Dog Impulse Control: 4 Exercises for Better Behavior

Photo of a young dog laying on a mat next to an hour glass

Do you wish your dog would do things like have patience and wait for you? This is called impulse control and many dog owners wish their dog had more of it, so if that includes you, you’re not alone.

There are many benefits to your dog having better control over their impulses.

By teaching your dog impulse control, you can help your dog to be a well-mannered and easy-going pup.

What Are the Benefits of Dog Impulse Control?

Impulse control can be best described as self-control for your dog. Teaching your dog to have self-control can be very useful in many situations.

Impulse control helps your dog to learn to wait patiently for things that they may really want. It can also help them learn to stay calm when something very exciting happens. Impulse control is a great and very simple behavior that you can teach any dog.

These are the main reasons that you may want to teach your dog impulse control.

Exercises you Can Do to Improve your Dog’s Impulse Control

These are some exercise and training tips that you can try to help teach your dog impulse control. It may take some patience on your part to teach them, but by following some of these simple commands, your dog can learn to wait and be patient.

Exercise 1: Crate and Doorway Rushing

Some dogs always want to be the first one through the door. This exercise will help teach your dog to wait and let you go through the door and then follow you through.

  1. When you first enter the area where you have your dog’s crate or when you’re about to go through the doorway, give your dog a few minutes to settle down and be calm.
  2. Once they are settled, ask your dog to sit or lie down.
  3. When your dog is sitting or lying down, slowly open the door or the crate.
  4. If your dog gets up to go through the door, close the door and ask them to sit or lay down.
  5. Repeat, trying to open the door. If your dog gets up, put them back into the sit or down position.
  6. At first, you may need to repeat these steps many times before your dog will stay in the desired position until you have opened the door. As your dog’s training progresses, the number of times that your dog will need to be reminded to stay in the correct position will decrease.
  7. Once you have the door open, give your dog their release command and let them come through the door.

Exercise 2: Put a Treat in your Fist

  1. Put a dog treat, such as a piece kibble, in your closed fist. Put your fist with a treat in it in front of your dog’s nose.
  2. Your dog will try to paw, lick, and sniff at your fist to get to the treat, but do not give in. Just ignore their attempts to try to get the treat.
  3. Once your dog has stopped trying to attack your hand for treats, reward them with a treat from your other hand. Once you see that your dog starts to leave your fist alone when they are presented with the treat in the closed fist, you can then move on to the next step.
  4. Now show your dog your fist with dog treats in it. If the dog ignores your fist with the treat, slowly open your hand to show them the treats. If your dog rushes your hand when you open your fist, quickly close your fist. When your dog leaves your open hand full of cookies alone, give them a treat from the opposite hand. Once your dog can consistently leave the treats in your open hand alone, you can then move on to the next step.
  5. With your fist open showing your dog the treat, take a treat from the open hand, and give the treat to your dog. If your dog quickly rushes for the treat, close your fist. Once your dog starts to patiently wait for you to give them the treat, they can then receive their reward.

Exercise 3: Waiting for Their Meal

Image of a small white and brown dog waiting to eat at their food bowl to learn dog impulse control
  1. Put your dog in a sit or a down position and reward with a treat.
  2. Slowly start to put the food bowl in front of your dog. If they get up or lunge for the food bowl, stand back up and put your dog back into a sit or down position. Then try to place the bowl on the floor again.
  3. Once you can put the bowl on the ground, cover the bowl with your hands. If your dog starts to try to nudge at your hands for the food, keep covering their bowl. If your dog stays in their laying down or sitting position, slowly remove your hands from the bowl. If your dog lunges for the bowl, cover the bowl back up with your hands and try again.
  4. Once you can place the bowl on the ground and uncover it, without your dog moving from the sitting or down position, you can give the release command and allow them to eat.

Exercise 4: Waiting for a Treat

Image of a hand holding up a dog treat as a dog waits for it, to train the dog's impulses
  1. Put your dog in the sit position and give them a reward.
  2. Have a treat in your other hand, held several feet right above your dog’s head.
  3. Slowly lower your hand with the treat toward your dog’s mouth. If your dog ever gets up or lunges for the treat, pull your hand back up and put your dog back in the sit position. Do not give them a reward this time.
  4. Continue to repeat this motion until you can get your hand and treat several inches in front of your dog’s mouth. As long as your dog is still sitting quietly and waiting, you can give him the treat.
  5. Next, try to repeat this exercise, but with your hand several feet to the side or in front of your dog. The same rules apply in different directions. If your dog ever gets up and lunges toward the treat, place them back in the sit position, and try again.

Final Thoughts

Teaching your dog to wait patiently for things and obey some simple commands can help with many situations.

When going for a walk or making them dinner, you do not want your dog to be out of control.

These are simple tips and tricks that you can use to teach your dog to be very patient, wait for food and treats, and above all, you can use these concepts as a framework for teaching them to behave well.

These can be very fun exercises that you and your dog can work on to have better dog impulse control and make them a better member of the family.