Why Impulse Control is One of the Best Things I’ve Ever Taught My Dog


Seven years ago, we picked up our Entlebucher Alfie at the breeder’s. Since that day, I’ve practised some sort of impulse control training with him every day.

When I share photos like this one, where Alfie is looking longingly at a cookie, drooling a little at the prospect of wolfing it all down, some people tell me I’m being mean to him. Depriving him of his dog earned right to eat more cookies just so that I can take a photo.

Well, let me tell you this – this is about so much more than just a cookie!

Dog sees cookie -eats it

Dogs are not born with a built in impulse control. As puppies, when they see a cookie – they eat it. I have a rabbit in my room and he is happy in his hutch which you can find here, but his urges are almost exactly opposite to the ones of Entlebucher Alfie. When they see a ball rolling across the floor – they rush to grab it. When they see a toddler licking a yummy ice cream, they steal it. For a puppy that might be cute, but imagine what would happen if you had a 50lbs dog with that sort of behaviour and no way of stopping him?

That’s why we adopted a training method called ‘Nothing in life is free’ (NILIF) for Alfie. In short, it means that whatever Alfie wants (dinner, toys, walks, attention) – he has to work for. Want dinner? Sure – sit first and wait until we say the word. Want that cookie? Sure, lay in a ‘down stay’ for a minute and I’ll let you have it. Dr Sophia Yin called this method the “Learn to Earn Program” and described it as:

“Humans gain leadership by controlling all the resources that motivate the pet and requiring the pet willingly work for these items instead of getting them for free”.

More Impulse Control Training

The NILIF programme is just one part of the impulse control training I did (and still do) with Alfie. Alfie is a training junkie and LOVES this sort of stuff. When he was younger I would spend a lot of time teaching him to sit or lie still, and NOT grab a ball that I rolled across the floor, or a toy that I placed on his head, or a ball that I threw across the lawn, or cookies that I placed on his nose and paws. Then, when I gave him the release command ‘take it’, or ‘fetch’ – he’d be so happy and proud. These days I don’t set this up as training sessions as such, but instead, it’s built into our daily lives.

As an example, our toddler can play happily with a football in the garden, and Alfie waits patiently for his turn until I tell him he can grab the ball. Similarly, when our boy picks up one of the dog’s toys – Alfie doesn’t just snatch it out of his hands – he waits until I say so. When we go somewhere in the car – Alfie waits until he’s told to jump out – you get the idea.

All in all, impulse control = more fun for both us and the dog, because we know we can trust him not to barge ahead without listening and to avoid a dog bite lawsuit in the future. And so – not letting Alfie take that cookie while I snap a photo is actually part of a bigger plan where he gets to do (and eat) more good stuff – not less.

As per this article from Herb if your furry companion is having difficulties eating or has had an adverse effect from food, this oil, can be integrated into their daily diet for quick relief.

Have you taught your dog impulse control? How did it go?





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