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How to Master Impulse Control

By Jason Wright

August 22, 2023

As a dog owner, you’ve probably noticed that your dog or puppy has certain impulses, such as pulling at the leash to chase an animal like a squirrel or sniffing and coming around when food is on the table. Though these are normal impulses, your pet will not learn to refrain from acting on them unless taught to do so.

As responsible pet owners, we must ensure our dogs' well-being, and teaching impulse control is a huge aspect of this responsibility. Impulse control prevents accidents and keeps your dog and others safe, and strengthens the bond between your pet and you, their owner. When done correctly, you can teach your dog that while it’s okay for them to lean into or have their regular instincts, acting on them all of the time is unacceptable, given the consequences it can have on the animals, pets and other people around them.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore what impulse control means for dogs, why it's essential, the benefits of mastering it, and will provide you with practical training techniques to train your dog on this matter.

Understanding Impulse Control for Dogs

Impulse control refers to dogs' ability to manage their instincts and desires, making thoughtful decisions instead of acting solely on their impulses. It involves teaching dogs to exercise restraint and self-control, which is especially important in scenarios where their immediate reactions could lead to undesirable outcomes.

Here are three key reasons why working on impulse control with your dog is vital:

  • 1. Their Safety: Dogs that lack impulse control are more likely to engage in risky behaviours that can jeopardize their safety. Whether it's darting across a busy street or eating something harmful, a lack of control can put them in dangerous situations. 
  • 2. Preventing Accidents For Themselves and Others: Impulse-driven behaviour can lead to accidents, like jumping on people, knocking over objects, or excessive pulling on the leash. Training for impulse control helps prevent these accidents, making interactions with your dog more enjoyable and stress-free.
  • 3. Enhancing Training: Dogs with solid impulse control are more receptive to training, even in other areas. With proper control, they can learn to focus on commands and follow instructions more reliably.

Key Benefits of Mastering Impulse Control For Your Dog

Mastering impulse control leads to a wide range of advantages for both you and your beloved pet, including their behaviour, emotional well-being, and the quality of your interactions.

Here are just some of the key benefits that working with your pet and mastering their impulse controls can provide: 

  • Stronger Bond: Teaching impulse control fosters trust and cooperation between you and your dog. When your dog learns to look to you for guidance in challenging situations, your bond deepens.
  • Improved Behavior: Dogs with impulse control are generally better-behaved and more adaptable. They can navigate various environments with ease and respond to commands more reliably. Plus, your pet’s behaviour in other situations, whether in new environments or high-stress situations, will be better and less worrisome for you, as they will have better self-control.
  • Reduced Stress: Dogs that manage their impulses tend to be calmer and less stressed. This is particularly helpful in situations that might otherwise trigger anxiety or overexcitement.
  • Enhanced Safety: With improved impulse control, your dog is less likely to engage in hazardous activities, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Training Your Dog for Impulse Control

Working with your pet will take time, consistency and patience, like any other training tactic. Your dog may not get their impulse control down on the first few sessions; however, over time, they will learn to master this element, all while strengthening their bond with you.

To help your dog master impulse control, consider these effective training techniques:

  • Start with Basic Commands: Reinforce basic commands like "sit," "stay," and "leave it." These commands teach your dog to pause and think before acting, a key element for impulse control.
  • Practice Patience: Incorporate waiting into your dog's daily routine. Ask your dog to wait before eating, going outside, or receiving treats. Gradually increase the waiting duration to teach them to stay focused and prevent them from acting on their impulses.
  • Use Toys and Treats: Introduce games that require your dog to wait before engaging. For example, use a toy or treat as a reward, but make them wait until you give the signal to go ahead.
  • Work on Leash Manners: Use impulse control exercises during walks. Teach your dog to walk calmly on a loose leash without pulling or lunging. This tactic will take time and consistency, so remember to be patient during this drill.
  • Focus on Greetings: Train your dog to remain calm when meeting people or other dogs. Encourage them to sit and stay before getting attention or interacting and let visitors know that they are not to engage with your pet until they have listened and followed your command.
  • Stay Consistent: Consistency is key to success. Practice impulse control exercises regularly, both at home and in different environments. Start in your home environment and then work to settings with more distractions, such as a local park.

Use a Balanced Approach to Training: Operant conditioning and balanced dog training are the methodologies we utilize at iTK9. Both methods incorporate a mix of rewards and consequences in your dog's training to help reinforce its impulse control. With balanced dog training, the focus is simple; show your dog that certain behaviours can have positive or negative reactions. When your dog showcases impulse control, praise can be given to encourage your pet. However, if poor behaviour occurs, initiating corrections is necessary so your dog can understand that these actions are unacceptable.

The iTK9 Way; Teaching Your Pet Impulse Controls

Mastering impulse control is a rewarding journey that requires patience, dedication, and understanding. By helping your dog manage their impulses, you're not only preventing accidents and ensuring safety but also building a strong foundation for a harmonious and enjoyable companionship. 

If you're struggling to work with your pet or unsure where to start, our trained professionals can help. They fully commit to working with them through behaviour, obedience training, and continued learning safely and effectively. 

We do the hard work for you to attain a happy home and a healthy relationship with your pet.

Included in all of our programs are the following;

  1. In-Person Learning: Midway progress training video, two go-home lessons.
  2. Online Learning: Owner education course, instructional training videos, iTK9 member community, e-books & additional training resources.
  3. Owner Support: Photo updates of your dog training with our team and access to our team for questions & support.

Contact us today for more information on our programs, including Board & Train.

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