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Discussion Starter #1
Okay, gang-- let's hear some ideas for training games that one can do rutinely to build upon impulse control especially in easily excitable dogs.
I am looking for things other than the usual waiting-at-doorways and waiting-before being-released-to-be-fed.

What other training games seem to help a dog learn impulse control? I thought we could share what we may have learned reading online advice, or from taking classes, advice from trainers, ideas from having owned excitable dogs with low impulse control before, etc. Ideas?


Here's mine: Go to a crowded town center. Have your dog in a down.stay.. for a whopping boring 20 minutes! Agonizingly dull, but, take your watch and actually time it. With all the activity sure to normally arouse a dog with crowds and such, choosing an out-of-the-way place and letting your dog learn that yes, he CAN remain in one spot despite all the things that usually would be too stimulating for him, is a plus. I go back to the same exact spot every Saturday for about 3 - 4 weeks. Then, I choose another busy location, and find an out.of-the-way spot and do the same boring 20 minute downs for another 3 - 4 weeks there. All new smells, sights, sounds, movements, stimulations-- all that he can learn that he CAN remain in a calm state amidst stimulating things, that he CAN do this. They get the hang of it, and it cooks in their brains that they DID see a bike whipping past, a baby carriage rattling right by them, etc but were in a calm state at the time.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dogs

20 minutes is a long time!!

I don't think Havoc is quite as excitable as Grimm bt he can sure go over the top when we are working sometimes!

My favorite game is using his tug, he LOVES his tug! He must wait to be released to the tug before he can grab it. He must out immediately on command and wait to be released to re-engae it. he must wait CALMLY in a sit or down stay until I release him to it.

If he breaks or fails to out or does cheap sneak grabs at it, it goes away. I can put it on top of his head, on the ground in front of him, throw it, rub it over his back, tap him with it but he needs to wait calmly to be released or he does not get it.

I learned this game from Ivan Balabonov and it has been the best tool for me to use to help develop impulse, espacially in agility. Ye gads his teeth are sharp when he gets the nippy grabbies!
 

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Ivan method? Cool beans, Kathy! I like this. Get something that normally excites him-- and he only gets it when CALM. Super idea! That kinda goes along with Grimm's dinner serving, he only gets released to get his food when he is sitting attentively and looking at me. (he'll never be truly calm for dinner.. sigh) This is a super training game for Havoc! Or any dog. Do you have a command word/cue for him to calm down and settle, or just the concept calm = tuggy?

You're right, 20 minutes IS a long time! That's why I use 20 minute down-stays. The dog's body gets into a rhythm of "oh man, this is so borrr-rrrinnnng..." that we get relaxation in a quiet area of a busy setting. The dog's body as well as mind goes into "might as well relax, nuthin's gonna happen" mode. I want him to associate that idea with busy settings.

PS-- I give credit to Jean for teaching me this, by the way!
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dogs

Impulse control... Denali's grade: F!
LOL
One way I like to teach impulse control is to put them in a down-stay, throw their not so favorite toy and wait to be released to fetch it.
Value of toy goes up as their control increases.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dogs

My trainer suggested using a high-interest toy (a Cuz which has a built in loud squeaker) and having the dog stay put while you squeak then throw it. Eventually progressing to having them stop still while chasing after it. The reward of course is that they can actually go get it once they've restrained themselves from the chase.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dogs

All great suggestions! Down-stays are our friends!


One other thing I've been doing with Luther is Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation.

http://www.dogdaysnw.com/doc/Protocol_for_Relaxation-_Karen_Overall.pdf

I looked at it for a long time - and always thought it seemed kind of silly - Luther can do all that stuff, I kept saying to myself. Well - it turned out not always! We are still in the middle of it, but I am beginning to see an overall (pun?) tendency for him to react less often and with less intensity. It really is not an obedience exercise - although it looks for all the world like it is - and this is what kept me turning away from it. The objective is to teach the dog to relax, rather than just sit, down, etc., in distracting situations.

I'd love to hear from any others who have tried this - and maybe are further into it - with comments/opinions.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dogs

Thanks Tahiry, UCDCrush and Martie! I'm learning lots.. some great ideas! Off to read the Karen Overall link...
 

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Some opinions on the Karen Overall Relaxation protocol: I like it! I especially like that she warns about dogs who go to get the treat, instead of waiting for us to give the treat to them. (I have a pushy dog). The entire program is, in my opinions, a good one!


The caution I did think of was this: With using food for excitable dogs, we have to be careful that we aren't treating while the dog is in an excited state. We see something similar when someone's anxious poodle gets clicked-and-treated at the groomer's to overcome his fear, while he's clearly very anxious. The owner gets the behaviors she wants, but is in fact also rewarding the fearful state. So, the dog ends up improving when he goes to the groomers-- but only up to a point. This is nurturing instability with treats and praise, even though we get the desired behaviors from the dog. So it's the same with excitability, I think. We have to be careful using treats. A dog in an excited state who will somehow manage to control himself just enough for a sit-- is still a powderkeg being rewarded while in that state, even though he does the sit. Sitting is good! Focus is good! But wait until the dog isn't vibrating with excitability to work using treats to avoid reinforcing that excited state.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dogs

Originally Posted By: BrightelfSome opinions on the Karen Overall Relaxation protocol: I like it!

