Helping a Mischievous Pup Develop Dog Impulse Control

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 4, 2023

dog impulse control

For this Los Angeles dog training session we worked with 8 month-old Dutch Shepherd mix Bear, working on dog impulse control.

Bear was very excited to meet me and did not show a lot of respect for my personal space. Knowing that he liked to jump, I used a few Dog Behaviorist tricks to stop that from occurring, but that didn’t stop him from getting mischievous at times which was expected.

The first part of our session was all about dog behavior fundamentals. We introduced and loaded a marker word, went over hand targeting, how and when to introduce command cues, the importance of rewarding desired actions and how to stop nuisance behaviors.

I also spent some time going over some creative exercise tips. Many people with high energy pups tend to over-exercise them. The problem with this is the pup comes home and sleeps instead of coming home with just enough energy burned so they aren’t bouncing off the walls.

Why is this important? Shorter, more frequent exercise sessions set the dog up for success. Instead of burning off 75% of your dog’s energy, a shorter walk allows you to take off just enough energy for the dog to feel satisfied physically which allows it to hang out and practice bing in the house without the pent up energy causing or amplifying many unwanted behaviors. Instead of one, 1-hour walk, I suggested the guardians break those into 3, 20 minute walks that are spread out throughout the day.

I also showed the guardian how she can incorporate some impulse control into every day games like fetch. Fetch is a great game because it allows you to burn off excess energy and also help the dog practice important cues like retrieving, dropping, recalling and waiting if the guardian incorporates some impulse control.

I also made sure to point out the importance of mental stimulation and enrichment. I suggested the guardian do a Google Search for DIY dog enrichment. There are many easy activities that you can do with your dog where it uses its nose or its brain which is a great way to burn off excess energy.

I also recommended that the guardian get a snuffle mat to make each meal into the equivilent of a short walk, an omega paw tricky treat ball and other treat dispensing toys and puzzles. These are great, sneaky ways to get your dog some exercise and mental stimulation without you having to participate.

If the guardian can get into a habit of getting Bear some physical exercise or mental stimulation every 2 to 4 hours, she should find that he is less mischievous in the house, listens better and is easier to manage.

Easy Ways to Develop Dog Impulse Control

Next we headed upstairs so that I could show the guardian a few exercises and tips to help develop dog impulse control.

There are many different ways to help dogs calm down and work on restraining themselves. A great way to develop dog impulse control is to master the relaxation protocol. This is a series of movements that dog guardians can practice while their dog waits on a dog bed. Anyone who’s dog struggles to control itself will be amazed at how effective this 15 day program is for out of control dogs.

I handed my camera to the guardian so that she could record me as I walked her dog through the Relaxation Protocol and the granddaddy of all dog impulse control exercises.

If you have a dog that has difficulty calming down, gets into trouble and lacks impulse control, you should definitely check out the free positive dog training video below.

By breaking down the actions into small steps, we were able to achieve having Bear wait on the dog bed while his guardian left the room and close the door. Normally as soon as she stands up, Bear is up and ready to follow her, so waiting these was impressive.

The Relaxation Protocol is an exercise that I make all of our trainers learn at the beginning of their training program because it forces them to learn how to break tings down into smaller steps. This is a super important and often overlooked aspect of dog behavior modification.

Often as humans, we move way too fast for dogs and have unrealistic expectations. Breaking things down into small, digestible steps and going at the dog’s pace are two Dog Behaviorist secrets that many dog owners should know. It may seem like going slow is tedious, but you usually proceed faster over all as both dog and human are pleased with the progress.

I’d like the guardian to practice the Relaxation Protocol with Bear at least once a day, every day, until she can get through the entire 15 days of the program. There may be some days where she has to break the actions down into 2 or 3 groups and practice them separately at first, then string them all together. The most important thing isnt finishing, its heling the dog develop the skills the exercise teaches.

I would also like to see the guardian practicing the stay exercise that I detail in the above video. Teaching a dog to stay is invaluable as a training exercise. Not only is the cue itself a great one to have in your back pocket, the exercise requires the dog to restrain itself through progressively increasing levels of difficulty. If your dog has a reliable stay cue, you have gone a long ways towards building up some dog impulse control.

I’m always caught by surprise at how humans go out of their way to prevent dogs from practicing self control. We give them everything they want right away and typically go faster and faster with play and exercises instead of slowing things down and incorporating mini impulse control exercises in disguise like we do with human children.

People often give me funny looks when I ask them if they remember when their parents told them to go to their room and work on their impulse control. Of course no-one’s parents send their children to do that on their own, that’s something that we incorporate in their day-to-day routine and exercises.

Children may have to wait for everyone to finish their meal before they are excused from the table, see Christmas or Chanukah presents wrapped and waiting for them for weeks before they can open them, have to do their homework before they can play video games and do their chores before they can go have fun with her friends. Training a dog to control themself is a similar process.

People sometimes laugh when I say teaching dog impulse control is accomplished in similar ways. Asking the dog to sit before you start preparing their food, put on their collar or harness, attach their leash, open the door to the house or the kennel or before you cross the street are all simple activities that take mirror seconds but add up when you do them frequently.

It takes time to train your dog to control itself. But if you look at it as a journey, practice in short, frequena dn successful sessions using positive dog training, your dog will get better. The great thing about this trick to develop dog inmpulse control is you are in the driver’s seat. Its all about how often and how qualty the practice is.

By the end of this session Bear was exhausted and his guardian was worried she may not recall everything. To make sure the guardian could remember all of the positive dog training tips we covered in this in home LA Dog training session so we recorded a roadmap to success summary video that you can watch below.

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This post was written by: David Codr