Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Impulse control game

The impulse control game is another basic foundation game that I am playing with Tess.  Here's the video that was shared with my Puppy Play Group.

This is why I'm in love with this game -
  • Teaches impulse control.  Maybe your dog is is the epitome of control.....but I can trace almost ALL of Tess's basic training issues back to the issue of IMPULSE CONTROL.  Why does she turn into a puppy on a string as she dashes after birds and butterflies?  Why does she jump?  Why does she dig in the trash?  Why does she over enthusiastically greet other dogs?  Why is she distracted by people/dogs/butterflies/dogs/scents/sights/motion/insert-anything-other-than-my-presence?  Because she lacks impulse control.  
  • Introduces the concept to the pup of "what is the answer to the question?"  The question is "how do I get the treat".  The answer is "sit, don't sniff, and look at my handler".  This may be the very first time you've done something with your dog that required them to figure out something, without prompting for you. 
  • Introduces the dog to the concept of offering behavior.  They know I have a treat (LOTS of treats).  They want the treat.  They start offering behavior as the answer to the question.  
  • Introduces the concept of "sit to ask".  Very quickly after being introduced to the Impulse game, Tess is quick to offer a sit anytime she wants something.  To be let outside, if we are waiting by a door, if she wants to vacuum the kitchen floor (she's learned that if she chooses to sit OUTSIDE of the kitchen, and doesn't go inside the kitchen to scavange, then there is a treat - so now, instead of having her underfoot while I'm cooking, she is choosing to watch me from a sitting position OUTSIDE the kitchen - even when there is tasty scraps on the floor). 
  • Doesn't use the clicker or verbal commands - it's a very simple, basic game that is uncomplicated by devices.  I have yet to try this on any dog and not have the handful of treats be VERY motivating to find out the answer to the question.  It let's the dog self correct without the handler being the source of negativity (verbal no, or growl/unpleasant noise).  Thus it keeps in fun and the dog is motivated to "be good" without fearing they are going to be reprimanded.  
  • The impulse game easily transferred to non-food behaviors.  Tess has started to get better in many different situations, even when we weren't necessarily playing the game, and even when it wasn't specifically a handful (or bowful) of treats.  I've noticed more self control when walking on a leash and waiting at doors etc. 
  • Rewards and gives credit to the dog when they practice self control!  I think sometimes a dog feels a bit jilted when they practice self control (for example, don't dive after the chicken carcass in the trash) - they can dive for it and maybe get a treat....and maybe get a reprimand IF they are caught.  Or they can practice self control and guarantee themselves no treat....This game says "if you give up the possibility of a treat, I will guarantee you a treat and say YES Tess!  This reinforces a lesson of "restrain thyself" instead of the "don't get caught" lesson. 
What the game looks like right now!

I can place pieces of kibble and other treats on Tess's paws.

Tess will step over and ignore food placed on the ground in front of the kennel when playing the crate game.

I can drop people food (by accident) in front of Tess while eating lunch and she doesn't dive after it

When I place the food dish on the ground, she waits, with eye contact on me, until I say the release word.

We are applying the principles of the game to toys!

Waiting to go through doors, going down stairs.

What we need to work on....

She's not super consistent on all the behaviors listed above.  If she's in the "game mode" than she's very good....but if it's every day life and she has something fall in front of her nose....there's a 50% chance she'll dive for it (better than where we were....but needs to be better).

Toy control.  Need I say more?

The impulse control hasn't totally transferred over to non-food items - like butterflies!  and birds! and scents!  and the trashcan!

Going UP stairs.  She likes bounding up and down stairs.  Thus I put this under "impulse control".....the down is getting quite good, the up is still a bit out of control....

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