Games to Teach Impulse Control to Dogs

Games to Teach Impulse Control to Dogs

Dogs are never born without impulse control.  It’s not an instinct or part of their overall behavioral repertoire!  This means that pet owners need to be willing to put in the work so that their furry friends can learn.  Impulse control is a life skill that every dog needs to learn.  First, what does “impulse control” mean?  It is acting on a whim with little forethought or consideration of the consequences.  This often results in behaviors like running out an open door anytime they get the chance or even stealing food from the counter.  Keep in mind that does will do whatever it takes to get what they want in any given moment.  What are some signs that your dog needs to work on impulse control?

  • Leash tugging
  • Snatches treats quickly
  • Jumps on people
  • Chases other animals
  • Charges the front door

 No need to worry though!  You can teach your dog to have better impulse control by playing games.  Yes, it’s that simple.

Game #1 – Wait for it!  Hold a food bowl about hip height or a little higher.  Slowly lower the bowl by saying “wait for it”.  If the dog tries to go for the bowl, raise it up even higher.  Continue to lower the bowl and say “wait for it” until your furry friend allows you to place the bowl on the floor.  Reward them with a treat!

Game #2 – SMART x 50!  This is a great game for teaching dogs about impulse controls.  The “SMART” stands for:

  • See
  • Mark
  • And
  • Reward
  • Training

Start off each morning by counting 50 pieces of small kibble treats.  Place them in a bowl that is easily accessible.  If you see your dog doing something that you like, reward them with a treat from the bowl!

Game #3 – Leave it!  Teaching a “default leave” is a foundational skill that every dog should learn.  This means that your dog defaults to leaving something on the ground, rather than gobbling it up as they normally would.  Start by putting a leash on your dog.  Throw a treat on the ground and examine their behavior.  If they automatically go after the treat, say “leave it!”.  Continue doing this until they no longer react to the treat.  You will then be able to try without a leash with the same concept.