There’s always a debate amongst dog trainers about what is the most important thing to teach a dog. In reality there’s no blank, easy answer here as many obedience skills and manners are crucial to a dog’s ability to thrive in a home environment.
We ask a lot of our pet dogs. We want them to ignore almost everything they love to do: chew on things, urinate on things, bite things playfully or otherwise, bark, run around frantically, jump up on any living creature that is slightly taller than them, etc. And then ask them to do boring behaviours such as walk slowly on leash, sleep all the time and not touch anything that hasn’t been labeled as a dog toy (and then occasionally relinquish those to us too).
So after working with many families with a huge variety of canines I’ve come to the conclusion that even though recall is my favourite obedience command dogs need to learn impulse control more than anything else.
Impulse control means quietly simply that instead of reacting to what they want as soon as they can see they learn to wait. Oh this isn’t easy for people either!
Some skills that can help teach dogs impulse control:
1. “Leave It” cue asks the dog to not grab something and be rewarded for that.
2. “Stay” cue and this applies specifically to stays with distractions around such as dogs, toys, food, etc.
3. “Look” or the dog’s name to redirect their attention back on you.
4. “Sit” for doors, opening kennel, greeting, etc.
(Marco showing off his stay)
Dogs that have developed good impulse control will be less likely to steal your stuff, jump on you, start conflicts with other dogs, house soil, bark uncontrollably at other dogs, etc. It allows your dog to live in harmony with you and all our silly human rules.
This isn’t an easy thing to teach so I suggest working with a trainer or behaviourist if you are experiencing any behaviour problem. Remember to select someone with experience and uses positive reinforcement methods to teach impulse control NOT a shock collar, choke chain, etc. We want dogs who understand that waiting means good things are coming not a dog that is too scared to move.