in his kennel:

  • When we have a guest staying with us. He’ll often bark if we try to kennel him while someone “exciting” is visiting. He doesn’t want to miss out!
  • If I kennel him while we are eating a meal sometimes he will bark.
  • On occasion he will still bark in his kennel early in the morning to get up and eat. For the most part we’ve trained our dog to sleep in but it can still be a problem.

While I used our bark collar to stop my dog from barking in his kennel, I would generally not recommend a bark collar for:

  • a dog that is afraid of being in his kennel/crate
  • a dog that is still learning to be in a crate
  • dogs with separation anxiety
  • puppies

For those issues, see my posts on separation anxiety or kennel training.

GoodBoy bark collar review

I tried GoodBoy’s mini bark collar for my weimaraner Remy. This collar is designed for “small and medium” dogs and will fit up to about a 19” neck.

Keep in mind you want a collar like this to be tight and high on the neck so it can be a little smaller than your dog’s regular collar.

Order a bark collar here

My dog Remy is about 60 pounds with an 18” neck so the collar fits him. It’s a little small for my Lab mix Ace, but he was still able to wear this bark collar for “modeling” purposes.

The collar comes in black, blue or pink.

GoodBoy’s mini bark collar uses tones and vibration only. No static “pings” like other brands I’ve used.

I can’t stress enough how humane this collar is. You do not need to worry at all about it hurting your dog. The vibration from this collar is very gentle, similar to my phone vibrating.

If your dog needs a stronger correction, GoodBoy also makes collars that give a static “ping” correction.

My overall impression of the mini bark collar is that it’s an affordable option ($28.99) for smaller and medium dogs. It won’t be as accurate or durable as a more expensive collar, but it will work just fine for a lot of dogs.

The re-chargeable battery on this collar lasts a long time (weeks, generally). It also comes with a USB cable, so all you have to do is plug it in to re-charge the battery.

How the GoodBoy bark collar works

The collar is designed to be triggered by your dog’s vocal chords when he barks. Ideally, the collar will not trigger to other noises or other dogs barking.

The mini bark collar starts with a warning tone when the dog barks. This is a beep sound that gets the dog’s attention and is meant to interrupt the barking.

If the dog barks again, the collar gives a second, longer tone. If the dog barks after that, the collar gives a vibration.

In total, the collar can potentially give up to 7 corrections before going into a sleep mode, but my dog has always stopped barking after the first tone!

The company’s tutorial videos are helpful and explain all of this well.

I try to pair the beep tone with “no” and then reward my dog for being quiet. GoodBoy recommends this so the dog learns to associate the tone with “no” even if you are not there.

The tone/beep has always been enough to interrupt Remy’s barking, which is great!

I tested the vibration of the collar on my own wrist and it is gentle. I wear a Garmin GPS watch that vibrates my wrist to tell me to “move!” if I’ve been sitting too long. The vibration of this bark collar is similar to that. It does not give any static “ping” corrections.

GoodBoy coupon code and ordering info

The mini bark collar is very affordable. Just $28.99. It’s available on the company’s website.

Use the GoodBoy coupon code Mutt15 for 15% off
Order here

GoodBoy bark collar review

More info on using the GoodBoy bark collar

I recommend you test the bark collar before you put it on your dog. Do this without your dog in the room, especially if he is nervous of beeps.

You should also test the beep/tone with your dog in the room to make sure he’s not overly sensitive to the sound. You want it to startle him and interrupt his barking but not scare him.

Next, follow the directions and set the collar to the right sensitivity level for your dog.

I have the collar set at the default level 4, and you can adjust it up or down so it triggers properly to your dog’s bark. I am impressed the collar does not trigger to Remy’s whining but only to his barking.

One issue we had is the collar triggered when Remy shook his head and ears around. He is loud and obnoxious when he does this!

The best solution was to remove Remy’s everyday collar. That way, the sound of the two collars bumping together can’t trigger the beep. Since I only plan to use the bark collar while Remy is in his kennel, this has worked well.

Another option would be to lower the collar’s sensitivity level from a 4 to a 3 so it’s less likely to be triggered by these types of sounds.

Order a collar here
Use code Mutt15 for 15% off

Pros of the GoodBoy mini bark collar

  • Affordable at just $28.99
  • Humane and won’t hurt your dog
  • Simple to use & comes with instruction guide
  • Should fit most dogs with neck size 5″ to 19″
  • Uses tones and vibrations (no static correction)
  • Adjustable sensitivity levels
  • No “prongs”
  • Rechargeable battery and USB cable (just plug it in)
  • Waterproof, according to GoodBoy
  • “No questions asked” return policy for 30 days

This collar is a good option for you if you have a small or medium dog with a barking problem and you want to try an affordable bark control collar. Order here.