The caution I did think of was this: With using food for excitable dogs, we have to be careful that we aren't treating while the dog is in an excited state. The owner gets the behaviors she wants, but is in fact also rewarding the fearful state. A dog in an excited state who will somehow manage to control himself just enough for a sit-- is still a powderkeg being rewarded while in that state, even though he does the sit. Sitting is good! Focus is good! But wait until the dog isn't vibrating with excitability to work using treats to avoid reinforcing that excited state.
You got the idea, Patti - a lot faster than I did - I needed more time to digest what this program really is because it looks on the surface like a tedious obedience exercise. You are rewarding the dog for relaxation - NOT for sit-stays.

Another note - on the flip side of the very important treat cautions - the treats actually can also help assess the relaxation in some dogs. I don't think they all do this, but Luther can sometimes look like he is just fine, and then take half my hand with his treat! When he is truly relaxed, he takes treats like a perfect gentleman. So - if things are going fine - we move on to the next exercise - I run off to the other room, knock on the door, return - and Luther takes his treat roughly, I know that exercise was a bit more stressful. This has had the added bonus of helping me to read him better.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dog

Originally Posted By: MartieOne other thing I've been doing with Luther is Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation.

http://www.dogdaysnw.com/doc/Protocol_for_Relaxation-_Karen_Overall.pdf

I looked at it for a long time - and always thought it seemed kind of silly - Luther can do all that stuff, I kept saying to myself.
I thought it was a bit silly at first too! I looked at the 15 day program and my dogs could easily get to day 5 or 6 with no problem, so it seemed like a waste of time to go through all those steps to get to the point where it was actually going to challenge them. But I was on Leslie McDevitt's yahoo email group (Control Unleashed) before she discontinued it, and there was a lot of discussion about RP, and I was able to ask her some questions directly. You really do need to go through the entire program because it's the process that's important, not getting to the end as quickly as possible.

I did it last year with Dena & Keefer. I crated one dog, did that day's tasks, and then switched them out and worked with the other dog. I had intended to try it with both dogs at the same time after I finished with them separately, but never got around to it. I also haven't gotten around to trying it with Halo yet, and want to do it again with Keefer at some point, and to go through the program in another location, such as the backyard.

Some tips I found helpful - rather than a sit, I put the dogs into a down because it's a more relaxing position, and I also used a mat. First I did a little work sending the dog to a mat and asking for the down, and then simply waiting for an automatic down on the mat. This took no time at all. I also counted out the stays in a very soft voice, and found that later, I was able to induce a relaxed state in Keefer by simply looking into his eyes and calmly and quietly counting to him. Sometimes I counted up from 1, sometimes I counted down from 15 or 20 or 30 seconds, however long the stay was.

One question a lot of people asked on the list was about whether or not you release the dog between exercises - NO! You simply praise softly, deliver the treat, and move on to the next exercise. My dogs sometimes get excited and grabby with treats too, so I placed it on the mat right in front of their noses so they didn't have to budge from their position. In addition to treating after each exercise, I rewarded any other signs of relaxation, such as resting his head on the mat, which he starting doing often. The nice thing about using a mat is that they start to associate the mat as the place where they hang out and chill, and you can move the mat to other places (such as the vet's office) and re-create that relaxed state.

I also paid a lot of attention to my own body language, keeping myself very loose during the stays, shifting my weight onto one hip and tilting my shoulders and sometimes my head to one side, blinking slowly and keeping my breathing regular. He really did seem to mirror my relaxed demeanor, which was what I was going for. By the end of the day's tasks I would quietly release them, and they were quite calm. Dena was so calm that she wouldn't even get off her mat when Elvis (kitty) sauntered into the room, and when she was released she'd stand there and sniff him instead of trying to herd him! Keefer did break off his mat a couple of times to chase a kitty, but overall, he was very good too. If the dog breaks at any point, you calmly return them to place and repeat the exercise until they can perform it before moving on to the next task. I would also repeat that day's tasks the next day before moving onto the next step if they broke at any point, which I only had to do a few times. Some people reported being stuck on the same day's tasks for several days or even a week or more, and that's fine.

For my dogs, staying calm and on their mat when I rang the doorbell and opened the front door was VERY challenging, as I expected it would be. I had initially started RP in my family room because it's the largest area in the house and many of the tasks require some space to work in, but when we got to this step I thought it would be easier to try it in the entryway so I would not be out of their sight when I rang the bell. That's perfectly okay - you can always modify a task or break it down into smaller steps, working up slowly to the actual task as listed or even add additional tasks (banging pots and pans? jingling your keys?) that are challenging for your dog/s. Some people want their dogs to bark at the doorbell, so that might be a task they'd skip and find something else equally hard as a substitute task. Modify the program so that it makes the most sense to you, your dogs, and your lifestyle.

