Your dog jumps. Your dog barks uncontrollably. Maybe your puppy likes to shred your fingers with those razor sharp puppy teeth. What's the key to managing these behaviors with your dog or puppy? Impulse control. Learn how help your puppy and dog dog achieve impulse control.
Dog Training and the Importance of Impulse Control
Any dog behaviors you're working on, or tricks you're aspiring to, always start with impulse control. Here at Darwin Dogs, we utilize the Piloting Method of dog training, and the cornerstone of that is
You can learn more about it in this link, but suffice it to say that impulse control for both dog and human is integral. If your puppy has the impulse control of a coked-up squirrel with a red bull, you can't expect him to learn how to leash walk. It will end badly.
So let's start with the basics: impulse control.
What helps your puppy remain in a sit position when what they really want to do is blow past you through that open front door? Impulse control.
What keeps your dog from dragging you down the street every time you go for a walk? Impulse control.
What helps your anxious dog remain calm during thunderstorms? Impulse control.
Starting Your Puppy and Dog Out Slow: Managing Expectations
When faced with the Gordian Knot of energy and charisma your puppy or dog can bring, it can be hard to know how to start untangling that knot. And sometimes that's not even a metaphor.
Let's start at the beginning.
Impulse control is a like a muscle your dog either has (or more likely, your puppy doesn't have). Like any muscle, you need to work out to make it bigger and capable of lifting heavier loads.
If you've spent the last 2 years on the couch, and decided to have a healthier lifestyle, no trainer in their right mind would suggest you go for a marathon run. That's something that you gradually build up to, using each bit of strength you've gained to help pave the road for the next upcoming step.
The same applies for impulse control with your dog or puppy. If your dog loses their mind at other dogs while on a walk, the place to start working on that impulse control isn't at the dog park. It's about taking smaller, more manageable steps, and building your dog's impulse control around other dogs.
A puppy who has a 30 second bladder can't be expected to hold it for 5 minutes while they try to get your attention to be let out.
And like any muscle that may never have been developed, or may have atrophied from lack of use, it is not only possible, but completely reasonable to expect a recovery, but that muscle needs to be exercised.
"You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending." C.S. Lewis
So let's start where we are, and change the ending, and get your dog or puppy back on the path of impulse control.
Impulse Control Exercises for Your Dog or Puppy: Six Simple Exercises
1. Practice Door Manners
Is your dog or puppy a bit much at the door? This is the perfect place to start with impulse control.
Starting your dog or puppy on their training journey to impulse control doesn't mean just opening the door and hoping for the best. Hope is never a game plan. Rather, let's break this behavioral problem into smaller pieces of impulse control so we can help move your dog forward in a more positive manner.
Does your dog lose their mind when they hear the doorbell? Then randomly ring it or knock on the door, and when your dog comes rushing at the door to see who is here, Pilot him until he's gained control of himself.
You don't even have to open the door. You're just getting him started on the pathway to impulse control for this specific problem. It's okay to start small. Just playing with the doorknob or cracking the door is a great place to start.
To learn how to answer the door without drama from your dog, check out this link.
2. End the Feeding Frenzy with your Dog
Meal times are a great way to help build up impulse control with your dog or puppy. If your dog is used to having high energy as you prepare their food, have them calm down prior to giving them their food. Don't hurry up to meet your dog's demand of their food right now. A simple, calm and gentle negation of your dog's unwanted behavior is all it takes (along with a bit of repetition).
Learn how to do it in this link.
3. Start Hearing What your Dog is Saying
Along the lines of the mealtimes, if your dog is jumping and carrying on as soon as they see the leash, and doing their version of human parkour, they are showing no impulse control. And to think that they will segue from that madness while still inside the house, to a calm and peaceful walk outside is a joke.
Your dog has every right to be excited about going for a walk (or playing fetch, or going for a ride). But how is your dog conveying that message to you? Politely, or in a less-than-savory way I call the "Yo Bitch".
"Yo, bitch, time for my walk."
