The Importance of Self Control For Your Dog and How to Teach It
The Lakes Region of New Hampshire is home to many dogs year round. Due to this, Homeward Bound has created this post in hopes of helping all of our local dog families. Continue reading to learn about why it is so crucial for for your dog to learn impulse control.
Have you ever pondered why it is so integral for your pup to have self control? Or have you ever wondered if they even have self control at all? Below we will explore why it is important for your dog to possess impulse control and ways that you can help them learn it.
In answer to the second question: Yes, dogs, like humans, do possess the ability to control themselves. We know this because we have seen it time and time again. Many dogs who have had the proper training exercise self control on a daily basis. An example of where we might see a dog demonstrating impulse control is in their interactions with new people. If you have a dog who loves people, are they able to be excited, but well mannered, or are they all over the place, jumping, and expressing themselves vocally? A dog with good self control in this situation would be enthusiastic, yet respectful.
Here are some reasons why it is important for your dog to be in control of themselves even during exciting times.
Why Self Control is Important
Self control or impulse control is very important for your dog to learn because it means that they can stay calm in exciting or stimulating situations and that they will have patience even when presented with something they strongly desire. This quality is so useful in daily life with your dog and can also be crucial to their safety. For example, if your dog always rushes through doorways and there happens to be a danger on the other side, they will have just run right into it. A slow and controlled approach into a new environment is much safer for them and for you.
Due to the fact that having impulse control is vital to a dog’s well being, we have made a list of ways below for you to help your dog learn patience.
Ways to Teach Your Dog Self Control
Teaching Your Dog to Sit and Stay Before Feeding
One of the first solutions to an impulse control issue with a dog is having them sit and stay before they are fed their meals. For many dogs, especially those on a feeding schedule, food is a high value reward. Having to wait patiently while their food is placed on the floor in front of them is a great exercise for teaching impulse control. If your dog is not on a feeding schedule, this exercise can be practiced with treats.
To teach, have your dog sit and stay while you are holding their food bowl. Once they are in the correct position, slowly lower the bowl to the ground. If they get up or move, stand back up with their bowl and put them back into a seated position. Ask again for them to stay and repeat this process until the bowl is placed on the ground with them remaining seated. Then use a release command such as “go” or “okay” for them to know that they can now have their food.
Teaching Your Dog to Stay When a Door Is Opened
Another great exercise for self control is teaching your dog to wait before going through a doorway. Usually for dogs, it is an exciting time when a door opens as this means they will get to explore something new. By teaching them to wait while a door is being opened, they are learning how to remain calm despite the exhilarating situation.
To teach, bring your dog to either a doorway that opens to somewhere interesting, or have them in a crate to use the crate door. Place them in a sit or a down and then slowly begin to open the door. If they move to get up, shut the door and ask again for a sit or a down. Repeat this process until you have the door fully open with your dog in either a seated or down position. Then use a release word for them to know that it is okay to go through the threshold.
Teaching Your Dog “Leave It”:
This is also a good technique for helping your dog learn self control. When we ask a dog to leave something, it is usually something that is very interesting or exciting to them, but something that we do not want them to have. An example would be a squirrel on a walk or a danger such as a moving car.
To teach, grab a couple of low value treats (something crunchy, without much taste or scent) in one hand and take some high value treats (something soft and smelly such as cheese) in the other. Let them smell, paw at, and lick your closed hand that contains the low value treats. As soon as they back off or look away, reward them with a high value treat from your other hand. It will take some repetitions, but you will be able to work up to having your dog leave items that are of higher value such as a steak on the counter, a tasty shoe that was left on the floor, or any object that they shouldn’t have.