• Personality trait
  • Act without thinking
  • More likely to make bad choices
  • Related to to psychiatric problems
  • Lower serotonin/serotonin dopamine ratio
  • Genetic factors, but environment determines whether genes are switched on or off
  • Two types
    • Response inhibition
    • Tolerance to delayed reinforcement

Teach a dog to do nothing

Dog Impulsivity Assessment Scale

  • Ability to regulate own behaviour
  • Thresholds for aggression in response to novelty
  • General responsiveness
  • The closer the score is to 1, more impulsive
  • Must be completed by primary caregiver
  • Not valid in rescue centres
  • Bot valid for dogs under 6 months

Delayed reward paradigm

  • Small reward immediately v delayed large reward – SSRIs can switch from immediate to delayed (changing balance of serotonin)
  •  Anticipation for reward reinforcement for some dogs (delayed reward), frustrating for others


  • Seeking incentives v avoiding aversives


  • Younger dogs are more impulsive
  • No difference in gendering
  • No findings on neutering – doesn’t necessarily calm dogs down
  • Can’t change the underlying level of impulsivity without drugs, can teach how to cope

Impulsivity & frustration

  • Linked
  • Most impulsive dogs paced and tried to get out of doors – SA with dogs who showed interest in windows and doors frustrated about being left indoors – FOMO
  • More impulsive dogs throw lots of behaviours at you when shaping


  • ADHD closely linked to impulsivity
  • Impulsive dogs switch attention quicker
  • Impulsive dogs played tug for shorter periods
  • Impulsive dogs are harder to teach

Breed differences

  • Labs and collies compared, one breed not more impulsive than the other, but bigger difference in DIAS scores for collies (more variation within breeds than across breeds)

What is self control?

  • Impulsivity is a trait that can’t be changed without drugs
  • Self control is how impulsivity is expressed, whether we act on impulse
  • Trigger stacking effects self control
  • Ability to suppress an emotional response
  • Habitual
  • Use LAT game

Self Control Strength Model

  • Regularly practice acts that inhibit our mood, urges, thoughts, feeling, we can build self control

Self control & problem behaviours

  • Habitual behaviour v cued behaviour
  • Self settle v down stay
  • Self control around v leave

Importance of threshold

  • Practice wanted behaviour little and often at distance, under threshold
  • Expectancy violation – grow to expect something to happened and then change circumstances – Gove dogs distance and time to think about reaction before cueing.
  • Threshold – proximity, intensity, duration

Habits – good & bad

  • Check in – eye contact
  • Barking for attention
  • Loose lead walking
  • Jumping up
  • self settle
  • Tug/whip it/flirt pole
  • Self control around food, people, dogs, toys etc
  • Making habits in every day life


  • Whilst preparing food throw food to eating area
  • Feed whilst placing food down
  • Wait for eye contact to release to feed


  • Throw food to back of crate to encourage being away from crate door
  • Wait for calm before opening crate


  • Feed for position
  • Eye contact to go through door
  • Feed after going through door so default becomes to check in after going through door


  • Eye contact before release to get toy
  • Give toy straight back if given up when aroused

Foot on the lead

  • Control of attention
  • Vary the length of time for doing nothing

In Practice

  • Small goals
  • Keep diary of things that go right
  • Education not training
  • Set up for success, reward good stuff
  • Specific exercises
    • Self settle
    • Control around food, toys and people
  • To avoid jumping on people, use something that elicits sit/still like ball or chew, give it to the person, person then is a predictor of ball eliciting stillness, delay production of ball
  • Calm for lead – negative punishment/desensitise/pick lead up show food, pick lead and toy up at same time/wait for sit
  • Wait for eye contact/engagement