Waiting – Impulse Control in Dogs

April 12, 2012 by megan

The longitudinal Stanford Marshmallow Study has shown that there is a correlation between a person's ability to delay gratification as child and their eventual SAT scores, ability to perform well in school, and ability to handle stress. With our pets, a dog's ability to delay gratification, or control her impulses, can determine whether or not she is a welcome--at the dog park, a friend's home, or in your building.  Good impulse control is a necessary skill in the city, and the good news is that you can teach your dog to develop that skill.  A few minutes of some simple exercises every day can vastly improve the quality of your life and your dog's life.  Lexie and I particularly enjoy the one the ASPCA calls "Airplane Sit-Stay." We play it just about every day, in some version or another.
I've compiled my own list of a dozen activities and situations that are at least 100 times easier with a dog has good impulse control and can delay gratification:
1. Walking nicely on a leash.
2. Walking through doors together.
3. Passing delicious food on the sidewalk.
4. Dropping an entire bowl of meaty spaghetti sauce on the floor (yes, this has happened in our house).
5. Dropping something less messy, but more dangerous on the floor, like a precription pill or a whole bottle of ibuprofen (also has happened at our house).
6. Sitting nicely at the cafe.
7. Enjoying a meal at a restaurant with outdoor seating (I know--it's illegal, please don't tell the DOHMH!).
8. Visiting our friends' home for an weekend stay, and being invited back again.
9. Visiting our family in NJ.  On Thanksgiving. With turkey AND ham.
10. Running into the bodega real quick to get whatever.
11. Watching all four seasons of Battlestar Galactica in two weeks (even my spouse had less patience with that than Lexie did!).
12. Typing this blog post.