Claudia Fugazza’s “Do As I Do” DVD (available from Tawzer Dog Videos, eight hours, $99, tawzerdog.com, 208-639-1321) does an excellent job of explaining her training program, and includes numerous clips of dogs learning the method at a seminar. Fugazza suggests that there are several benefits to be gained from implementing the training, including:
– Ease of training object-related actions
– Improve the dog’s attentiveness toward owner
– Enhance the relationship between dog and owner
– Exercise the dog’s cognitive abilities
The technique is taught in three phases. In Phase 1, the dog learns the “imitation rule” with three known behaviors. In Phase 2, he generalizes the rule to other known behaviors. In Phase 3, the trainer uses the rule to teach the dog new behaviors.
Social Learning: Acquiring information or behaviors from the observation of or interaction with others.
Imitation: Science considers this a “special” ability but there is no single agreed-upon definition. Therefore there is no agreement about which species possess the ability to imitate.
Functional Imitation: The dog reaches the same goal, and given the species-specific limitations, he does it in a similar way. For example, if you pick up an object with your hands and cue your dog to “Do it!” he will pick the object up with his mouth, not his paws.
Culture: Information that is socially acquired from other individuals through social learning processes and that may modify the behavior of an individual (Fugazza raises the intriguing question about whether dogs, by this definition, have a culture. One would think the answer is yes.)
Characteristics of a Species that Favor Social Learning:
– The general level of sociability
– The presence of parental care
– The tendency to explore and play that affect the chance to make innovations that can be socially transmitted
Fugazza is continuing her research into our dogs’ ability to learn through imitation, and invites dog owners to participate in her Do As I Do research. If you would like to participate you can contact her at: Claudia.email@example.com or visit her website for more information: apprendimentosociale.it/en
She leaves us with this one last thought, an invitation to explore further the world of canine cognition:
“The dog’s mind is more flexible than we think.”