Foundations for Impulse Control
Everybody knows they should put work into training their dog, but often people don’t work on teaching bomb proof training. They teach basic commands – sit, down, stay, come- but do not teach release words, or working on training with distractions to build up a good impulse control. Without impulse control, all the effort you put into training just doesn’t work when your pup perceives that there is something more interesting than you. This can include not listening at the dog park, chasing squirrels, or even reactivity on walks. When training a new command, you want to bomb proof commands in the following order:
Speed - Most people are great at building up speed while they are teaching new commands. This is the repetitive part of training where dogs are learning a new command, building up speed in which they go into a command helps them recognize the word/signal. People usually love working on speed because its so satisfying to see your dog quickly cycle through commands, you feel accomplished, you get that dopamine rush! The problem is that most people don’t go past this step – they feel like their dog knows the command and they can move on to the next command.
Distraction – This is the step most people don’t think to work on, and it’s where people have issues with their dogs in “the real world”. Building up obedience with distractions is a slow step, and people tend to try to rush through this part because it can be boring for people- we want to just head to the park, or go out for our walk and have fun!
Remember, training is not about how fun it is for YOU, it’s about setting YOUR DOG up for success!
While working through distractions start small- start indoors with other dogs or people walking around, turn on the TV to a show about dogs, turn the Roomba on! My personal favorite is doing a workout with my dog, holding sit or down while I lunge to the other side of the room, release. Stay in position while I do some ridiculous jumping jacks, etc. We’re both getting a workout! Then move to more difficult, your driveway or backyard. Then a quiet park. Then busier areas. The dog park is going to be one of the most difficult places to expect obedience, so set realistic expectations, and TAKE IT SLOW. This isn’t going to happen in one week, or maybe even a month. Duration/Distance – This is already going to get some work while you’re working on distractions, but it’s the best way to expect good behaviour at busy family functions, while doing renovations, or when you’re at the point of working on off-leash activities. This is also another one of the fun parts of training so people want to work on it, but without working on distractions first, it’s impossible to expect your dog to consistently perform well. Even if your dog has great recall at 100m, it doesn’t mean anything if something interesting walks onto your field without solid obedience with distractions. Remember to have realistic expectations of your dog! Don’t ask them to do something you know they won’t do. It can be really exciting for you to move onto next steps, but its about setting your dog up for success. If you know your dog isn’t at the point of ignoring other dogs, don’t go to a dog park and expect them to listen to you. Maybe that means not going to a dog park. While that’s not as fun, every time your dog isn’t listening to you it is reinforcing in them that they don’t have to. If that means you can’t go off-leash hiking even if your dog is great 80% of the time, bring a long line. There are always tools available to help!