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By Kim Downing

Teaching impulse control in a puppy or dog really is a bit like yelling out Freeze! in the children's game we all know so well.  It might seem odd to have your dog become really good at freezing in place, but really what we're after is getting him to control his impulse even under high levels of excitement.

This is challenging in the beginning, but it is essential to get him acquainted with the process.  It helps the dog to learn to focus better when stimulated by distractions and can help him to settle down faster.

Normally it's best to have a go-to command for this process.  The Sit is the easiest and most common command to use, but some people prefer the Down command.  You first have to make sure that your dog is just about as reliable with the command as he can be when nothing is happening.  If he doesn't quite have it down yet, it's too early to play this game.

You'll need to have a reward on hand.  It needs to be either a food reward or some kind of favorite toy.  Here is how you will do it:

1. You can play a version of a training game that is quite popular.  It's a kind of go wild and then freeze into position game.  In this game you go wild with the dog.  Bounce around, get him excited, etc.  Then suddenly stop moving around and stand very still while asking him to Sit.  In the very beginning you may need to actually show him the treat and then quickly move away from directly showing him the treat. 

This version of the game is exceptionally good for working with a dog on not jumping on people when excited.  He will already be used to sitting when excited, so children or guests can ask him to sit for attention.

2.  Get him to freeze during toy play.  You might use a toy like a bouncing ball or one that can roll.  You can also use a toy that can be tossed back and forth quickly between your hands.  You want to play with him and move the toy rapidly by bouncing it, rolling it back and forth on the floor between your hands, or tossing it back and forth.  The quick movement will excite him.  Once he is riled up and excited ask him to Sit.  Once he does for a moment and settles, throw the toy for him.

Both of these exercises are just two examples of how you can begin to help your puppy understand to control those excitable urges quickly.  Once he can do these will, expand the Sit command in other distracting situations so that he quickly and reliably has a go-to behavior.


Additional Articles:

Learning to Say Please
Help! My Dog is Scared of Everything
Debunking the Dominance Theory in Dogs
Being Your Dog's Leader
Keeping Your Dog Busy
Games to Play
When Your Dog Becomes Aggressive
Introduction to Clicker Training
Puppy Training: Raising the Perfect Puppy
Finding a Dog Trainer
Training The German Shepherd Dog for the Show Ring

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Last Updated: January 24, 2018
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