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Teaching Impulse Control

Something I don't see often is a dog that knows how to settle. Families are constantly teaching their dogs to be amped up and rewarding that very same behavior. A few common scenarios are

1) Prancing, barking, crowding, and jumping at the door to go outside.

2) Barking, spinning, and pawing at the crate door.

3) Jumping to be petted

4) Couch jumping

5) Jumping in/out of a vehicle before the door is open all the way.

Ways to curb the above behaviors:

Though you won't see results right away, but with consistency I promise these little "tricks" work. What are these tricks called? Impulse control. All the above behaviors I described are scenarios where dogs lack impulse control. What is impulse control? It means that dogs can resist the temptation to perform an unwanted behavior that would give them access to a desired reinforcer – that is, they can control themselves. Dogs are NOT born with this! It must be taught!

Referring to the above list

1) Teach door manners. What are door manners? Door manners is when a dog patiently waits to go outside instead of "bull rushing" the door. The best way to teach this is to begin on leash. With your dog on leash, approach the door, and put your dog in a sit. At any point if your dog breaks their sit when you reach for the door knob or open the door you command the dog to sit again. Before opening the door I would tell your dog to "wait." Have your dog wait with the door open for about 3-5 seconds or until settled. This means no whining, barking, jumping, the list continues. After your dog has settled then you can release your dog by telling them "okay." Repeat every time your dogs enters and exits the house.

2) Teach crate manners. This is very similar to door manners. Do not allow your dog to exit their crate until they are settled. Meaning you should not open the crate door when they are barking, spinning, pawing, or offering other behaviors to exit the crate. If you do, you are only rewarding that behavior and they have learned that those behaviors allow them to exit. Go ahead and unlatch the door but make sure your hand is still on the door to keep it shut. Simply stand there in silence and wait out your dog. You are waiting for the barking, pawing, and spinning to stop. Once they stop open the door. You are rewarding that calm behavior. Thats step one. Over time your dog will be ready for step 2. Step 2 is when your dog can hold their position inside the crate after the door is open and they are waiting for their release command "okay." Once your dog is settled, ask them to wait, and begin opening the door. Once they attempt to push the door open, you simply close the door, and start all over. Some dogs try real hard to fight against the door so you may need to push harder so the dog remains in the crate. Otherwise the dog wins and you just rewarded that behavior. Once the dog remains in the crate with the door open, have them hold it for 3-5 seconds, then give them the "okay."

3) The simplest way to break jumping is to pet your dog only when they are sitting. For other tips please view our other blog that talks about jumping

4) If your dog jumps from couch to couch or gets the zoomies on the couch, ask them to immediately get off. Do not let them continue jumping. Simply put your dog in a down stay on the floor or put them in "place." If needed crate your dog until they have settled. After they have settled take them outside to play.

5) Car manners are similar to crate and door manners. Before loading your dog inside the vehicle, ask them to sit and wait. This might be easier to begin on leash the first few attempts. Open the door, after holding their sit for 3-5 seconds ask them to load up. To exit the vehicle, you again ask your dog to wait and after the door is open and they have held their position for a few seconds, give them the "okay" release command.

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