Did you know that dogs who have issues with reactivity are almost always suffering from a lack of impulse control? They are not so different from us! When we suffer from impulse control issues we tend to get stuck in dangerous patterns; addiction and other mental health issues.
This week we're going to focus on building impulse control in our dogs with a few simple techniques that you can do at your leisure.
Starting with the simplest, we are going to teach our dogs to wait while a small piece of food is being delivered from a distance. We call this the elevator game. This works really well with puppies who are even five weeks old! Dogs who are jumpers, dogs who are food-snatchers, any dogs! We practised this in the home for the first little while and not only does it slow down their processes, but it also will serve as an excellent tool to help your dog recover after a reaction outside, quite soon!
Next up, we will teach our dogs to say please, just like our parents and grandparents and teachers taught us. This will increase the connectivity on walks but also create an incredible line of communication between you and your dog where they can ask you for permission to sniff something, go say hi, or simply investigate.
When you have a reactive dog, you are often feeling stressed before you even leave your home. If you live in a condo, stepping out into the hallway can be very stressful as some people let their dogs off loose, have children running ahead of them, or you may simply find that there’s a person passing outside your door at the exact moment that you choose to open it to leave for a walk. If you live in a house, there’s an even higher chance that you will step outside your front door into a world full of triggers. We need some level of impulse control here so that you can step outside first, invite your dog to come with you when it’s safe, or close the door and wait a moment until the coast is clear. That’s where “wait” comes in!
Last but not least, we will work on a biofeedback-based behaviour. This is optional, so only tackle this if you feel like you have time and energy. I always encourage people to try it a few times, as it is an extension of the elevator game and it can really help to ease your dogs nervous system in general. Calm on Cue turns out to be one of the favourite exercises from past Cranky Canine students, not surprisingly!