Impulse Control Games

What is impulse control? We all know dogs that jump on people, rush doorways, steal food, etc. These dogs lack impulse control. We can use obedience exercises and games to train impulse control into our dogs. Dogs with impulse control have learned that calm and polite behaviors are more effective in getting what they want than pushy, impatient ones. Here’s a few exercises to start with:

  1. Touch = During a game of touch, dogs learn to calmly and lightly touch their noses toward your hand – rather than using her teeth! This game can be played anywhere. You can use ‘touch’ to redirect your dog and regain focus back on you. To teach Touch, start by showing your open palm to your dog and rewarding for any interest that doesn’t involve teeth!
  2. Leave It = There are lots of games you can play involving Leave It. Teach Leave It to mean ignoring a treat, toy, dog, etc. A fun game to start with is to put a treat in your closed fist and then wait to release the treat until your dog backs away and gives up at pawing/mouthing on your hand. Basically your dog is learning ignoring a treat actually makes it available!
  3. Place = Our favorite! A rock-solid place command is a great way to build impulse control. Place means to go to your bed or cot and stay there until released. Gradually increase the level of distractions until your dog can reliably hold Place with any number of things going on; company over, the doorbell ringing, a dog walking by, etc.
  4. Sit = Another obedience command that is great for curbing naughty behaviors. Training your dog to Sit instead of jumping on guests or darting out doorways builds impulse control too! You’re teaching that a calm, polite behavior is actually more rewarding than the pushy, rude ones.
  5. Wait Before Eating = Have your dog wait calmly while you prepare her food and wait to be released to eat. Training impulse control around food helps reduce the chance of possessive food behavior down the road and also can be transferred to being respectful around food on the counter, in your hands, etc.

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