Fun Impulse Control Games

Does your dog bounce all over the place, jump on you and others, bark excessively, have trouble listening to commands and/or trouble controlling herself? She may need some training with impulse control.

Dogs who exhibit impulse control listen better, are much better behaved inside and outside the home and, let's be honest - are easier to live with.

So, how do we get better impulse control from our dogs?

There are a lot of impulse control exercises and games you can play, but we are going to focus on four that are not only easy to do but fun for your dog!

First is a game I teach in my puppy classes and to my private puppy clients, but can be played with adult dogs as well.

Start by having your dog sit in front of you. With a very yummy treat in your hand, raise your hand above the dog's head so that your arm and hand are up high. Your dog will look up to your hand in hopes of getting it. Slowly bring your hand down towards your dog's nose while watching your dog. When you see your dog is making an effort to stay in the sit, mark the behavior with a "Yes!" or with a clicker and reward your dog.

In the beginning you likely will not be able to get your hand with the treat all the way to your dog's nose. That's okay!

The idea is to reward effort and make progress - your dog is building impulse control!

If your dog does happen to jump up for the treat in your hand, just hold your hand at that position, food inside your hand, and when your dog sits again, begin bringing your hand toward your dog again.

Remember - reward effort!

Another fun impulse control game is have your dog sit in front of you, but now you have food in both hands. With your elbows bent and your arms in the shape of a "V" approximately 2 feet from your body, wait for your dog to look at you. As soon as you get even a little eye look, mark it with a "Yes!" or a clicker and reward from one of your hands.

Repeat this 3-4 times and then give your dog a release cue such as "free", "release", or "break" indicating they can get up. As your dog gets better, your arms come in closer to your body and then begin to lower. Go slow, don't rush it - remember, we want the dog to succeed- not fail.

Another way to increase impulse control is to teach your dog to stay in a sit position. Start close to your dog and for very short periods - 2-4 second.

As your dog increases to 5+ seconds, introduce the "Stay" or "Wait" cue but make sure your dog is already staying before adding the word. As you increase the time, vary it - 5 seconds, 2, 7, 4, 10, 3, 12, 1, 6, 3 . . . the idea is that your dog doesn't know when the reward is coming so she will stay in position anticipating the reward.

Stay close to your dog until they can stay in position for about 30-40 seconds and then take a small step backwards and again, vary your time. As your dog gets better, begin to put some movement in.

See my YouTube video about adding movement:

The last game is to teach the stay while your dog is in a down. You will do the same thing as with the sit, although for some dogs, this is a little tougher so you may need to take more time with this.

Remember to always give a release cue when the dog is allowed to get up - if the dog doesn't know to stay in a position until released, duration will be very difficult.

As with any training, the game should be fun for you and your dog! Aim to Train With Play!

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