If you ever interacted with teenagers, you know that impulse control is not their strongest quality. Impulse control is simply the ability to wait for something that you want. It can also be defined as the ability to control arousal around something exciting. For dogs, anything can be arousing. Opening the door to go for a walk, playing with a toy, meeting a new person, seeing another dog, chasing a squirrel or bird, getting in and out of a car, need I continue?
The earlier you start working on impulse control the better. If impulse control starts being a daily exercise practiced the moment your dog gets home, adolescence will be easier. If you bring home a dog from the shelter that is 8 - 18 months of age, chances are you'll have a lot of work to do in the impulse control department.
In fact, most dogs end up at the shelter or pound between the age on 8 month - 3 years. As very few owners put time and work into their dogs to teach them wanted behavior. Dogs are adorable and cute as puppies and often owners think that their puppies will grow out of cute but annoying "puppy behaviors". Instead these "puppy behaviors" are practiced to the point that they get to be really strong adult behaviors and owners can't cope, so the dog is surrendered. This is a very sad situation that happens every day in our country. Most behaviors that end the dog up in a shelter or pound are completely avoidable and relatively easy to change, if the right techniques and management is applied.
Further more, most of these unwanted behaviors are a result of lack of impulse control. There is good news. There are some really fun games that can be played with your dog to teach impulse control. A lot of these games will teach your dogs other useful behaviors such as "leave it", "stay", and paper leashed walking. Impulse control games will also tire out your dog. The more you play, the quicker these skills will be applied to every aspect of your dog's life and you will have a well behaved and manageable dog that can accompany you on all your adventures.
We offer a class called Impulse Control. This class is meant to teach you and your dog fun games to play to practice calming down from arousal. It will also teach you to recognize arousal and stop it before your dog reaches threshold. Arousal and stress are on the same spectrum and can lead to the same undesirable behaviors like a growling, lunging and biting. Recognizing the escalation of arousal and teaching your dog to play at a medium arousal level without climbing higher to the point of no control is a skill every dog owner can benefit from.