Leave it! Wait! Get Down! These are all phrases that an owner of a dog with low impulse control will use frequently on a day to day basis.
For those of you who haven’t heard the phrase before, impulse control is the equivalent of teaching our dogs to be polite, and to have good manners.
More often than not, smaller breeds of dog are able to get away with having a lower level of impulse control purely because of their size. For example someone is more likely to put up with a small Jack Russell jumping up on them in comparison to a large Great Dane. However, it is equally as important for all breeds to have a good understanding of self-control. A dog that is pushy, or that steals, and jumps up can potentially cause injury to themselves or other people. This is the main reason that it is important we teach our dogs to act appropriately.
There are a number of behaviours that can be improved by teaching a dog impulse control. Behaviours that could show that a dog has poor self-control include stealing food, jumping up on people, pushing people/other dogs out of the way to get to something first and pulling on the lead. A good way to look at it is that a dog with poor impulse control will see something that it wants and will want it now. Instead of stealing, lunging, barking, whining, and jumping you can teach your dog that it will have a better chance of getting what it wants by performing an alternative behaviour. A simple example being teaching a dog to sit instead of jumping up; the dog still wants to say hello to the person but acts in a more controlled manner and receives the attention that it wants when it sits.
There are many simple ways that you can start to encourage impulse control in your dog’s lives:
Waiting until they sit before giving them something to eat
Not putting on your dog’s lead until they are sat calmly
Practising simple ‘Leave It’ exercises with your dogs
Teaching a ‘default’ behaviour that a dog is able to resort to when he wants something e.g. sit or down
Not opening the door to guests until the dog is calm or sat down
Teaching the dog to settle on a Mat or Bed when you are trying to eat.
Not only does teaching your dog to be polite reduce the risk of accidents caused by jumping up, stealing objects, pulling or lunging etc but it also makes our dogs more pleasant to live with! It can be incredibly frustrating to live with a dog that is forever trying to pinch what you are eating, that jumps up at everyone that visits, pulls constantly on the lead or pushes past you down the stairs or through doorways to get their first. By teaching your dog that being patient can get them what they want and introducing a few simple training exercises you can help improve your dog’s self-control.