What was he thinking?
Did my husband really expect me to work at home all day with chocolate covered pretzels sitting right on the counter? And that he could have one left when he got home from work?
Just how much impulse control does he expect me to have?
I guess as much as we expect from our dogs.
Testing a Dog’s Impulse Control
I heard it before I saw her. “Sit. C’mon girl, Sit.”
I looked up from locking my bike to see an adorable hound mix excitedly greeting everyone who came out of the store.
Her people obviously loved her. Before ordering their own lunch, the man went inside to get water for his pup. Then his wife stayed outside with the dog while her husband went in to grab lunch.
Each person who entered or left the store caught the pup’s notice as she pulled and whined, wanting to greet everyone.
Over and over, her person tried to contain her enthusiasm by telling her to sit.
But it was a losing battle. Because the couple chose a table right beside the door.
The poor pup never had a chance to calm herself. It was lunch time. And people were entering and leaving every few seconds.
I wondered. Would the dog have contained her excitement more if they had sat a few feet farther from the door?
Learning About Impulse Control From Honey The Love Slut
I watched the friendly pup for a few minutes. Her love for everyone who walked by reminded me of Honey.
Honey is the first dog I’ve lived with who loves everyone. My first dogs, Agatha and Christie, defaulted to barking at every new person. My next dog, Shadow, ignored everyone.
Honey is everyone’s love slut.
Over the past four years, we’ve worked on building Honey’s impulse control. That means she could probably sit beside that door and remain calm-ish. But even now her impulse control relies on a few factors, including her
- energy level that day
- proximity to something that also interests her, say food
and, perhaps most importantly, just how tempting the person in front of her is. Some people are irresistible enough to turn Honey, even on her best day, into a fuzzy pile of quivering jelly with a floofy tail.
So much for impulse control.
Improving Impulse Control
When Honey was a puppy, we didn’t expect too much from her. She wasn’t able to control herself much around people until she turned one year old.
We also built up her skills over time.
If we had been eating lunch at the store with Honey as a young pup, we would not have chosen a seat beside the door. We would have been expecting too much from her.
I think the friendly hound mix pup’s people expected too much from her.
If they asked me, which they didn’t, I would have suggested
- taking her for a walk in the park across the street
- choosing a seat farther from the door
- and bringing a handful of yummy treats.
As for my husband who left yummy, chocolate treats on the counter? Yep, they were still around when he got home. I put them in the cupboard. Nothing like hiding things to improve impulse control.
And if the next time you meet Honey she tries to jump into your lap while you’re still standing up? She doesn’t have bad impulse control.
You’re just irresistible.
Your Turn: What is just too big a temptation for your dog? And how do you manage impulse control?