Impulse control training for dogs [advanced]

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. She is through it Self-control, which is like a battery and 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 becomes impatient. When training your dog's impulse control, this means always practicing short units. 

If your dog had to be patient during training or in everyday life, his battery will be empty and he will find it difficult to handle simple everyday situations. After short training sessions, your dog should be given enough time to recover. 

In the blog post What is impulse control? You can read more about impulse control in dogs and how you can influence and promote it. Be sure to take a look at the trainings on impulse control for beginners and impulse control for advanced users. 


There are a few tricks on how we can generally promote impulse control in our dogs. You can find out more about this in the article What is impulse control?Self-control can be specifically strengthened to simplify training and make life more pleasant for our dogs. Impulse control training is an important aspect of building and improving your dog's patience and concentration in general. Since training your dog is much more intensive than some other training, you should first implement the tips. 

Tip 1: Rituals

Impulse control costs your dog a lot of stamina and focus. Everyday life sometimes seems impossible for your dog if your self-control is exhausted. Banal everyday situations present your dog with a big challenge and cause him to react quickly impulsively. 

In general, you should create a fixed daily routine and rituals for your dog that offer your dog security. Rituals are actions that always take place in the same way. They are important in everyday dog ​​life because they give the dog a clear line, improve communication between you and your dog and generally lead to an improvement in the dog's well-being. If we build up ritualized behavior patterns, they will eventually become automatic. Rituals are important guides for our dogs about what they can expect and how they should behave. Through constant repetition, your dog can master everyday situations more easily and they no longer require a lot of patience because they happen almost automatically. If impulse control is seriously needed, your dog will not have a completely empty self-control battery. He was able to save the battery in ritualized everyday situations and use it for serious situations. 

"Borders offer security and security offers relaxation."- Vitomalia


Tip 2: Nutrition for the nerves

Self-control requires a lot of energy, which can be positively promoted through feeding. So-called “nerve food” is food rich in carbohydrates. Miller et al (2010) showed in their study that dogs have increased energy expenditure when exercising impulse control. Dogs given a glucose drink were able to double their self-control. The effects of available blood glucose had an impact on dogs' ability to self-control. Blood glucose can be increased by carbohydrates in dog food. How many carbohydrates your dog can tolerate is very individual. Within the same breed, dogs vary significantly in their ability to digest carbohydrates. In order for the dog to be able to digest grains well, rice, pasta, etc. must be cooked long enough to utilize the starch they contain. Carbohydrates that dogs tolerate particularly well are potatoes, rice and pasta. You can find out more about long-chain or short-chain carbohydrates and gluten-free carbohydrates for your dog in the What is Impulse Control blog.

Tip 3: Rest and relaxation

Sufficient rest and sleep are one of your dog's basic physical or biological needs. An adult and healthy dog ​​needs between 16 and 20 hours of rest, puppies or sick dogs even more. Impulse control requires a lot of energy from your dog. Energy needs to be recharged through adequate sleep and rest. Not every dog ​​has learned to actively keep calm. Calmness can and must be learned and is built through blanket training. Hyperactive dogs in particular need to learn to rest. In the article you will learn how you can use the core area for rest and relaxation The 4 most important house rules for your dog. 

Sleep helps your dog deal with stress because the stress hormone cortisol is reduced during sleep. Cortisol is released in stressful situations and must then be broken down again in order to prevent long-term stress. If your dog doesn't get enough sleep, cortisol levels remain high and your dog experiences even more stress. Exercise also reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Stressed dogs that don't get enough rest compensate for their stress through exercise. Stress and movement, i.e. restlessness, promote renewed stress. The vicious circle begins and a stressed dog becomes a hyperactive dog that is stressed.

