Do as I Do: Using Social Learning to Train Dogs [With DVD] Paperback – 30 Jun 2014


 Click on the cover above to go to this book at

‘Do as I Do’ is a groundbreaking little book, born of research into social learning at the ethology department of Budapest University, Hungary. In his introduction, Adam Miklosi, head of the department, writes that dog training ‘should be about the synchronization of the behavior of dog and owner’, rather than just focusing on the dog. This is what newer guides to raising dogs, like ‘Life Skills for Puppies’(1) and ‘Helping Minds Meet’ (2) aim to achieve, but ‘Do As I Do’ is truly innovative in focusing on a particular aspect of social learning, harnessing the desire of dogs to copy us, so that it becomes a talent, rather than a nuisance, as when dogs ‘help’ us with gardening.

Chapter 1 tells us how the author, Claudia Fugazza, became interested in canine imitative skills, while Chapter 2 gives a brief overview of social learning in dogs, both learning from other dogs, and from humans. Imitation is just one type of social learning. Other types include ‘contagion’, for example humans and dogs sometimes yawn because we see someone else yawn, as though it were ‘catching’. Curiously, dogs may yawn because their owner does, though they may also yawn for other reasons, like being a bit stressed. Then there’s ‘goal emulation’, where a watching dog or human learns about a goal from another dog or human, but not how to achieve it. Though Fugazzi doesn’t mention this, border collies, for example, can work out what the shepherd wants, but they may decide how to achieve it, rather than relying on detailed instructions from the shepherd. Chapter 3 gives a detailed account of the ‘Do As I Do’ training protocol, while Chapter 4 shows how to extend this training to new behaviours.  Chapter 5 is a troubleshooting guide, and the last chapter gives suggestions on how to fit the method into an overall training programme.  Fugazza comments that this method is especially handy for teaching dogs interactions with objects ( like opening a cupboard door, or ringing a bell). There’s also a DVD so you can watch dogs learning through this method, as well as reading about it.

A later study by Fugazza and Miklosi shows that ‘Do As I Do’ can be a more efficient way of training dogs than clicker training and shaping (3).  They also found that dogs can remember the tasks a long time after they first learnt them (4). Though dog owners have long known that dogs like to copy us, initially, academic studies of social learning focused on how animals learn from others of the same species. Slabbert and Rasa, for example, studied  pups with a mother skilled at drug detecting, and these pups later performed better at the task (5). This study was published in 1997, with a suggestion that the finding could be incorporated into training. There has been a lot of research on social learning since then, including on how dogs can learn from humans as well as from other dogs. However, it wasn’t until ‘Do As I Do’ came out, that social learning came to be taken seriously by pet dog trainers.

A great plus of this method, as Miklosi remarks, is that it improves the relationship between owner and dog, by focusing on how we interact rather than on the dog as an individual. All too often, pet dog training guides focus on the dog as an individual, but dogs are social animals. They learn from us as they grow up, just as kids learn from their parents. Dogs also learn from one another.  Sometimes trainers assume that  classical and operant conditioning give a full explanation of how dogs learn. However, experienced owners and trainers are intuitively aware of the importance of social learning, for example they know that dogs can teach both good and bad habits to one another. We also know that if we’re uptight, we can transfer this feeling to our dogs through ‘contagion’, and that ‘contagion’ can be helpful  - for example, if we greet a human stranger in a friendly, relaxed way, a dog with us is more likely to feel friendly and relaxed with that stranger.

One small grumble about this book, then, is that the explanation of what ‘social learning’ is too brief, and reads a bit like notes taken for a university exam.  That’s fine if you’re already very familiar with the topic, but it isn’t a lot of help for someone who’s interested in the topic, but isn’t familiar with the concepts or the jargon (currently approved ‘technical terms’). We see in our everyday lives that dogs are very much influenced by their social settings. Experienced owners, for example, know the value of walking youngsters with well-behaved older dogs who can teach them social skills, and the risks of letting youngsters learn bad habits from mixing with older dogs that haven’t learnt how to behave well. Shepherds have long known that experienced sheepdogs can be a great help in training novices. True, this book isn’t about social learning in general, it’s about a specific, innovative method based on one aspect of social learning. However, precisely because it’s innovative, because it takes a new direction for people used to operant and classical conditioning, that  it’s worth grounding this introduction to a new approach with a more accessible account of what social learning is about.

The author has certainly done what she set out to do, in that she has set out a new training method which has aroused a lot of interest among dog people. In time perhaps she can write a broader guide to social learning which is useful to anyone who wants to raise a dog.

Review by Alison Lever, 2015

Acknowledgement: Thank you to Tiffani Howell for comments on a previous draft of this review


1) Zulch, Helen and Daniel Mills, B. (2012) Life Skills for Puppies.  Hubble and Hattie, Dorset, UK

2) Zulch, Helen and Daniel Mills, B. (2015) Helping Minds Meet. Veloce Publishing, Dorset, UK

3) Fugazza C., Miklósi Á. (Forthcoming) Social learning in dog training: the effectiveness of the Do as I do method compared to shaping/clicker training. Applied Animal Behaviour Science

4) Fugazza C., Pogány Á., Miklósi Á. (2015) Do as I … Did! Long-term memory of imitative actions in dogs (Canis familiaris) Animal Cognition DOI: 10.1007/s10071-015-0931-8

5) Slabbert J.M. and Rasa O.A. (1997) Observational learning of an acquired maternal behaviour pattern by working dog pups: An alternative training method? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 53 110: 318-329