Training Tips: Dog Impulse Control
The same uninhibited excitement that makes your dog so endearing can also be a recipe for trouble. Dogs are simply used to acting on their instincts, hence their barking at the mail carrier (or anyone who comes to the door), bothering you for scraps or jumping on you when you get home.
It's important to give your dog impulse control training to help them be a calmer, more well-behaved companion.
Dog Impulse Control Training
Training your dog can help them overcome their impulsive habits. Use these tips to curb common unwanted behaviors.
Teaching your dog to take a default position and wait for instructions or a cue gives them an acceptable behavior to turn to when they're not sure what to do, says Karen Pryor Clicker Training. You can use the default position in a wide range of contexts and to help break a number of bad habits, such as jumping on people, being a nuisance at the dinner table or bolting off after another animal. Here's how to train your dog to take a default position:
- If needed, teach your dog to sit until they can do so on command.
- Command them to sit. Once they sit, toss a treat so they have to get up to retrieve it.
- After they eat the treat, say their name and wait until their attention turns to you. Once it does, repeat their name and reward them with a treat. Repeat this action any time your pup's attention starts to wander.
- Repeat steps two and three five times in the same location. Then, move elsewhere in your home and practice for five more sits.
- Practice five sits each day in two different locations, for a total of 10 sits per day. Keep moving to a variety of locations and practicing within different contexts while providing a variety of distractions. Eventually, your pooch should get the hang of sitting still and focusing their attention on you, no matter the situation.
Door Rushing and Doorbell Barking
If your dog has a frenzied response every time there's someone at the door, try this training adapted from Wag!:
- Choose a verbal cue, such as "hush" or "wait."
- Approach your front door. If your dog follows excitedly, use the verbal cue, move away from the door and drop a treat.
- Approach the door again and touch the handle. Give your dog the cue as you step away from the door, then ask them to sit. Only give them a treat when they successfully sit down.
- Keep practicing, gradually increasing the distance between your dog and the door before asking them to sit.
- Once they sit consistently, approach the door and use the verbal cue. Wait for your dog to go to their spot and sit on their own without needing to be told. Once they do, praise them and give them a treat.
- Keep practicing by approaching the door from different parts of the house. If your dog barks or rushes the door, repeat steps two through five until your pup moves to their spot and sits without being told.
- Repeat step six, this time opening the door when you reach it. Only reward your dog if they quietly sit while you approach and open the door.
- Finally, enlist a friend to ring the doorbell or knock on the door. Repeat the previous steps as many times as necessary until your dog reliably responds by going to their spot and sitting quietly while you answer the door.
Follow these training tips from the American Kennel Club to teach your dog not to snatch food out of your hand:
- In a closed fist, hold a handful of dry dog food in front of your dog. Ignore any attempts to get the food out of your hand.
- When your pooch stops trying to get the food from your hand, use your other hand to reward them with a treat. Repeat these steps until your dog stops trying to get food from your closed fist.
- Once your dog starts ignoring your closed fist, slowly open your hand. When they try to snatch the treats, close your fist and wait for them to stop. Once they stop trying to take food from your open palm, use your other hand to reward them with a treat.
- Once your pup learns to leave the treats alone in your open hand, slowly remove a treat from that hand and give it to your dog. If they try to snatch it or if they go for the other treats, close your fist and don't give them the treat. Once your pup is able to sit still and wait for you to deliver the treat, you can give it to them as a reward.
Teaching your dog impulse control takes a lot of patience and constant practice, but it's worth it for the reward of a well-mannered, self-controlled pooch.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.