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Trainer of the Month- Claudia Fugazza
My name is Claudia Fugazza and I have grown up with my family dogs, who taught me how to love and respect animals. I am a PhD student in Ethology at Eötvös Lorand University (Budapest), conducting my research on social learning and imitation in dogs with Professor A. Miklosi.
I have a degree in Dog Breeding and Dog Training Techniques, a Master in Ethology of Companion Animals and a Master in Dog Training (University of Pisa, Italy).
I have also worked as a dog trainer at the Happy Dog School (Como, -Italy).
I have written a book and DVD on social learning in dog training: DO AS I DO – Il cane impara guardandoci, edited by Haqihana, translated also in Spanish, German and Russian, and there is a DVD of one of my seminars in English, edited by Tawzerdog.
I now work mainly as a researcher on dogs’ social learning and imitative abilities, and I often give seminars on Do As I Do in dog training. I also work in project for the return of wolves on the Swiss Alps – the Daphnis project – where the aim is to create new tools for preventing predation on livestock.
Although my main interest has always been the study of wolves and dogs’ behaviour, I previously received a M.Sc. in law at the University of Insubria (Como, Italy) and worked as a lawyer. When I was 28 I decided to dedicate myself to my real passion: the study of dogs and wolves ethology and now I am lucky enough to do this as a job.
TOP FIVE TRAINING TIPS
1. Short sessions (no more than 6 exercises).
2. Only positive methods.
3. Work only if the dog is willing.
4. Good motivation.
5. Do not have too many fixed rules because every dog and every owner is unique and may require unique solutions.
Of course my favourite training exercise is the Do as I Do. I’ll describe here briefly how to teach dogs the ‘copy rule’, that is ‘Do it!’ means ‘copy the action I have shown!’
Phase 1: Training with three known behaviours
- At the beginning of each exercise, the owner asks the dog to stay and pay attention using cues known by the dog.
- The owner performs one of three actions that are well known by the dog under verbal cue
- After completing the action, the owner takes up his original standing position in front of the dog and asks the dog to perform the corresponding action (“do it!”), followed by the old cue corresponding to that behaviour.
- The dog receives a reward only if he performs an action that corresponds to the demonstrated one.
This is the same as phase 1, but three more familiar actions are added to the training sessions.
Once these two phases are completed, the dog is ready to learn new behaviours with the Do as I Do method, observing his owner’s demonstration and copying it!
MY TRAINING PHILOSOPHY
My training philosophy has its roots in the scientific discoveries of dog’s social cognitive abilities. We know that dogs have a predisposition to learn socially from humans, but this ability had never been used in dog training, as all training methods have relied on individual associative learning. It was in order to utilise these previously untapped learning skills that I devised the Do as I Do training method. Now we have some very positive scientific results on its effectiveness and, finally, we have incorporated a dog’s social predisposition into his training.
However, I do not think that Do as I Do is a substitute for other training methods; it is simply another tool in the hands of the dog trainers, who will decide what to use in each specific training situation.
We are currently some studies to assess the type of tasks can be most effectively trained using the Do as I Do method, and we hope that our results will help dog trainers in their daily practice.
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