When one animal copies the appearance, actions, or sounds of another animal, the first animal is called a MIMIC. You can think of it as a copycat! Usually, an animal will MIMIC another to avoid predators. If it can trick its enemy into thinking it is something less tasty or more dangerous, it will survive. Mimicry of action and appearance is quite common in the animal world. Generaly the "mimic" copies only the outword appearance of another animal which usually has toxic means of defence. This mimicry is used to prevent certain predators due to the association with the toxins.

Many animals also learn through mimicry, or as it is sometimes called "social learning".

One of the most influential learning theories, the Social Learning Theory, was formulated by Albert Bandura. Social Learning has pieces of both operant and classical learning theories but is more in the realm of natural learning then contrived learning. With humans, Bandura posited that there were three ways that social learning occurred.

  • A Live Model, which includes an actual person performing a behavior.
  • A Verbal Instruction Model, which involves telling of details and descriptions of a behavior.
  • A Symbolic Model, which includes either a real or fictional character demonstrating the behavior via movies, books, television, radio, online media and other media sources.

Dogs of course, cannot read and although I've seen a few watch TV I seriously doubt they could learn from it. Dogs do learn their communication signals, their body language, through watching other dog do certain movements and actions under particular circumstance. These action mostly communicate an emotion, a warning, or an intention. Puppies try these signals out on each other and hone these skills just like a human baby learns to walk and talk by watching mom and dad and possibly other siblings. Studies are now showing that animals can learn from other animals, even animals not of their own species, through imitaion. In some cases, with complex behaviors, learning by imitation may be quicker and more efficient then marker based or other reward based training methods.

Social learning has recently made a splash in the dog training world with a book by Claudia Fugazza Do as I do, a new training method based on social learning. Claudia, as far as I know, has been researching this method for a few years (Fugazza & Miklósi, 2014) and has discovered that teaching by imitation can be faster and more reliable then other methods. Her book outlines a method of teaching using imitation or what is called social learning.

The method described in Fugazza's book and DVD set is as follows

  1. Demonstrate the new behavior.
  2. Give the new cue
  3. Give the cue 'do-it'
  4. The dog should attempt to perform the new behavior that you have demonstrated
  5. Reward!!

According to Fugazza, you can eventually dispense with the "Do It" and the demonstration and just use the cue. I've found that in most cases, cases where the dog is not incredibly anxious or fearful, dogs learn fast. I've had to add the cue very early on in the repititions and the "Do It" becomes confusing. Once the dog understands the "do it" cue however, mimicing what you did in demonstration is pretty solid.

In Training

Standard Parkour



Jumpers Parkour

Creative Parkour