Controlling Impulses

Training an impulsive dog

Harley Quinn, my 1 year old dachshund-poodle mix

Since the first day I brought her home, Harley Quinn has had issues with impulse control. Due to busy schedules, we have not had the chance to be consistent with the training. We tried many methods, but our results only seemed to last for a short period of time before she was back to her old ways. Her impulses have led to a lot of destroyed toys, socks, beds, and more. True to her breed characteristics, Harley is smart like most poodles, but stubborn like most dachshunds.

The most frequent situation where her lack of impulse control was most apparent is during feeding time. When she heard the rustle of the bag, she started whining instantly. She then ran and sat next to me. With every scoop of food that entered the bowl, she grabbed a few pieces and ran off earning her the title of kibble thief. She hadn’t learned that she must wait until the bowl was in its designated spot before she could eat. She had to have it when she wanted it. She also did the same with fallen food in the kitchen, despite the fact that she knows she’s not allowed in there. We realized it was time for a change.

I came across the book, Dog-Friendly Dog Training by Andrea Arden, and chose to put my focus on her chapter about impulse control. She explains that you must use the silent method during this training. She talks about how even a verbal reprimand is still giving your dog the attention it is craving. Her method says that by simply refusing to give the dog what they want, without saying a word, you deprive it of the attention it seeks. Once the dog is waiting patiently, it is rewarded with what it was begging for.

Once I read the chapter, I decided to give this method a try, since verbal cues started to become increasingly more ineffective. We decided that we’d pick a spot for her to sit while she waits patiently for her food. We had to take the time to train her to stay on the small area rug before we could start training her to control her impulses. This took about 3 days for her to stay home the rug when we were standing next to the food bin.

Our next step was training her to wait patiently and silently. At first, as soon as I opened the top, she ran towards me. I then closed the top. When she sat back on the mat, I opened again. When I could open the top without her moving I filled her bowl. This is when the next problem was discovered. Every time she heard food hit the bowl she whined. I had to empty the bowl each time. I did all of this in complete silence, which is hard for me. Feeding time took almost half an hour before she got it. After days of doing the same thing over, the time it took her to sit on the rug quietly began to increase. Now we can get food into the bowl and in its spot in one try without any whining or kibble thefts.

As the video shows, she’s not perfect but she’s trying. We are also trying to be more consistent with her. Our next step is to control them during play time. We have a long way to go.


Arden, Andrea. Dog-Friendly Dog Training. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley Pub, 2007. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

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