"Yo, bitch, I want that food NOW."
"Yo, bitch, throw the ball!"
Can you imagine if one of my kids said, "Yo, bitch, get me a cookie?"
If your dog has you rushing to obey every one of his commands, at what point is he learning impulse control? Your puppy is learning that the less impulse control they show, the faster you move to obey their needs and wants.
Slow down, and don't let your dog demand from you. Let them learn that the more impulse control they show, the faster their food comes.
Learn more in this link.
4. Make Sure Your Dog has Exercise
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Exercise the demon.
If your puppy is acting like a demented Tasmanian devil, ask yourself how much activity they've actually had today. Your puppy (and dog for that matter) will have a much easier time controlling their impulses if they have had their exercise requirements met.
For simple tips on how to exercise your dog (without running a marathon) check out this link.
5. Interrupt Your Dog or Puppy's Play with Calm Breaks
Puppies and dogs are bottomless pits of energy. Of course one of the easiest ways to handle that energy is a game of fetch, or maybe rope toy. But this is one of the easiest ways to work out that impulse control muscle.
Rather than turning fetch time into a frenzy of non-stop running and playing, interrupt playtime with an occasional break of calmness, even if momentary. Having your dog sit before you even throw the ball imbues an undertone of impulse control in an otherwise high-energy situation.
Further, the contrast between the frenzied movement of your dog racing after the ball against the momentary calm really gives that impulse control muscle a workout.
6. Know the Situation
When my kids were little, there were times I didn't let them finish homework. I always read the situation during homework time, and a 2nd grader who is close to tears trying to struggle through their math homework after a long day at school, followed by a dentist appointment, is not learning anything except that their needs don't matter. I want that homework done. That 2nd grader needs a break and a chance to reboot.
Of course I can force a child or a dog to do what I want, and prove to them that I am stronger or hold more power over them. Let them know that I am "alpha" or "pack leader". But what does that instill in them?
If your puppy has hit what I call The Witching Hour, they aren't capable of the level of impulse control that they usually show (which for a puppy, is about zero anyway). Know your audience, and gauge the temperature of the room before you decide now is the perfect time to force your dog or puppy to obey your will. You are your dog's Pilot, not their first bully. And while I despise the soft bigotry of low expectations, let's not force a 3 month old puppy to sit and stay for 5 minutes straight simply to get their meal.
Good enough is good enough, and some days "good" looks different than others. And that's okay. You're training your dog and working through behaviors with your puppy. Just like any other goal, if you reach it immediately, then your goals weren't lofty enough. But if it seems as if you're struggling (or your dog or puppy is), then maybe recalibrate.
(Un)Focused Dog Training
So what's the purpose of all of this? Well, now that your dog has shown impulse control by not blowing past you through doorways, that impulse control muscle is strengthened, and can be used in other areas.
Your puppy uses impulse control to learn that they can't jump on you or your spouse, so now they're assuming that might just apply to everyone.
Your dog uses impulse control during playtime, and therefore starts to use it during your walks.
So impulse control is a thing that snowballs. If it works for them in one situation, maybe it will work for them in every situation. And that's the beauty of Piloting your dog instead of merely training your dog: it's a holistic approach to working through your dog's behaviors. Learning to Pilot your puppy rather than focus on never-ending, repetitious training classes enables you to sort through those unwanted behaviors quickly and without resorting to forceful (and downright abusive) methods like shock collars or prong collars.
Piloting your dog and puppy is about building a healthy relationship, with realistic boundaries, without resorting to Andrew Tate machismo alpha tactics. It's about building trust without resorting to bribery.
Learn more about Darwin Dog's Piloting method of dog training and puppy training, and find out if your pup is a good candidate for our private, in-home dog training.
Find out more about our private in home 30 Day Best Dog Ever and 30 Day Best Puppy Ever training packages here.
Have questions about our puppy training or dog training? Find out answers here.
Kerry Stack Darwin Dogs
Dog Training and Dog Behavior
Greater Cleveland area; Northeast Ohio