Impulse Control In Dogs: Explained In 5 Steps By a Professional

You had a nice walk with your dog today, to the point where he saw soccer players, and boom, chased the ball?

Your shouting was in vain, your dog only had this ball in his head? It’s not a nice feeling when your dog loses control!

Not having your dog’s impulses under control is not only tedious but also stressful, and your dog can make a negative impression on the public.

I’ll show you what impulse control means for your dog and here you will receive a 4-step guide on how to successfully train impulse control and composure with your dog.

In a nutshell: train impulse control in dogs

Impulse control simply means that your dog is able to independently control and regulate its feelings, urges and emotions.

For example, if he is running with other dogs and you want to call him out of the situation, he has two options:

Either he can control the impulse to continue playing with his teammate and respond to your call, or he cannot control the impulse to play and will not respond to your recall.

Impulse control can be trained well with grunge obedience exercises and serenity training for your dog.

Are you now interested in deepening your knowledge of obedience exercises in dogs? Then I recommend our dog training bible, here you will find many great, simply described instructions.

What factors affect impulse control in dogs?

These 4 factors can affect impulse control in your dog:


Breeds that have been bred for special work often have a different nature and more drive. Therefore, these dogs often show increased impulsive reactions.

The drive and the impulses are used specifically for dog training. This can often be seen, for example, in “shepherd dog training”.


Strong and large dogs are often calmer in nature than small and agile dogs.

Being calmer makes it easier for them to control impulses.


Like so many things, young dogs must first learn their impulse control. The part of the brain responsible for impulse control is not fully developed in puppies.

Many dogs, especially large ones, are not fully developed and “adult” until the age of 3.

If you are already dealing with the subject of basic obedience exercises for your little one when your little one is young, you will have it easier later on with impulse control.


Stressed animals are more prone to losing their impulse control. Dogs that are exposed to stress when encountering dogs, for example, should be specifically trained in the area of impulse control when encountering dogs.

Frustration tolerance

It is very important for you to know that just doing impulse control exercises is unfortunately not enough. In addition, you have to deal with the topic of frustration tolerance.

If your dog cannot follow his impulses, this often turns into frustration.

You often see dogs on a leash that want to meet a fellow dog. However, since the dogs cannot follow their impulse through the leash, they begin to bite the leash.

The dog does not reach its goal, is stressed by it, develops frustration, and releases it by biting the leash.

My advice:

Dogs learn through images, contextually and situationally.

For you, this means that if your dog is 100 percent able to do something in your garden, this does NOT mean that he will also do it outside.

THAT’S why it’s EXTREMELY important for your dog’s impulse control exercises that you train in a variety of places.

I often used the large parking lots of shopping malls. There I was able to do obedience exercises with the dog, well at a distance.

Once your dog is used to a clicker, you can use this for training.

Impulse control dog – exercises

Impulse control exercises are very tiring for your dog.

That’s why I advise you not to make the exercise units longer than 10 minutes and always end on a positive note.

So that your dog learns good impulse control, I have created a step-by-step guide for you here.

The exercise requires a basic knowledge of obedience, but is also suitable for young dogs.


Work in a quiet environment first, for as long as necessary. You can then make the exercise more difficult by offering your dog various external stimuli during the exercise.

The basic idea of this exercise is: Your dog learns that it is worth waiting and not giving in to his impulses.

Dog obedience exercises

To start impulse control training in 4 steps, your dog should already be able to sit, down and stay.

Step 1

Put your dog in the “place” and give him the command “wait” or “stay”.

If your dog stays in place for a few seconds, give him a treat and cancel the command.

Step 2

Gradually increase the distance to your dog.

Make sure that you only increase so much that your dog cannot make mistakes and increase the difficulty very slowly.

Step 3

Add small distractions on your part. Turn around, sit on the ground, or hop.

The dog must be able to resist impulses to come to you now that it looks like fun.

He has to control his impulses.

Step 4

If everything is as desired so far, add external distractions.

Be it a flying ball, a treat on the ground or a friend walking past the dog.

Step 5

Move the training outside. Try to include all everyday situations and use them for training.

Be it a wait and stay on the street, in the zoo or on the edge of the soccer field.

Give yourself plenty of time for impulse control training.
Don’t overwhelm your dog. If he gets stressed, take a step back.
Use the variety of intermittent affirmation.


Through targeted impulse control training, your dog learns to control his emotions, feelings and urges.

A dog that is able to apply this to all everyday situations is much less prone to stress and will make a great companion to take with you anywhere.

If you need more suggestions about training, take a look at our dog bible!

All common problems are listed here and the step-by-step training plans will help you to easily reach your goal.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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