Do As I Do: Dog training the effective way

Do As I Do may be the new best way of training your dog – a method that dogs want to use – and is proving to be more effective at training dogs, especially where complex commands or behaviour patterns are required.

So what is ‘Do As I Do’? Well, believe it or not, most dogs are copy cats! (Or should that be Copy Dogs!) Copying behaviour is the basis of ‘Do As I Do’ training. Before looking at that, here’s a brief look at current forms of dog training…

How do you train your dog? That’s if you train your dog at all?

Inflight
Dogs can be trained
© Adrian Jones | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Oldies not always goodies

Are you ‘old school’, commanding your dog to obey, perhaps punishing them if they don’t? While many dog trainers claim to have success with punitive methods of training, monitoring owner and dog behaviour has shown us that ‘techniques’ such as growling at your dog, holding your dog down or staring at your dog may result in your dog displaying aggressive behaviour towards you, especially if they have an overall problem with aggression anyway.

We also know that dogs trained this way are less likely to interact with strangers (which, in some cases is not a bad thing) and less playful than dogs who have been trained using rewards. Small dogs are also more likely to suffer from anxiety when punishment has been used.

The school of hope

Perhaps you are more into the school of hope. You hope your dog will eventually behave themselves. They’ll grow out of chewing, jumping up or pulling on the lead. You’ve said “No!” to your dog but they still don’t behave the way you want them to.

As I always ask owners, “Have you actually taught your dog how you would like them to behave?” Dogs behave the way that is right for dogs, whatever gets them their reward or desired goal. Chewing relieves toothache or anxiety. Pulling on the lead gets them to the park faster. If you want them to behave in a different way, you have to show them how, or at least reinforce any small glimpses of desirable behaviour that you encounter.

Motivational methods

Dogs love to be rewarded. All sorts of things can be rewards to dogs – treats, your pats, a toy or simply praise “Good Boy” “Good Girl”. Dogs that are trained with motivational methods are more likely to perform well at future tasks.

We can even teach dogs to wait for their reward so that they don’t need one every time they perform a command. Clicker training does just this. The dog hears the ‘click’ and knows a reward will follow at some point in the future.

clicker training
Clicker training

We know that in all types of training consistency is important. Setting rules and sticking to them will result in higher levels of obedience.

Dogs get the point

Dogs may be so well adapted to living with humans that they not only want to obey and please us but they actively understand our communication. There has been much research in recent years looking at how dogs follow our pointing gestures. Try it with your dog. Do they look where you point?

Do As I Do

Since dogs are so good at following our gestures, it makes sense that they should be able to copy our behaviours too. One researcher, Topal, taught his dog the command “Do as I do’ and to copy his behaviour, starting a whole new school of dog training.

Obviously there are limitation in what your dog can do. You may be a brilliant and talented piano player but your dog will never reach your musical genius. Your dog may, however, be able to fetch the newspaper or put an item in the rubbish bin, purely by you showing him what to do. Think about it, your dog probably already copies you:

  • When the phone rings or the doorbell goes and you rush to answer, does your dog rush with you?
  • When you dig up your garden, your dog does too?
  • When you relax on the sofa, so does your dog?
© Fotograf77 Dreamstime Stock Photos
Is your dog a copy cat?
© Fotograf77 Dreamstime Stock Photos

A recent study has compared this ‘Do as i do’ method of training to clicker training to see how effectively dogs learned. Simple commands were equally effective with both methods but the ‘Do as I do’ method was more successful in teaching dogs more complex instruction, such as two part commands. (Pick up the rubbish and put it in the bin.)

So, perhaps if you despair of your dog ever learning, or you just need to shape their behaviour or you’d like your dog to fetch you a beer from the fridge (!) you can rethink your training methods and begin by showing your dog just what to do.

Love to hear if you have ever behaved like a dog, just to show your dog what to do.

Do As I Do

More on training at Dr Jo’s website Pet Problems Solved

     References

  1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159108003717
  2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159111000876
  3. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159110000262
  4. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1558787807001219
  5. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0023969013000325
  6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159114000264

 

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8 comments

  1. WOW! way too many years ago we taught our first dog Cosmo to ring a bell on the sliding door to be let out. worked brilliantly… poss helped cos he was a very smart poodle… but good to know it’s now become a proven and non violent training method. will try with the new rescue gal! thanks

  2. I actually had a discussion on this very topic a couple of weeks ago with two colleagues. I have no problem with dogs learning by imitation when they participate in desired tasks with the handler or with other dogs. Army EDD dogs played with this type of training in the early 70’s. Likewise ‘do as I do’ may be conditioned the same as giving any hand signal. My question is did the study cover skills learnt purely by observation? In my personal experience learning by pure observation is limited to the most simple of tasks.

  3. I’m very lazy in training my dog but I loved my dog. I only need him do basic things but thanks to this article it helped me a lot. I think the motivational method works very well for me dogs like to be rewarded every time they do something for their masters. But I will sincerely follow the do as I do method and will recommend it to our supporters at http://shootthedog.com.au/

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