Goodboy Bark Collar Review

Cons of the collar

  • Not extremely durable (I recommend removing it during play or sports)
  • The collar might be triggered by other noises if the sensitivity level is not set correctly
  • This collar works well for the price but I wouldn’t expect it to last years

GoodBoy’s mini bark collar might not be the best choice for you if you’re dealing with multiple barking dogs or if your dog makes a ton of other noises that could trigger the collar. If you need to make certain the collar corrects at the right time, I recommend GoodBoy’s collar that comes with a remote.

Is a bark collar right for your dog?

I would consider a bark collar for your dog if your dog’s barking is causing you stress or if you need to get control of the problem for any reason.

GoodBoy Bark Collar review - my lab mix Ace

Of course, you should only use a bark collar if you are comfortable correcting your dog with a tone or vibration. I can’t stress enough how humane this particular collar is. The vibration mode is the equivalent of my phone or GPS watch vibrating.

On the other hand, if your dog is barking due to fear, separation anxiety or extreme stress, I wouldn’t recommend a GoodBoy bark collar. There are exceptions to everything though, so don’t hesitate to leave any questions in the comments or consult with a trainer in your area.

We’re lucky we have so many training options and resources on how to properly use them. I have hunting breeds so I’ve always been around e-collars and get to see how they improve the lives and freedom for so many dogs.

Browse GoodBoy’s bark collars HERE.

Giveaway! Win a free bark collar for your dog from GoodBoy

GoodBoy is giving away a FREE bark collar to two winners!

To enter, just leave a comment below so I know your dog wants IN on the drawing. Let me know about your dog’s barking issue.

I’ll choose two winners at random on Tuesday Jan. 23 and notify the winners by email and post them here. Must have a U.S. mailing address to win.

The two winners will each get to choose any collar from GoodBoy’s website.

Would you be interested in a bark collar from GoodBoy?

Let me know in the comments!

Please share this GoodBoy bark collar review with anyone whose dog could benefit from a bark collar.


Related posts:

How to stop a dog’s barking

Stop a dog from barking at people on walks

Pet Blogger Challenge

Pet Blogger Challenge

Today’s post is different than what I would normally write about here on That Mutt. It’s about blogging.

I am participating in the Pet Blogger Challenge hosted by Go Pet Friendly. This is a way for us pet bloggers to connect, help each other out and support one another.

I’ve been blogging on That Mutt since 2008, and I am participating in this challenge/”blog hop” because I hope I can offer advice to newer blogs.

If you have a blog and have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

I also recommend you check out some of the other bloggers participating in this challenge. Their links should all appear at the end of this post. This is a “blog hop.”

Pet Blogger Challenge 2018 – Ten Questions

Ace and Lindsay - Pet Blogger Challenge

1. For those who may be visiting your blog for the first time, how long have you been blogging and what is your main topic?

I started That Mutt in early 2008. My topics have always focused on dog training and dog behavior.

I also write about exercising dogs, nutrition/raw dog food and dog products.

2. What was your proudest blogging moment of 2017?

My proudest moment was probably around late January when I saw that my Patreon page was getting some traction.

Patreon is a platform that allows a creator’s audience to support them monthly for amounts like $1/mo, $5/mo, etc., in exchange for various “rewards.”

I’ve enjoyed having a closer relationship with my biggest “fans.” Patreon is a work in progress for me, but I’m trying to offer new perks to my community there.

3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why?

My favorite blog post was Dog training advice I’m glad I ignored. It’s about training my weimaraner puppy Remy and how he challenges me!

I always try to be open to all types of dog training ideas. We all raise dogs in different ways and through this post I was trying to say that you have to train the dog in front of you in the best way you know how.

Don’t listen to what anyone else tells you, including me.

Lindsay and Remy - Pet Blogger Challenge

4. In terms of your blog, how do you measure success?

I care very much about numbers: pageviews, email subscribers, income.

But true success for me is knowing I’m a great writer and dog trainer and being recognized for that. I want to make sure I’m making a difference for people and dogs through my writing.

5. In what ways has your blog changed during 2017?

I brought on two writers. They each contribute about two articles a month, and I’ve really enjoyed working with them! Thank you Julia and Barbara!

I like that we’re able to publish more frequent blog posts through multiple writers.

Also, at the end of 2017 I switched my ad management from Google Adsense to MediaVine. I can’t recommend this enough! Thank you to Colby from the blog Puppy In Training for this advice.

My dog Remy the weimaraner - Pet blogger challenge

6. What was the biggest blogging challenge you overcame in 2017, and what did you learn that could help other bloggers?

Nothing stands out as a greatest challenge. Thankfully I didn’t face any major technical issues!

An ongoing challenge for me is prioritizing writing vs. getting stuck in the endless cycle of checking email, posting on social, obsessing over numbers, etc.

I try to write early in the day and focus on “busywork” or other people’s “problems” later. It’s an ongoing challenge.

7. When things get hard, what keeps you blogging?

I tend to get overwhelmed and stressed easily. About once a month, I make sure to list out everything that’s weighing on me blogging-wise and then I prioritize what’s really important.

For me, it usually means focusing on great content and producing a high-quality newsletter. The smaller “projects” can usually wait.

Setting clear goals is important for me and sticking to a strict morning routine. I like to write/focus early in the morning.

8. In 2018, what are you hoping to accomplish on your blog?

Good, quality content is my main goal.

I know I’m a good writer, but I also know the majority of my blog posts are not my best work.

In 2018 I would like to publish more articles that I’m truly proud to share. That means I need to prioritize my projects much better. I need to say no more often, minimize distractions, spend less time on social media, etc.

Ace from That Mutt - Pet Blogger Challenge

9. Is there a specific skill you’d like to improve or master this year?

Videos. I have a YouTube account and have posted some videos, but I don’t have any video-editing skills and don’t know where to start.

Could someone recommend a good, simple video-editing program? I have a PC.

10. Is there a question you’d like answered? We’ll answer you in the comments!

Whether you are a reader or a blogger or a new visitor, I would like some constructive criticism of That Mutt:

1. What is something you would change about That Mutt? Or something you don’t like?

2. What’s something you admire about That Mutt?

3. If you’re brand new here, what are your first impressions, good or bad?

Thank you!

And like I said, if you have any blogging questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. And check out the other blogs in the links below.


Aggression Between Dogs in the Same Household – Sibling Rivalry

Aggression Between Dogs in the Same Household – Sibling Rivalry

Aggression between dogs in the same household is fairly common. In this post I’ll give you some ideas on what to do if your dogs don’t get along.

Looking at my Instagram feed, you might assume my dogs are best friends and everything in our house is peaceful. That we all get along.

That is not reality.

My dogs are ages 11 years and 1 year. Nearly a generation apart.

They are on opposite ends of the “spectrum” in so many ways – energy, training, maturity.

My senior dog moves at the pace of a sloth. My adolescent weimaraner … drags me.

Because of their differences, my dogs co-exist, but they rarely do things together. I walk them separately. They don’t play. When I write, they each curl up on a separate dog bed.

So when I see my dogs do something like this, I can’t help but take a picture and post it.

Aggression between dogs in the same household

But as anyone with multiple dogs knows, more than likely you’re going to have a few growls, barks and scuffles at some point. Maybe even a few fights.

Dogs are DOGS, and sometimes dogs bark, growl and bite.

So if your dogs don’t always get along, know that this is normal.

Sometimes you might have a more serious issue, and in that case I would recommend working with a trainer.

More often than not, it simply comes down to management and making smart decisions.

I know my dogs will fight over rawhides, Kongs, bully sticks or food, for example. So I don’t give them the opportunity.

They eat in separate areas and they enjoy their “goodies” in separate rooms. That is what works for us.

Here are some common “high valued” resources that could trigger a fight between some dogs:

High-value resources for dogs

  • Bones, Kongs, rawhides, bully sticks
  • Food, food bowls or water bowls
  • Dog beds or kennels/crates
  • Toys
  • Doorways or other thresholds
  • A favorite person (family member, dog walker, relative, etc.)
  • A spot on the couch or a chair
  • Another dog

Signs of tension or guarding to watch for:

  • Stiff, still posture
  • Lowered head
  • Raised hackles
  • Cold, hard stare
  • Flicking the tongue
  • Raised lips, showing teeth
  • Growling

See my post: Signs of stress in dogs

Note that you have to look at these things in context and know your dogs. Raised hackles does not always mean aggression, for example.

What to do if your dogs don’t get along

1. List out exact “triggers” in detail. Keep notes.

Sometimes you might not know exactly why your dogs are fighting. It helps to take detailed notes on each situation.

Where did the fight occur? What time of day? Who was there? What items were present?

Which dog seemed to “start it” and why? How long did it last?

Write down these details so you can look for patterns and better manage your dogs in the future.

2. Management to keep everyone safe.

Management comes down to preventing opportunities for your dogs to fight.

Once you know what causes problems between your dogs, you can generally prevent most issues.

