Should old dog trainers learn new tricks? The efficiency of the Do as I do method and shaping/clicker training method to train dogs

Claudia Fugazza, Ádám Miklósi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)


Despite evidence that dogs are skilful in acquiring information socially from humans and are able to copy the actions of a human demonstrator, formal dog-training methods have traditionally relied only on individual learning (operant and classical conditioning). We compared the efficiency of the 'Do as I do' method (Topál et al., 2006), which relies on social learning, with that of a training method that relies on individual learning (shaping/clicker training, Skinner, 1951) to teach dogs three different kinds of object-related actions. In order to control for the comparability of the previous training experiences of our subjects, we tested experienced dog-owner dyads that had previously achieved a certificate for either type of training (Do as I do and shaping/clicker training). They were tested upon training three different novel actions: simple, complex and sequences of two actions, in three separate sessions, using the training method they were certified for. In each case the owners had 15. min for accomplishing the task of training the dogs to perform the predetermined action. We used the latency of first occurrence and the number of dyads that were successful within 15. min as measures of training success. While we did not find a significant difference between the two training methods with regard to simple actions, we found that subjects using the Do as I do method outperformed those using shaping/clicker training in the case of complex actions and sequences of two actions. This study is the first to formalize a method based on the Do as I do protocol for training dogs and to assess its efficiency by comparing it with shaping/clicker training. We acknowledge that many factors can influence the success of different training paradigms; however, these results provide new insights for the applied dog training techniques by suggesting the usefulness of social learning in addition to the widely used methods that rely on individual associative learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-61
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014



  • Do as I do
  • Dog
  • Social learning
  • Training efficiency
  • Training method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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