Impulse control for advanced training

Impulse control can and must be trained. It is one of the core skills that every dog ​​must learn. Before you start training for advanced dogs, you should intensively practice the training for beginners with your dog and gradually increase the stimuli and training environment. Every training begins in a low-stimulus environment and must later be transferred to all possible everyday situations. This is called “generalization”. In everyday life, you can only ask your dog what you have practiced and trained with him. A “sit” at home is a little different for your dog than a “sit” outside. If you haven't practiced "sitting" outside yet, it's almost like new training for your dog. Impulse control depends on the situation and unfortunately cannot be generalized. For your dog, impulse control is a completely new situation every time. Nevertheless, a general development and training of impulse control can be useful. Your dog won't resist the rabbit running away in the field from waiting patiently at the bowl. Nevertheless, well-trained self-control in dogs ensures general controllability in everyday life. The training makes sense and must be structured well in order to be able to use it as best as possible in everyday life with a dog. When training, we recommend that you practice very short training sessions of a maximum of 5 minutes with your dog. You can incorporate impulse control training throughout the day and then offer your dog plenty of rest periods. It's best not to practice impulse control before a walk or before stressful situations (e.g. a visit to the vet). Your dog will not be able to tolerate additional impulse control training in situations that require a lot of self-control.

Keep the following points in mind when training: 

When training impulse control for advanced dogs, we focused training with patience in the form of releases. The approvals are based on the orientation towards you through the Premack principle.

The Premack Principle is a form of reinforcement. Your dog will not only be rewarded with a reward, but also with permission to do the desired action.

Your dog can only get the food by working with you. The generalization of the “sit” position not only teaches your dog signal safety, but also that “sit” simply means “sit”. The final exercise of counting treats teaches your dog that numbers have meaning in the context of the patience required of you. The training builds up food motivation, which works well for both food-loving and non-food-loving dogs. Because your dog receives every single treat, motivation always remains high. 

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"Sit" generalization means

  • Lead your dog into a “sit.”
  • Generalize the “sit” by:
    • “Sit” as you jog away from your dog.
    • “Sit” while jogging over your dog.
    • “Sit” while making quick movements.
    • “Sit” while moving out of your dog’s view.
    • “Sit” while you dance.
    • Mark every time you sit with a marker signal or clicker and reward your dog with a treat.

Mark the correct behavior while you are moving and only give your dog the treat directly when he is so that he does not have to get up.

  • If your dog gets up from the “sit”, lead him back to the starting position. Danger! Do not praise the person sitting down again (neither treats nor words of praise), as only remaining seated will be rewarded.
  • Start the last exercise again until your dog stays seated.
  • Give a clear release after each exercise session, e.g. with “Off” or “Done”.
  • The training that takes place at the Impulse control for beginners has already been established can be deepened


    For the dog, the door is the boundary that separates home and the outside world. Many dogs therefore want to get out quickly and squeeze through people's legs. This makes the situation uncontrollable for you because you are not within your dog's limited scope of action.

    • Leash your dog and stand in front of the front door. 
    • Your dog doesn't have to follow a signal, but rather adopt a new posture.
    • Open the door slowly while watching your dog. 
    • If your dog pushes forward, you can 
      • either to close the door so that there is no success,
      • or use your leg to split. 
    • Repeat opening and closing the door a few times. 
    • You can praise your dog's eye contact or restraint in a gentle voice.
    • When you go out, do the same thing by going out first.

    This exercise makes sense for you and your dog in several ways:

    “Rookie” distraction triangle

    • Prepare your distraction so that it forms a triangle facing you and your dog, with you and your dog facing each other and the distraction away from you.
    • Your dog is allowed to perceive the distraction, but should come to you. The leash serves as security and at the same time correction for self-praising behavior.
    • Keep the distance from the distraction far enough that your dog wants to go there but can still master the exercise.
    • Call your dog to you with your recall signal.
    • As soon as your dog responds to the recall and comes to you, reward your dog in two ways:
      • Your dog gets the treat.
      • He is allowed to use the distraction upon your approval (Premack Principle).

    In order to make everyday life more controllable, we create artificial training situations with distractions that are very close to real everyday distractions. This shifts the boundary between the uncontrollable and the controllable. Make a list of distractions that you encounter in everyday life and that are difficult for your dog. Then create a list of substitute distractions. 

    Example of a list of your proxy distractions: