Impulse control is something you need to teach your dog. A dog can’t reflect on its behavior or understand how to behave in a different way unless they have been taught to control their impulses. I tell my clients that their dogs have nothing else to think about but what works for them—in other words, dogs are opportunistic creatures.
Signs your dog has impulse control issues:
■ Pulls on leash and drags you from one scent to another.
■ Jumps on people and other animals.
■ Greets people with over-the-top excited energy.
■ Flies in and out of the car without waiting.
■ If you drop food on the floor, your dog rushes toward the food.
■ Doesn’t take food from your hand politely.
■ Darts immediately through any open door.
■ Jumps with excitement for its meals or comes at the food before you can even set it down.
There are numerous ways to teach your dog impulse control:
1 Having a dog heel at your side is a great way to teach impulse control. The rules I have for my dogs are that they start the walk in a heel and end it in a heel. If your dog walks for half an hour, you can release your dog from the heel command using the word Free (if you don’t already have a word). Then let them sniff and potty in their favorite spot. If you walk your dog for an hour, you can release them twice at their favorite spots. The only rule in place at all times is No Pull.
2 Have the dog wait on the inside of the door threshold as you stand on the outside of the threshold. If the dog tries to step over the threshold, you block the dog with your body using calm energy and say Wait. Then open up the space again and repeat until the dog waits. This is how you teach the Wait command.
3 You can also use a Sit Stay each time you feed, adding time slowly to the Sit Stay.
4 Tug of war is one of my favorite games to play with my dogs. The point of the game is to show the dog exactly what level of excitement we will allow it to reach. In other words, you pull on the tug, and when you see the excited behavior escalating to high, then stop moving the tug. Don’t drop it—that doesn’t teach the dog anything except to “fight until you win.” Stopping the movement causes the dog to stop pulling and surrender the toy. Another example would be a group of dogs chasing one dog in the dog park—all the dogs stop as soon as the chased one stops; they don’t pile on top of the dog. If you mimic that same behavior, you will get the same results.
5 The Leave It command will help your dog with its impulse control. When I’m teaching dogs to leave it, I will spray the dog on the body with a spray bottle filled only with water nozzle turned to a stream. That causes the dog’s brain to stop focusing on what it was trying to get and focusing on you and then you can redirect the pups mind on something it can chew on.
Let your mantra for your dog be, “If you’re calm, you get what you want.”Valerie Masi»