Impulse control is your dog’s ability to practice self control. In teaching them this tool, it allows you and your dog to have a better quality of life. Instead of constantly reminding your dog to sit or focus or calm down, you give your dog the ability to do this themselves, which means they are able to calm themselves even when you aren’t there to tell them to. This is a very crucial tool for your dog in day to day life, especially in off leash parks.
Working with your dog and teaching them how to control their own impulses helps them to calm themselves and work with more focus and confidence in their day to day lives filled with distractions.
Goal: The goal of this game is to teach your dog that waiting politely is what gets them good things. This game builds the impulse control to wait for treats and in later levels people, dogs and other rewarding privileges. Impulse control is essential in off leash as it gives your dog the skills to wait and check in before following their instinct to eat something off the ground or run over to another dog.
Start off leash, in a quiet room, with high value treats and a clicker.
Hold a treat in your flat hand a few inches away from your dog.
As soon as your dog moves towards the treat, close your hand, tucking your thumb in.
As soon as your dog move away from your hand, even for a moment, click and give them the treat saying “Take”
Repeat steps 2-4 ten times per training session for two weeks. Then progress to Level Two.
Once your dog can move away from your hand for 1-2 second successfully five times in a row, delay your click and reward until they offer 3-4 seconds. Continue this pattern until you can get 5-6 seconds of calm. Note that before your dog is successful they will likely try a bunch of other tactics, such as swatting, nosing, licking and nibbling your hand. Stay firm and wait for the calm before rewarding. If your dog bites your hand, say “Oww!” and walk away. Wait for them to calm back down, 1-2 minutes, before starting the game again.
Goal: The goal is to capture and encourage your dog’s ability to focus by teaching your dog to “check-in” with you throughout a walk, without having to ask.
Science Behind It: By getting your dog to practice checking in with you, we are using operant conditioning to teach them that good things happen when they pay attention frequently! This will lead to it becoming a habit over time and give you more opportunities to instruct your dog and guide them to practice good behaviour.
Have your dog on leash in a low-distraction area.
Look for any time your dog pays attention to you by looking at you, even a glance.
Click any time you see this and treat.
Once your dog gets good at this, begin clicking only when your dog can focus on you for 2 seconds or longer.
Repeat until your dog is able to watch you long enough to follow one simple cue you tell them to, such as “sit”. Release them from the sit by saying “break”, to let them know it’s okay to stop watching you.
Up the challenge by beginning to walk and play the game at the same time. Once they improve at this, you can try randomly rewarding your dog, this will make regular check-ins throughout the walk with you. As your dog becomes better at watching you more frequently, start to walk through areas that are gradually more distracting while playing the game.