Your new puppy has a lot to learn after you bring her home. Besides understanding her name, getting the hang of potty training, learning the house boundaries, and bonding with her new family members, teaching your puppy impulse control is also important.

What is Impulse Control?

Impulse control involves teaching your dog that she will not be rewarded for bad behavior. While some dog trainers might teach impulse control by correcting bad behaviors, the better (and more humane) approach is to only give your dog attention when good behaviors are displayed. You can also teach impulse control by training your puppy to obey certain commands that demand your dog to divert her attention from distractions, such as “leave it,” “watch me,” and “wait.” Ultimately, impulse control is a skill that must be practiced over time. Your puppy will learn to reconsider improper actions – such as jumping on her owner for attention or going after a spilled bag of chocolate chips – when certain commands are given.

Benefits of Teaching Impulse Control

The benefits of teaching impulse control are vast. First and foremost, teaching a dog to control her impulses will result in a calmer and more relaxed dog. For instance, a common impulse is to rush out the door in order to get outside. Not only is this dangerous for the human that is standing in the doorway, but it can also be dangerous for the dog if the door is near a busy road way. To control the impulse to run out the door, the puppy can be taught that it first must sit and wait for a command, such as “okay,” before crossing the threshold.

How to Teach Impulse Control

Teaching impulse control is easy, especially if you start when your puppy is young. One command that teaches your puppy to control her impulses is “leave it.”
This command is important whenever there is an object on the ground or outside that you do not want your dog to interact with. This object could be a spilled item in the kitchen or feces from another animal outside. To teach this command, first arm yourself with an extremely high-value reward in one hand, and a “boring” treat (like kibble) in the other. Show your dog the boring treat, and then close your hand around the treat, making a fist. Your dog will likely try to lick, paw, and nibble at your hand in order to get the treat. Once your dog gives up, give her a reward from the high-value hand. Never reward with the “boring” treats, as this might confuse your dog.

Once your puppy gets the hang of this drill, overlay the word “leave it.” After your dog becomes proficient at “leave it” with boring treats, increase the difficulty. Next, place the boring treat on the floor and tell your dog “leave it.” If she goes for the treat, quickly place your hand over the treat and do not reward your dog until she has diverted her attention. Over time, you may even find that your puppy looks to you for permission before going after anything on the ground!