Common Impulse Control Dog Training Methods
- Manage the environment! If your dog loves to steal food, keep it under lock & key, out of their reach. If your dog pulls towards distractions, you can use a harness with front & back clips and a dual clip leash to prevent sudden jerks that may injure you. No matter there struggle, there are some steps you can take to manage the environment to reduce the dog's ability to repeat those behaviors you don't like.
- Training for calmness! Again, you may have to be creative to come up with a way to train calmness around whatever is causing your dog to be excited, whether that's food, animals, people, cars, etc. Not that long ago I was hosting a puppy for a service dog foundations board & train term. This puppy loves FOOD so much that at just 5 months old she had already be brave enough to jump on owners lap and steal food right of their plate, basically right out of their hands. One of the first things I implemented was a calmness routine based around mat training during my meal time. And after just 3 days, puppy was already relaxing at my side while I ate dinner without even attempting to steal my food.
- Empower your dog with the wisdom to make good choices. This may be easier said then done, but my method is to make sure I present my dog with choices every day. Parents will commonly give toddlers simple choices in their day-to-day, such as setting out 2 outfits so the child can choose what to wear, instead of that child picking out clothes from a full closet with clothes that may not be appropriate for the day ahead. The importance here is giving your dog choices that you as their owner can live with, no matter what choice they make. One of the first choices I give my dogs, as a puppy or new rescue, is the choice to eat their food from a bowl or from an interactive toy such as a snuffle box. You can put breakfast down in both the bowl and the toy and wait to see what they choose, then pick the other one up and save it for later. Now some dogs might instantly want the food you just took away, so in this case you can offer different options that are easier for them to decide. I take my dogs outside for a relaxed sniff-a-bout nearly every day. During this time, the dogs choose where in the yard we go, the tree line, the barn, the hillside, etc. Azul is always on a longline so he can't travel out of our yard for safety which also means he can't choose to go too far away from me on these walks.
- Build skills up over time without asking your dog to do things that are above their current skill set. I can set my dinner down in my seat and leave the room with 2 dogs in the room and neither will go near my food. But I didn't start there! It took time to develop their leave it skills around people food, first with training sessions to develop skills, then short duration leave it's with another family member supervising while I left the room. If you push your dog too far, too fast they are likely to make mistakes and practicing the behavior of making those mistakes will make it harder for them to learn what the choice is the good choice.