Last week I finally ordered the book Do as I Do: Using Social Learning to Train Dogs, by Claudia Fugazza. I’d had my eyes on it for a while, but I felt it was rather expensive (20 €). So it was just sitting in my Amazon basket. However, on Sunday Amazon pointed out to me that it had dropped € 6 in price, so I went ahead and bought it.
As the title implies, the book explains how to train dogs using social learning, that is, by imitation. The main steps of the training method are the following:
- Teach a command (e.g. “Do It”) that the dog will understand as “copy what I’ve just done”.
- Perform a behaviour
- Ask the dog to it (“Do It”)
- Praise and reward the dog when he performs it correctly
In order to be able to do step 1, it is necessary that dog already knows some basic commands, at least three, which can be easily imitated by a person. So, for example, “sit” would be a risky command from my point of view because we sit very differently from dogs. In the book, Claudia Fugazza uses “down”, “twist” (the dog spins around his body axis) and “table” (jumps on a table). For the “down” Claudia imitates the way dogs lie down.
Once the dog responds well to these commands, it’s time to teach him “Do It”. To do so, the trainer performs one of the behaviours that the dog already knows and then asks the dog to repeat it by saying “Do It”. If the dog repeats it without further guidance, it’s time for lots of praise. Otherwise, the trainer gives the command that the dog is used to, so he knows what to do. This has to be repeated for the three commands that the dog knows well, using them in varying order. At one point the dog will imitate the human just after hearing “Do It”.
But we can take the approach even further. What is really interesting is not only the idea that we can ask dogs to copy ourselves, but also that these new behaviours, which the dog has initally learnt by copying, can then be recalled by giving them their own command. This is done by:
- Performing the behaviour
- Giving a cue for the behaviour (e.g. “tunnel”, if the dog has to go through a tunnel)
- Asking the dog to copy it (“Do It”)
- Rewarding and praising the dog if he copies it correctly
At one point, the dog will probably perform the behaviour without the need for step 3. At this point we know that he has learnt (or has started to understand) the associated command.
The book is pretty short, around 80 pages. It’s very easy to read and follow, and it can be read in just one sitting. It also includes a DVD, which I found really useful. It includes videos of the author and her book India, and how to teach the command “Do It”. Then she goes on to apply the techniques in the book to teach new behaviours.
The last part includes video snippets from Claudia’s seminars where the students teach their own dogs. I found this part very useful and interesting because you can see the typical mistakes that people make when applying the method and what things to be aware of.
Overall, I found this book an excellent addition to my dog-book collection and worth the 14€ I paid for it. It’s also probably worth the original price of $21.95 , as indicated on the back cover.
Unfortuntately, I haven’t been able yet to train Nix using the “Do As I Do” method, as I still have work to do improve her response some commands. However, I’m really looking forward to it and my intention is to report on the progress here.
Have any of you tried this approach to dog training? Have you found it useful?
Fugazza, Claudia. Do As I Do: Using Social Learning to Train Dogs. 1st Edition. Wenatchee, USA: Dogwise, 2014.