Category Archives: impulse control

What is Impulse Control in Dogs?

Keikei

By Linda Cole

I didn’t really understand what impulse control was until our dog Keikei came to live with us. She was an adorable and happy 8 week old puppy who quickly adjusted to us and the other dogs. But as she grew, she became overly excited to go outside. By the time she was 4 months old, her excitement escalated to a point of no return, and she was easily agitated. She was the perfect example of a dog that needed to learn impulse control.

In our world, impulse control is delayed gratification, resisting an impulse for immediate satisfaction of a desire or temptation. Instead of spending your entire paycheck on an expensive vacation package, you spread the cost out over time to lessen the financial impact on your wallet. Your budget for this month is tight, so you skip the Friday nights out so you can pay the bills. We learn as children that no matter how much we might want something right now, whether it’s a new toy, going to a concert or staying overnight with a friend – immediate desires or wants don’t always happen. So (hopefully) we learn early on the need for impulse control.

Controlling a puppy’s impulse isn’t difficult because of their smaller size, and most pups can be picked up to stop an unwanted reaction to something they want. If your terrier puppy finds a chipmunk hole in your prized flower bed, you can pick him up to stop him from digging, and then figure out how to humanely relocate the chipmunk without ruining your flowers. But depending on a pup’s age, not all puppies can be picked up to control an impulse. That’s one reason why it’s important to start puppy training as soon as you bring him home. Unfortunately, as a pup grows up, he becomes more independent and if you didn’t teach him at a young age how to control his impulses, his unwanted behavior will remind you of the importance of dog training. A dog that obeys basic commands is easier to control, and that is one way you can keep him safe.

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Helping Your Dog with Impulse Control

By Tamara McRill

Who hasn’t known a dog that has struggled with going for what they want as soon as they see it? From snatching food to chasing squirrels and bounding out the door, to jumping on their favorite people, the wonderfully curious and energetic nature of dogs can lead to all sorts of impulses. These urges need to be kept in check for their own safety as well as the safety of other people and pets. As responsible pet owners, it is our duty to help our dogs with impulse control. Here are five simple tips to help work towards better impulse control:

Recognize Triggers

Even the most well-behaved pets have that one thing that really messes with their control. For one of our dogs, Dusty, it’s mail. He has the clichéd need to get at the mail carrier, and knows that those envelopes and packages are delivered by his two-legged nemesis. Since we recognize that this is an impulse trigger for him, we can take steps to avoid getting him riled up in the first place and work with him on not eating our bills.

By noticing when your dog acts up, you can do the same. If you don’t instantly notice a pattern, you can try keeping a behavior diary. Note what your pet did, where, the time of day and if any other pets or people were present.

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