When a dog sees something in the environment that’s exciting or tempting, it can be hard for him to resist dashing or jumping impulsively toward that temptation. But this is a skill that we can teach, and it’s an important part of a training program for many dogs.
In the article, I’m going to share details about how we can use their food bowl to teach a simple impulse control exercise.
Food bowl exercise
Begin by putting just a few pieces of kibble in a bowl. Hold it up by your chest or tucked at your side, and quietly wait. When the dog is calm and has all four paws on the floor, promptly put the bowl on the floor and say “okay”, or whatever release cue you want to use.
Gradually move the bowl a bit lower toward the floor when your dog is ready for the challenge. Again, when he’s waiting calmly with all four paws on the floor, promptly put the bowl down and say “okay.”
After some practice, you’ll actually be able to place the bowl on the ground. I suggest you place it on the side of your body OPPOSITE of where the dog is standing at first. When you see he is calm and is making no attempt to dash to the bowl, say “okay” to release him to the bowl.
Gradually begin placing the bowl on the floor closer to the dog, continuing as described above.
Gradually increase the time the dog has to wait before releasing him to the bowl.
If you’ve already taught the wonderful foundation skill of eye contact, that would be a nice component to add to the training exercise above. If you need help with this, here’s a training handout.
If impulse control is something your dog struggles with, I teach this skill, along with numerous other impulse control exercises (wait politely at open doors, don’t jump up to greet or to grab a favorite toy, behave calmly as person prepares you for a walk, wait politely as the crate door is opened, and more) in my “Fido Refined” training DVD. Here’s a link if you’d like to check it out.
Virginia Dare is a certified dog trainer & behavior counselor with decades of experience. Her business offers live video consultations anywhere in the US for training and behavior help, matchmaking services, and pre- and post-arrival counseling for new puppies. She also provides in-home, private lessons and behavior consultations in northern Fairfield and Westchester counties, western New Haven county, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties.
Please visit www.NorthStarCanines.com/services to learn more, or contact me at 804.784.0120