A room full of dog-trainer teams looks on as the trainer in the center of the room walks up to a ball, picks it up, and drops it. “Do it!” she says, and her dog, miraculously, copies her exact actions. The room erupts in cheers and laughter – not because it’s funny, but because it’s just so amazing.
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After thousands of years of domestication, we sometimes feel as though we’ve got training dogs all figured out. This new training method shows us that there’s still facets of a dog’s ability to learn that are still undiscovered.
Many people have suspected that dogs are capable of social learning – that is, the ability to learn by watching another dog or a human. Some puppy owners are able to train their new dog more quickly by training alongside their older dogs. Others have observed their dogs teaching themselves to open doors or turn on faucets by watching their owner.
But never before has social learning been harnessed as a technique to teach dogs new, complex skills.
In Hungarian animal behavior researcher Claudia Fugazza’s book, Do As I Do: Using Social Learning to Train Dogs, you can learn the exact steps you’ll need to take to show your dog how to learn tricks by watching you. The book comes with an instructional DVD to accompany the training guide.
What Social Learning Research Is Teaching Us About Dogs
Claudia Fugazza first became interested in researching social learning in dogs when she discovered her Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, Siria, had learned to turn on the bathroom sink faucet. Leading up to this, she turned the faucet on for her dog each day. Siria had watched Fugazzi turn the faucet on many times. The reward of a refreshing drink motivated her to try it for herself.
The only previously published research she could find on the topic was the study of Philip, an assistance dog who could successfully move a bottle from one table to another, choosing the same table as his owners even when there were many options and room for error. But this was an observation of just one dog. It did not prove that all dogs were capable of social learning.
In Fugazza’s research, she was able to create a formal method for teaching social learning, and successfully taught the technique to many dogs. Now, there are “Do As I Do” seminars around the world, and hundreds of dogs have mastered the technique.
Fugazzi’s further research showed that dogs have better memory than we previously thought. She and her team took the dogs behind a screen between the demonstration and the command “do it” – the dogs could replicate behaviors that they watched, even after five minutes.
How It Works
Before you begin, your dog will need to know a few verbal commands.These tricks should be easy for your to perform, too. You’ll have your dog “stay” while you perform the action, then you’ll say “do it,” and, if successful, the dog will copy you.
At first, you will have to teach your dog to copy tricks they already know. You’ll need to use the verbal command after you say “do it” to help them grasp the concept.
When your dog gets the hang of copying known tricks, you’ll eventually be able to demonstrate entirely new tricks. Dogs love social learning, and enjoy the experience in short sessions with tons of positive reinforcement.
Studying Your Dog’s Behavior At Home
There’s still so much more you can learn about your dog by experimenting with new training methods. It’ll take a few weeks for your dog to get the hang of Do As I Do training. Once they do, you can try teaching them behavior chains – tricks that involve multiple actions in a sequence – and tricks that are difficult to teach with other methods, but can easily be demonstrated.
Learn exactly how to teach your dog new tricks with social learning with the Do As I Do training guide by Claudia Fugazza. This book is quickly becoming a staple on dog trainer’s bookshelves, and you’re sure to learn a lot from the commentary, research studies and step-by-step training instructions.
This book is great for experts, but it’s easy to read even if you’re new to dog training.
Grab your copy on Amazon to get started!