I found it very difficult to keep my place in the exercises because many of them were repeated several times in a single day's tasks, so I copied the part of the document that listed the daily tasks and enlarged the font before printing it out so I could set the paper on a nearby counter or table and quickly glance at it to see what we were supposed to do next. Made it MUCH easier to follow! If anyone wants this, PM me your email address and I'll send you the Word document, or you could just do it yourself.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dog

Thanks, deb! I really appreciate your input on this!!

I really don't want to have to use a mat with Grimm. But, maybe we will eventually anyway. The para-transit buses are very slippery for a clean GSD to lay down and ride on the floor without sliding all over, so for my last dog, I brought a cheap Walmart bathroom rug (rolled and folded in my backpack) with us when we rode the buses anyway. The mat may become the cue: "Chill out here."
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dog

Patti, it's definitely not necessary to use a mat, but it can help because it's like portable relaxation once you create that association. And a bathroom rug is actually great because they usually have a non-slip backing, (not to mention the "cheap" factor!) but if you do want to incorporate mat work into the RP, a towel works fine too, it doesn't have to be anything fancy.

A couple other things I forgot to mention - a lot of the people on Leslie's CU list are agility trainers and competitors so many of them use a clicker in training. It's not recommended to use a clicker to mark behavior during RP because then it feels like a training session to the dog. Instead, use calm, quiet praise.

These are dogs that are used to offering up behaviors to see what works to earn a reward without being told what to do, and they need to learn that their "job" is to do nothing at all. YOU do all the work while the dog simply hangs out. So that means if you usually wear a treat bag during training sessions, don't use it while you do RP. If you usually deliver treats out of a pocket, don't. Put treats in a bowl somewhere within easy reach instead. Anything you can do to make it NOT feel like a training session helps facilitate the process.

With Keefer I found that at first he would run to the mat, slam himself down, and then wait eagerly for instructions. If none were forthcoming, he'd try stuff, watching me carefully for a reaction. Does she want me to do this? No? How about this? That sort of thing. That's where I found that staying very calm and loose helped, and rewarding him for NOT being all jiggy with anticipation. Within a fairly short time he got it, and was visibly more relaxed. Oh, I just have to lay here while you jump up and down and do silly stuff? Cool.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dog

Ack, one MORE thing I forgot to mention!!!!


Although RP is not a stay exercise per se, it will help to build a very nice stay under distraction. When I started working on stays and mat work with Halo I incorporated a few of the RP tasks such as jumping up and down, clapping my hands, running circles around her, etc., just in an informal way,not actually going through the whole thing. She had the most rock solid stay in every one of the classes she's been in so far. In her CGC class she was only 7 months old, the youngest dog in the class by far, and she was referred to as the "stay star" by one of the other people in the class.
Everyone, including the trainer and assistant trainer, were very impressed with her stay, particularly at her young age.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dog

Cassidys Mom - Thank you so much for all your input! I will keep referring back to your messages as we progress through the program.

If anyone's interested in what this looks like - here is a video of a dog doing the Day 1 Protocol:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX9rOLaN-bw

Getting lost in the instructions is a real issue! I, too, made a word doc, enlarged the font, added line spacing and just print out each day's tasks. It helps a lot. I haven't tried this - but found someone who has done mp3 files for each day. If you have an ipod or something, this might also help.

http://championofmyheart.com/2007/11/12/the-relaxation-protocol-2.aspx
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dog

I love the RP. I also like Leslie McDevitt's Look At That game for reactive, distractible dogs. Have had good success with using this.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dog

Samba, yes - LAT is a wonderful tool!

Martie, thanks for posting that video. I did a search and found that when I'd first read about RP and it helped me a lot to actually see someone doing it because there were some things that weren't clear to me at first. Later, having Leslie giving input and answering questions, and being able to read about the experiences of other people on the list who were doing RP with their dogs, was invaluable. Leslie was the one who suggested I try making it seem as different from a training session as possible, after I mentioned on the list that Keefer didn't seem to be getting the concept of just doing nothing.
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dog

thank you for posting this and the link for the ipod recordings. I posted on another thread that I was looking for something to do with the dog while I recuperate from knee surgery, of course I won't be jumping up and down but otherwise this might be a perfect exercise to try. Thanks again!
 

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Re: Training games:Impulse Control & excitable dog

Wow, I just read all this and there is SO MUCH helpful info on here!
I will definitely be working with Ruger on the PR once he's gotten settled and a bit more trained, and Sadie can definitely use this as well. She has a pretty darned solid down/stay, but does get very excitable even when in a down/stay.
I'm glad things like this exist! lol
 

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This is such an old thread! I found it while searching for impulse control ideas and thought it might help some others with younger dogs.
 

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This looks really interesting. I wonder if it would interfere with trying to train drive? Like, I want my dog to be calm when I ask her to and in most situations around town, but i also want her amped up and focused when we're working. Does that make sense? Do people train for both or do they usually focus on whatever the dog is weakest at?


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