  • If certain items cause issues between your dogs, you’ll know to pick up toys, food bowls, bones, etc.
  • Using a gate or kennels/crates can also go a long way when you need to keep your dogs separated during meals or other “exciting” situations that can trigger fights.
  • If you notice tension, re-direct one or both dogs with an upbeat “look hear!”, whistling or clicking your tongue

In our house, my dogs will fight over me if I’m sitting on the ground. If your dogs do this, don’t sit on the ground petting one dog unless you tell the other dog to “STAY.” Or, use gates or leashes to manage them.

Aggression between dogs in the same household

3. Work with a trainer if you need it.

Usually fights between dogs are over in a second and sound a lot worse than they are.

However, if you are concerned for either dog’s safety or your own safety, it is smart to consult with a trainer.

Even if you know a lot about dog behavior, it’s worth it to get a neutral opinion from someone who can observe you and your dogs.

It’s hard to recognize behaviors from our own dogs because we are biased or emotional.

4. Don’t force interactions.

Dogs don’t have to be best friends. They just need to co-exist.

When we got our weimaraner puppy in 2016, I was planning on taking cute photos of the dogs together the day we got our puppy.

Turns out, my senior dog would snarl at our puppy if they were too close so I didn’t get many pictures of them together at all when Remy was little!

Aggression between dogs in the same household

Aggression between dogs in the same household

This is just one example of how you have to change plans sometimes to accommodate your dogs’ needs.

Don’t force your dogs beyond their limits, and don’t rush. I have a good example below of a mistake I made that caused a fight between my dogs recently.

Unfortunately, dog fights are often the person’s fault. It all goes back to management, prevention and making smart choices.

5. Walk the dogs together if possible.

Most dogs will get along during a walk, and this is a great way to involve your whole family. The dogs are out doing something fun together with no pressure. They are spending time together in a positive, safe way.

My senior dog can be a complete grouch in the house, but when I take my two dogs outside they get along much better.

They like to follow each other around sniffing the same plants and grassy areas together. When we first got our puppy, this was the best way to let my two dogs interact.

What to do if your dogs don't get along

Other tips and factors:

  • Avoid greeting your dogs excitedly, especially in doorways or tight spaces
  • If a fight breaks out, try to startle the dogs with a loud “hey!” or clap your hands. Or you can try throwing water on them.
  • Separate your dogs when they’re home alone
  • Consider spaying/neutering. This won’t solve your problem but it can help along with training.
  • Don’t allow dogs to excitedly greet visitors together. Too much excitement can sometimes trigger a fight.
  • Don’t allow too much excitement running and playing in the yard together
  • Use a muzzle if needed
  • Some dogs just aren’t a good fit and it might be best to re-home one dog.
  • One dog may be grouchy due to pain
  • Stay calm. Sometimes people trigger tension or aggression by adding too much excitement or tension to the situation
  • Make sure each dog gets plenty of exercise and training

Aggression between dogs in the same household – An example

My senior dog Ace raises his lips and shows teeth whenever Remy the weimaraner tries to curl up next to him.

Remy likes to test Ace’s seriousness by tip-toeing closer and giving him a quick lick to the nose.

Sometimes Ace will give in and let Remy in for a cuddle. Usually they have a harmless “argument” where they bark until Remy walks away. It’s just “talk” and they do this every day.

But last week, I was sitting on the floor petting Ace when this happened.

Anyone reading this will see my obvious mistakes.

Normally Ace would growl, Remy would bark and then walk away. But this time I tried to coax Remy closer.

I caused tension by pushing my dogs too far.

For 3 seconds they got into an actual fight biting at each other until one of them bit ME.

I set them up for the fight to begin with and then I put my hands in the mix.

Do NOT put your hands into a dog fight, people. Doh!

Of course, after this “explosion” my dogs forgot about it instantly as dogs tend to do.

They shook themselves off and within the hour they were curled up TOGETHER on the dog bed like nothing happened.

Dogs …

I wanted to share that story because living with multiple dogs takes some work, and it’s never going to be perfect.

My two guys are very easygoing, and I have a lot of experience managing dogs through fostering and pet sitting. But sometimes I still make mistakes.

I hope this post gives you some ideas for handling your own dogs, and if you need some help from a trainer, don’t hesitate to do so.

Do you have multiple dogs? How do they generally get along?

What other tips would you add to this list?

Let me know in the comments!

More resources:

How to break a dog’s possessiveness

How to introduce your dog to a new puppy

How to introduce dogs

What to do if your dog is aggressive to your new puppy

My dog growls at other dogs – what to do

Dog to dog resource guarding – Patricia McConnell

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.

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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

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