Teaching a dog impulse control or delay of gratification is one of the best ways to help a dog become calm and self- controlled.
Impulsive individuals are usually characterized by their rapid response to stimulation, accelerated action and a difficulty in the ability to inhibit responses. Individual variation in the ability to control impulses is seen in the reaction to a positive stimulation like food or in other behaviors like aggressive behavior. A more impulsive dog may bite sooner and more forcefully and escalate a fight faster than a less impulsive dog (Miklosi, 2015).
Sometimes impulsiveness is inadvertently encouraged by people. The greeting behavior of the eight-week-old puppy may be seen as cute but that same behaviour when the dog reaches 50 or more pounds and cannot control himself when visitors arrive can become a problem. An agility dog who cannot hold a stay at the start line dog needs help with impulse control.
Luckily impulse control can be taught.
Start with a handful of treats in one hand and close to make a fist and let the dog sniff the closed hand. Some dogs will paw or mouth but will eventually move away from the hand. When they do, take a treat from the fist and give the treat to the dog. The person does not need to say anything. Just allow the dog to figure it out. Repeat this until the dog understands that the reward comes when he moves his head away and waits calmly. Then reward for a longer time away (some dogs back up which is great too and worth rewarding). Once the dog understands that staying back quietly from the hand gets him or her the reward, then put your closed hand on the ground or floor and repeat the exercise. Dogs often repeat the pawing behaviour when the hand is in a different position. This exercise can be done in a variety of situations like for counter-surfing.