How to recognise associational behaviour in your dog

It is important to be aware when teaching any exercise to your pet that it will learn to recognise sets of associations that surround the event rather than just what you are focusing on.

If you always teach your dog to lie down for his dinner in the kitchen and he begins to lie down before every meal when asked, you may think he knows what ‘down’ means.

However if you ask him to lie down outside he would not respond to your command.

This is because he doesn’t recognise the command as it bears no association to what he has learned it for, i.e. having his dinner, so he does not understand what you are asking of him.

He has to be taught the command and what is expected of him in different areas inside and outside the home.

You can teach him different positions in different places so that he recognises the voice cue rather than the association, and if heard anywhere he will respond knowing there is a reward if he gets it right.

At first it is advisable to keep the sessions short and vary them, keeping his attention at all times.

Warning: do not attempt to teach any training sessions if the dog has just eaten or if he is tired.