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Impulse Control

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Patiently waiting for a french fry.

What on earth is impulse control? Well, it is controlling impulses. Have a good day and keep following my blog.

Just kidding, but I do want you to keep following and sharing my blog.

In relation to dog training, impulse control is a way to move a dog’s enthusiasm from extrinsic factors and distractions to a more focused and controlled state. Impulse control is not about diminishing that enthusiasm. Instead we are making what the dog desires into a reward for another desired behavior.

In the world of dog sports, many dogs are wild with excitement others are just puppies exploding with energy. You know the type; it’s that border collie rampaging around the agility ring taking every obstacle in sight without any regard for its handler. Or it is the little Chihuahua who feels free and enjoys showing off his speed by running around and around… The problem is that we want to have that enthusiasm directed into doing the course WITH US! We, therefore, teach games that guide the dogs into a more focused state where they cannot get to something whether it is a toy, agility obstacle, or food until we release them to it. Think back to that border collie now at the start line. Do you think this dog has a stay? You can absolutely get that start line stay by teaching impulse control games. The reward for this dog to stay is the opportunity to play agility.

I am going to share with you a few videos of impulse control. These behaviors are actually very easy to train.

In the first video, my dogs are demonstrating the behavior expected when I tell them leave it:

How did I teach this? Here it is in 10 easy steps; no professional trainer is required.

  1. I sat down (or used my bed as a platform) with one of my dogs and a handful of treats.

  2. I plopped the handful of treats on the ground and covered the pile with my hand.

  3. Of course my food motivated dog, who thinks I am starving him, begins to paw at my hand. I do absolutely nothing. Then he begins to paw furiously. Then trying to stuff his nose under my hand. No response from me.

  4. Then he begins offering his favorite behaviors like backing up. He may even bark. No response. I am waiting for either a sit or a down.

  5. Suddenly I get a sit. I slowly begin to raise my hand from the pile.

  6. Oops, he rises from his sit and starts moving toward the slightly uncovered pile. I immediately cover the pile back up.

  7. He starts to paw and nose again. Dang! What do I do? You got it, no response.

  8. When he offers the sit again. I once again slowly raise my hand again. Geesh, he gets up again!

  9. Rinse and repeat until he finally lets me get the pile uncovered most of the way. Then and only then, do I reward him with a treat from the pile.

  10. Rinse and repeat until he will sit with the entire pile uncovered and allow you to hand feed him individual cookies.

It is literally that simple! I know I have taken videos of the training, but I cannot find them. Sigh!

The second video is of Starry learning one of the exercises of Crate Games. The desired end behavior is for the dog to wait calmly while you get the leash snapped and release the dog to come out of the crate. While this is very practical for your dog’s safety, it teaches the dog to calm down and wait for the reward of going for a walk, playing agility, etc.

Impulse control games also have the added benefit of making deposits into your relationship bank with your dog. Through this we are building the dog’s desire to be with us and work with us. We are playing games with our dogs, and they get rewards. What’s not to love?

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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