This is Anja. She has a very intense ball drive. She will do anything for her ball and will run through fire to get it. When she sees her ball, nothing in the world matters.
When we play ball, which is her favorite game in the world, l always use the opportunity to exercise her impulse control.
I think of it like teaching her the meaning of the stop sign.
I need her to learn how to take a moment to pause when she is very excited so she does not just get in high drive and fly through every single intersection at high speed.
Knowing the meaning of the stop sign is really important. At the stop sign, a dog should stop and think about the right course of action; if he is not sure, he should look to his handler for direction.
A dog who does not know how to stop will follow his impulse and never think about what the right decision should be. This usually results in a dog doing something he is not supposed to (e.g. barking, charging, biting, jumping...etc).
Teaching our dogs how to read the stop sign is not difficult.
We can always use duration work and recall exercises to teach our dogs how to take a pause and how to cool down when they look like they have smoke coming out from their ears.
The ball is not just something to give your dog some exercise--it represents distractions and strong temptations.
The ball is a squirrel, it is the other barking dog, the running and screaming child, the deer, the skunk, the person who wants to hug your dog, it is food on the ground, an off leash dog, a cat, a racoon,...etc. It represents all things he would have impulsively gone after if he does not know what a stop sign is.
Get your dog to wait for you to throw the ball, get him to wait before you release him to fetch the ball, call him back as he runs to get the ball, ask for eye contact with the ball right in front of him on the ground, play ball with another dog as he watches in a down stay, and put him in a long down stay when he is ready to catch the ball are all effective ways to show him the meaning of the stop sign.
Little things like this can really change your relationship with your dog. Now your dog knows he should stay tuned in to you even when he is very excited. When he is aroused and excited, he will now have the capability to take a moment to stop and think in order to make the right decision; rather than just follow his instinct impulsively and does something he is not supposed to.
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