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Impulse Control 101



What is impulse control and why is it important?

If I were to give you the text book definition of impulse, it would be a sudden strong and unreflective urge or desire to act. For example, a dog’s impulse at the sight of a bone is to go grab it.

Impulse control essentially means the ability to control this desire in presence of a stimulus.

Meaning, when your dog sees the bone and is able to resist the urge to seize it with both paws, you can safely say your dog has good impulse control.

Difference between a dog with good impulse control Vs. no impulse control.

Impulse control is not just defined by your dog’s ability to hold himself back at the sight of food or treats. It is when your dog is able to keep calm at the sight of several other stimuli like people, dogs, squirrels, birds, trash, moving objects and vehicles, etc.

It is easy to spot the difference between a dog with zero vs good impulse control. A dog that has been trained for better self-restraint is capable of staying calm while being fed, on walks, at the sight of other dogs and people and is usually calmer in social settings.

Whereas, the tell-tale signs of a dog that has no impulse control may include acting crazy during mealtimes, jumpy behavior around guests, rambunctious behavior around other animals, severe leash pulling etc.

Training cues to help build impulse control


For a dog to be welcomed in a variety of places and environments, it’s important that he learns to stay calm for extended periods. You can teach your dog to be ‘that dog’ by working on his impulse control training early on. Focus on the following cues and practice them in as many situations as possible

  • Leave it

If your dog can master “leave it” he can master impulse control, trust me. “Leave it” is not just limited to leaving food, treats and trash alone. It can be used to get your dog to disengage from people/ dogs walking by, squirrels running by, leaving your house cat alone, etc.

  • Stay/wait

This multi-functional cue is a must-learn for every pup. How cool would it be if your dog can consistently ‘Stay’ when you open the door or before crossing the road or when visitors come over or just before meal times.

  • Recall

A reliable recall is a life saving cue. Not only does it teach your dog to come back to you in emergencies and off-leash places, but also helps him disengage from triggers quickly and focus better.

  • Polite greetings

A dog that can control his impulse to jump on people and dogs and instead interact calmly is likely to have a lot more admirers.

Building impulse control in daily life


Training works best when we proof it in real life scenarios. Here are some tips to raise your dog with an impeccable impulse control.

  • Environmental cues

Instead of micromanaging your dog with commands, teach him to respond to environmental cues. Eg – A door opening should be a cue for your dog to Sit and Wait to be released.

  • Positive reinforcement

Reward desirable behaviors heavily rather than only correcting your dog for undesirable behaviors. Teach alternate behaviors every time you say No to your dog.

  • Life rewards

Walks, play, interactions, etc form incredible life rewards for your dog. Use these instead of treats from time to time to get more out of your dog for exciting life rewards.

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