Updated: Feb 7, 2022
Have you ever noticed your dog behaving impulsively? Almost as if they aren't thinking? Are there situations where you wished they would be calmer and more in control of their excitement?
Maybe they annoyingly chase every living creature that crosses their path. Or they constantly knock over your visitors the moment they come into your home by jumping on them without a care in the world. If your dog does these things, it can signify a lack of self-control.
Unfortunately, self-control is a trait that most dogs do not automatically come with. It is a skill that we have to take the time to instill in them. Fortunately, there are many fun, simple ways to correct these unwanted behaviors. Read on to find the best ways to instill self-control in your easily excitable pup.
Why Should I Teach my Dog Self Control?
Marvelous Dogs say self-control is something that all owners should teach their puppies. Impulsivity is when someone acts on a whim without considering the consequences of those actions. Unfortunately, this mindset can lead a puppy to be put in many unsafe situations.
For example, let's say you open the door, and your dog immediately runs out into the street. Or if you're walking your dog and they are able to pull hard enough to get away from you. Both of these situations can lead to your dog getting hit, injured, or even killed. Owners can avoid both of these scenarios with proper impulse control training.
Puppy parents should make sure that they start impulse control training while they are still young since impulsive actions can easily lead to bad habits forming in the future that will be harder to break.
What are some effective and simple training games and tricks that can teach my pup how to stay controlled and calm?
6 Tricks to Teach Your Pup Self Control
Trick 1: Wait for Your Food
Gone are the days when your puppy tramples you in an attempt to get to their meal! "Wait for your food" is a simple and effective way to teach your puppy proper manners and behavior when it comes to eating their food. Here's how you do it.
Fix your dog's food in their bowl and hold it high enough to where they can't reach it. Wait for your puppy to calm down and then give the command to "sit".
Once your dog sits slowly, start to lower the bowl, but if your pup begins to get excited again and fails to stay seated, repeat step one.
Repeat the previous steps until you can successfully lower the bowl to the floor with your puppy remaining seated. Release the sit cue so your pup can eat.
Trick 2: Leave it
"Leave it" is a great lesson for your pup that can help prevent them from consuming anything dangerous. But, it can also teach your puppy that ignoring something can lead to something even better, such as a reward or treat! Here's how you teach your pup to leave it.
Place a treat in your hand and make a fist around it. Hold that fist up to your pup to sniff.
When they can openly ignore your fist, reward them with a different treat from your other hand.
As your pup continues to ignore your fist holding the treat, start slowly opening your hand. If your puppy goes towards it, put your fist around it again. When they can ignore the treat with your hand fully open, reward them with a different treat from your other hand again.
Lastly, put the treat that's in your fist on the floor and cover it with your foot or hand. See if they can still ignore it and reward them if they can.
Trick 3: Polite Greeting
Have you ever invited someone over and witnessed your pup immediately jumping all over them to greet them? This trick will teach them not to do that. You should invite some friends or family to help you with this one!
Have a friend/ family member visit and knock on your door. As you walk to the door, your pup will likely follow excitedly,
Before opening the door, tell your puppy the sit command to get them to sit and settle down. Then, slowly open the door. If your pup gets up or starts jumping around, close the door and reinforce the sit command once they have settled down.
Do this and repeat the steps until your pup can stay seated even after the door is fully open and your guest comes into the house. When this happens, reward them with a treat while seated. Praise them for sitting and waiting. Finally, as long as they are calm, allow your guest to pet them and give them attention calmly.
Trick 4: Unleashing Calmness
If your dog becomes extra excitable and jumpy when the leash comes out, this trick will help calm that emotion and give you a calm, collected pup ready for their walk.
When you see your dog get excited about the leash coming out, simply put it on them like normal but walk over to a couch or chair and sit down. Don't engage or talk to your dog; just wait for them to calm down.
Once your dog has calmed down and sat or laid down, say "yes!"and then get up, and walk towards the door. If your pup gets excited again, return to your chair or couch and start over from the top until your pup is calm.
Do this until your dog can follow you to the door calmly.
Trick 5: Open Sesame
It's best to attempt to teach your pup this trick after they've learned "unleashing calmness" and can calmly walk towards the door for their walk. Even though you've now been able to get your dog to calmly approach the door doesn't mean they won't take the chance to dash out the moment it's opened. This trick called "open sesame" will help prevent that.
Make your dog approach the door while on the leash and tell them to sit. Slowly start to open the door while your dog is seated.
If your dog moves or gets up in any way, close the door and make them sit again once they're calmed down. Then try to open the door and see if they'll stay seated.
Once they can stay seated with the door fully open without getting up or moving, say "yes" and reward them with a treat!
Trick 6: Calm as A Cucumber Walk
"Calm as a cucumber walk" will teach your pup to match your pace when you go on walks together instead of attempting to tear your arm off. The steps to enforce this are pretty simple.
Put your puppy leash on and take them for a nice walk.
Every time the leash is slack, and they're correctly walking beside you, reward them with words of praise, such as good boy and "yes!" followed by a highly desirable treat. If the leash ever becomes tight from them pulling on it, don't reward them and start to slow down or stop walking completely. This will teach them that staying beside you and not tugging on the leash leads to reward while tugging leads to the end of their walk and fun.
Keep doing this until your dog completely stays by your side.
Self-control is a very important lesson to teach your pup. It can prevent many dangerous or unfavorable outcomes from occurring, such as escapes into the street, your guest being jumped on, unruly walks, etc. These tricks will help with teaching your dog the correct and calm way to act without being rash and overly excited.
Guest Blog by Robert Thomas
Robert has spent decades training working Labradors in scent and agility work. He has a passion for dogs and spends most of his spare time studying, reading, and learning about dog behavior and welfare. Currently, he enjoys trail running and agility work with his Lab.
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