Self-Control, what is it?
Self-control is where a person or animal stops themselves from doing something. For example: if you have a sugar craving you may stop yourself from going to the store to buy sugary snacks.
Unfortunately, nobody is born with self-control. Self-control is a learned skill. There are some who have amazing self-control and some who do not. This does not make one person or animal better than another person or animal. This just means that some people have to work at it a little harder.
How can I tell if my dog is lacking self-control?
Dogs who lack self-control are the ones that jump up, bolt out of doorways, steal food from counters etc. You may also notice your dog not backing off when another dog tells him/her to, gets easily frustrated on a leash around other dogs etc.
Some people confuse lack of self-control with aggression. If your dog is getting frustrated on a leash it could seem like he is wanting to attack another dog. It could be very alarming to some people. If your dog is fine around other dogs and people off leash but appears aggressive when on a leash it might very well just be a self-control issue.
How do I help my dog gain better self-control?
One of the best ways of teaching dogs self-control is by doing a group class with them. With all of the information and extra distractions, you will learn how to best deal with your individual dog. Usually a beginner or puppy group class offers behaviors that help with self-control like stay, leave it, go to the mat, etc.
Another way is by playing crate games. Ones that I highly recommend are Susan Garretts Crate Games. She has a DVD all about crate games and they work amazingly well for teaching self-control.
Interacting with other dogs. Allowing your dog some dog-dog interaction can help your dog learn how to interact safely with other dogs. They will learn to back off when told to, how to tell another dog to back off, how to play gently with a more timid dog, etc. Lots of supervision and intervening when necessary can go a long way to learning self-control.
Working with your dog a few minutes a day and supervise closely when interacting with other dogs will go a long way in building self-control. It may seem like a daunting task but tackle it one day at a time and you won’t even remember the day your dog didn’t have amazing self-control.