Association:  the connection or relation of ideas, feelings, sensations, etc.; correlation of elements of perception, reasoning, or the like.

I want to discuss association; I've written several articles and blogs on the subject but I feel that this is one subject that just cannot be talked about enough. 

Dogs learn through association - fact.

What does that mean exactly?  Association is the pairing of an action to a reaction.  ie:  You go to the cupboard; the leash cupboard and open the door = this means more than likely you are going for a walk. 

- you pull on your dog walking sweats instead of your work clothes = walk. 

- walking by another dog at the park = pain due to prong collar (more down further)

So what does this all equate to?  The equation is how a dog learns; through association.  Luke knows that when he hears a zipper noise from my walking pouch that it reliably means the delivery of treats.   Just as a slamming door sends him into a state of fear because he associates it with having a seizure.  

The other day I read an article about a dog bite.  A woman had been caring for a foster German Shepherd that had bitten her badly.  I don't know what had been accounted about the situation before the article I read but this article contained an email clarifying the events from the Foster Mom of the said "biter."   There had been some "issues" with the foster and her own male GSD before the event.  On that said day of the bite she let her foster out in the backyard with her two dogs.  The foster went over to her male and she immediately "corrected" (I hate that term, it should be yanked on him) the foster dog.  Meaning she gave him an almightly yank on his prong collar causing him to yelp.  After this she tried to roll him; alpha roll.  He was having none of it and sank his teeth into her arm.  18 stitches later she is rethinking the prong collar and conventional alpha type training.

The prong collar is a controversial subject; many feel that it is the lesser of two evils.  The two evils being a choke and the prong.  Yes the prong eliminates the "choking" aspect of the collar but it inflicts pain.  Yes it does and I don't care what anyone says otherwise; how else does it work if it does not inflict pain, tell me? 

The big problem with prongs; other than the fact that you inflict pain each time you yank on it is the fallout behaviors of the pain.  Think now for a moment about association.  Thinking.......................    So when your dog lunges at another dog and you yank on the prong collar; what association is caused?  That's right!!!!!!!!!!  Pain caused by the other dogs presence.  Hmmmmmmmm not good.  So when we are trying to stop our dog from going after other dogs we are actually teaching them that other dogs anywhere near us are really, really bad news. 

Most behavior "issues" can be linked to some sort of negative association, whether we planned it or not.  Often we can figure out the association but sometimes you never figure it out and simply deal with what you have, fallout.  So the next time your dog starts to act up; take a step back and dissect the behavior.  It could very well be fallout from a mis-association.