impulse control

Definition impulse control


Impulse control is the ability not to act on an impulse. The impulse can be an innate reflex or a spontaneous action. Impulse control in dogs means that the dog can control its actions and emotions.

Impulse control is like a battery and a muscle at the same time. An exercise can only be practiced a few times in a row because the battery is initially exhausted. This also applies to the rest of the day. The ability to concentrate decreases and the dog is not patient. Maybe you know this about yourself: You have a very intense day at work or school. In the evening you can no longer concentrate on even the simplest things. Your battery is exhausted and needs to be recharged - ideally through sleep. The same applies to your dog. After a lot of impulse control and mastery, the battery needs to be charged. If it is not charged, your dog will find it difficult to do banal everyday things. Difficult situations are almost impossible for your dog when the self-regulation battery is empty and are very stressful. The battery can be improved the more often impulse control is practiced. Impulse control in dogs is e.g. B. important when calling back. The dog must learn to resist an impulse by returning to you instead of chasing the rabbit. Without us humans, dogs would follow most impulses as they please. Impulse control in dogs is not only important for the coexistence of humans and dogs, but also for the coexistence of members of the same species. IImpulse control is social behavior. A dog's temperament is positively influenced with trained impulse control and rules and rituals.

Impulse control in dogs is self-control that must be practiced in small steps. Impulse control depends on the situation and cannot be generalized. It is good to train impulse control like a muscle so that the dog can better remember it in serious situations and support the dog through management.


“Control of immediate relational activity, restraint, sometimes thinking about it, and possibly successfully defending oneself against a currently strong need are among the essential prerequisites for being able to live successfully together with closed or other social partners” - p. 140 , Gansloßer, U. & Kitchenham, K. ; 2015


Factors that influence impulse control in dogs

The ability to control impulses in dogs is influenced by various factors. While one four-legged friend may prove to be extremely patient or obedient in a particular situation, another may have difficulty exhibiting the desired behavior under similar circumstances. Influences of genetics and also breeding have an influence on impulse control and are also influenced by background stressors (illness, increased stress, etc.). The following factors can have a major impact on a dog's ability to control impulses:

  • anatomy
  • Alter
  • Breeds
  • Stress

Impulse control versus frustration tolerance

Impulse control and frustration tolerance are two related, yet distinct, concepts related to dog behavior. impulse control in the dog refers to the dog's ability to do his control impulsive reactions. He has to wait, pause and is not allowed to do what he actually wants (yet). The dog learns to withdraw, to pause and wait.


  • Example 1: You prepare food for your dog and put it in front of him. Your dog is only allowed to eat with your permission. This is impulse control because your dog doesn't jump straight to the bowl and wait until he can eat.

  • Example 2: You put your dog on a leash. You walk to the door together and you only let your dog go out when he looks at you. Your dog must resist the impulse to rush out.


Frustration tolerance in dogs refers to the dog's ability to deal with disappointment, when he doesn't get something he wants or when he faces obstacles or limitations. It refers to the dog's ability to remain patient and not react in frustration or aggression when its needs are not met.


  • Example 1: You prepare the food for your dog and put it aside. Your dog must learn to deal with this frustration. What is important about this food example is that something like this can only be implemented if your dog is not hungry - anything else would be unfair and relevant to animal welfare.


  • Example 2: You put your dog on a leash. Then you devote yourself to other things and you don't walk your dog. Your dog has to learn to deal with the frustration of being on a leash and still not going out. Here too: basic needs must be covered. You don't practice frustration tolerance on an empty stomach or when the dog hasn't done its business.


While impulse control focuses on suppressing impulsive reactions and behaviors, frustration tolerance focuses on the dog's ability to deal with negative emotions and remain controlled when his expectations are not met. Both concepts are important for dog training and enable the dog to react appropriately to situations and live harmoniously together. Through targeted training and consistency, both impulse control and frustration tolerance can be developed and improved in dogs. Free training is already available Dog blog.



In summary, impulse control is an important skill in dogs that allows them to control their impulsive reactions. Well-developed impulse control leads to obedient and dog behavior in various situations. Recall, leash walking and even peer aggression can show behavioral improvement in problem behavior through good impulse control. Through impulse control, the dog learns to be patient and respond appropriately to stimuli or distractions. This contributes to harmonious coexistence and facilitates communication between dogs and humans.

Impulse control can be improved through consistent training and regular exercise. It is important to set clear rules and boundaries for the dog and gradually encourage him to control his impulses. Reward-based training and positive reinforcement are effective methods to promote impulse control. Well-developed impulse control allows the dog to remain calm and controlled in everyday situations, resulting in a pleasant and harmonious coexistence between dog and owner. 


Impulse control training