Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | July 29, 2009

Teach Dogs Impulse Control – not just Submission

Scout searching for Love...

Scout searching for Love...

Recently the Second Chance Humane Society Pet Column discussed findings that dogs need to be parented in a similar fashion to other adolescents, with consistency and boundaries.  Additionally, like juveniles, dogs need to learn is how to manage frustration.  Dogs that have not learned this are the ones whose emotions quickly turn from frustration to rage and aggression.  Although many trainers would respond that a dog that easily reacts through rage needs to learn submission, what is really needed is impulse control. 

Animal behaviorists such as Temple Grandin (a popular one amongst us shelter dogs) and Patricia McConnell (whose book “For the Love of a Dog” is one of my favorites) have found that dogs considered most healthy and emotionally balanced begin learning and developing impulse control from early puppyhood.  Learning to accept being crawled upon and pushed away from the food source by other siblings while nursing is an example of good frustration tolerance.  As such, dogs that are isolated and under- socialized (particularly in their early years) can develop a very low tolerance to frustration which can very negatively impact dog’s temperament.

Dogs that develop impulse control are safe dogs and what humans would consider “friendlier” dogs – the kind that you can take to the park and won’t bite a child that comes running over and lunges at the dog in an attempt to embrace it.  Thus one of the key factors in training impulse control is socialization, for in varying social situations you can train your dog to tolerate frustration. 

So technically, the various training techniques that you hear about for establishing a submissive dog are actually about building this level of tolerance.  By requiring your dog to sit at the door before entering or exiting it, and by taking food away from him without him growling, he learns that he can’t always have it “his” way.  He also learns that this is ok.

Training in impulse control is also important for addressing hyperactivity.  Training the hyper dog to “wait” and “stay” before retrieving a thrown Frisbee is an example of training for frustration tolerance and will lead to a much more controllable dog. 

I am not saying that all the trainers that tell dog parents they have to be dominant and teach their dogs submission are wrong but you may want to consider what would happen if you were to shift your focus away from getting your dog to submit and toward handling frustration.  Shifting your focus in this direction will shift your behavior when training your dog and dogs learn best from modeling their parents or adult role models – in the wild or in the house. 

If you are teaching your dog by yelling, stomping your feet, yanking or using physical force you are teaching him to use the same approach when frustrated.  Remaining calm and in control of your own emotions allows your dog to learn to do the same and allows further learning to occur.  Please also remember that individual temperaments will make these lessons easier or more difficult for different dogs but consistency and patience will pay off much more than negative punishment.

My name is Scout and I am a five year old Border Collie/Aussie mix looking for someone willing to receive the lifetime abundance of love I have to offer.  I am also very bright and with consistency and boundaries I can learn anything.

Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online: www.secondchancehumanesociety.org.  Direct Pet Column questions to:  kelly@secondchancehumanesociety.orgPhoto by Real Life Photographs.

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