Updated: Feb 29
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Impulse control is the ability to control thoughts and behaviors in a way that allows good decision making. We expect this of all well-adjusted humans, and we should also expect it of well-adjusted dogs. Puppies aren’t born with impulse control. They see something they want and go after it with gusto. They see food, they eat it. A kitten runs, they chase it. A person comes in the room, they rush over and jump on her. Impulse control is the ability to control behavior and delay gratification, and it must be taught.
Some dogs give up quickly when they can’t get what they want, others get more frustrated and frantic. Some bark, whine or even growl or nip.
Lack of impulse control and tolerance for frustration leads to the kinds of behavioral problems that leave dogs tied to trees, locked in garages, surrendered to shelters, or worse.
A good puppy rearing program instills puppies with the foundation for proper impulse control to help avoid jumping, rushing through doors, grabbing at food, and other problems. Puppies can learn impulse control from a very young age and puppy families should be taught how to continue this training at home.
Puppy parents will need to continue to reinforce that concept and to positively reinforce their puppy (think praise and clicks and treats) when he shows good impulse control. Common daily examples of impulse control are:
Sitting to request attention (instead of jumping or barking)
Waiting at the door (instead of bolting out)
Waiting politely for food (instead of jumping, barking, or running in circles)
Sitting to request a toy or playtime (instead of barking or pushing or getting frantic)
Sitting or waiting quietly to come out of a crate or playpen (instead of barking or making a fuss)
Walking politely on a leash (instead of pulling) and sitting or standing quietly when you stop
Sitting when someone comes over to greet him, whether at home or in public (instead of jumping or pushing)
Sitting to get in a vehicle (instead of jumping in any time a door is open)
Sitting to wait for permission to leave a vehicle (instead of jumping out, possibly into traffic)If you notice, several of these are big safety issues.
Impulse control makes your puppies safer. Safer for your puppy himself, and safer for the people around him.
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