Every dog can learn some self control.  Learning self control is one of the first steps to becoming the kind of dog that you can be proud of and enjoy the company of.

A dog with self control is easier to teach polite behavior to, and will tend not to cause the kind of trouble that gets him banned from Aunt Betty’s house.  Most dogs have no idea that they have the option of sitting quietly in the face of distractions. It never even occurs to them as a valid course of action. It is our job, as good dog owners, to teach our dogs that sitting quietly is better behavior than jumping on all our guests.

Dog Training Photo

Here are six fun games you can play with your dog to help teach them self control.

Sit and Wait

This is a fun game where you ask your dog to sit and you move around him and make funny noises and he earns a treat for not moving. Think of the game ‘red light/green light’ that you played as a child. Start small with only taking one step, and build up to being able to move all around the room before your dog gets his treat.  If you’d like to read more about teaching your dog to sit click here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Tug of War

When played safely, the game of tug of war is a fun way to teach your dog self control. The rules are simple, the dog cannot grab onto the toy until told to ‘take’ or ‘tug’ and he must let go as soon as commanded to ‘drop’ or ‘out’. At no time should he allow his teeth to touch your hand. When using this game to teach self control, add in plenty of pauses where you have asked your dog to ‘drop’ and when he is still, you can ask him to ‘tug’ again. You can make it harder for him as he gains more self control by teasing him with the tug toy before giving him permission to ‘tug.’

Go to Mat

This is a great game to teach your dog if he struggles with polite greetings. It introduces your dog to a place in the house where he go to calm down, as well as making a safe place for you to send him to keep him out of your way when you are cooking, or carrying heavy things. Start very close to his bed or mat, and as he gets better at the game, build the distance he has to travel to get there.

 Leave It

Also known as Puppy Zen, teaching dog to ‘leave it’ helps you to identify things that you don’t want your dog to mess with. Start simple with training treats in your hand and build up to asking him to leave highly valuable food items that are away from you. A master of leave it can walk past a steak and leave it alone.

Flirt Pole

A Flirt Pole is basically a giant cat toy for dogs. It’s a stick and rope with a toy tied on to the end. You use the flirt pole to invite your dog to play a game of chase. In this more advanced form of Sit and Wait, you move the toy up away from the dog and hold it still and ask him to ‘Down’ or ‘Sit’ or some other cue that he knows well. Once he has complied with the cue, you can ‘Release’ him to continue playing the game.


Settle is a great thing for any dog to know.  Settle is a cue asking a dog to lie-down and calm down.  You teach a dog to do this in a quiet area and slowly challenge him as he gets better and better at it by asking for a ‘settle’ in more exciting environments.  A master at ‘settle’ can go from full bark to quietly lying down at your feet.

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