When teaching your pup good manners, you are teaching him to control his impulses. Humans also need to learn impulse control. Just like teenagers, adolescent dogs of between 6 months and 3 years of age, are particularly prone to giving in to their impulses.
A dog this age is more likely to go straight for delicious or fun things than an older dog. During adolescence, a dog undergoes hormonal changes in the brain and body. This can sometimes cause your puppy to seem out of control. But impulse control can be learned with a few training exercises.
Tell your dog to sit or lie down. Hold a (healthy) treat in one hand, and slowly lower it towards the dog. If your dog stands or jumps up, put your hand behind your back. Again, tell your dog to sit. Repeat the process until you get the treat all the way down while your dog stays in place.
The dog has now learned to control his impulse to snatch the treat away from you. Reward him by saying ‘take it’ and giving him the treat.
Let’s say you want to teach your dog to say hello to an approaching friend or friend plus dog. Ask your friend to stand still. In a happy voice, start walking towards your friend. If your dogs start pulling, barking or jumping, stop. Take two steps backward and get your dog sit.
Then move towards your friend once more. Once the dog is able to get to your buddy in a controlled way, you have curbed his impulse to dash forward. Here, the reward is getting to say hello, not a treat.
You can save your dog’s life if you teach him the ‘stay’ command. Imagine you’re on a walk and your dog slips his lead. He runs across the road and gets hit by a car. The worst has happened. But situations like this can be avoided. Tell your dog to sit or lie down. Facing your dog, back five paces away from him.
If he moves towards you, take him back and repeat until he stays in place. When he has managed to control his impulses, reward him by simultaneously giving him a treat and saying ‘good stay’. In all these cases, practice makes perfect. If your dog doesn’t ‘get it’ after a few tries, move on to something else to prevent frustration.