Imitation-based Dog Training Program for Children with Developmental Disabilities

“Do as I Do” Dog Training Program

In partnership with the Children & Youth with Disabilities Lab, we are doing a research study examining the use of the family dog in animal-assisted interventions for children with developmental disabilities.

We hope that incorporating the family dog in an imitation-based dog-assisted intervention will improve physical activity and social well-being for children with developmental disabilities, and improve the bond between the dog and their child.

What is “Do as I Do”?

“Do as I Do” (DAID) is an imitation-based dog training method that is fun for the dog and for the trainer!

DAID uses positive reinforcement-based techniques to train dogs to copy the behavior of their child owner upon hearing the verbal cue ‘Do it’, similar to teaching a dog the rules behind the game ‘Simon Says’.

Once this rule has been learned, children can demonstrate new actions and use the cue ‘Do it’ to prompt the same action in their dog. For example, the child can demonstrate walking or jumping over a dog agility jump, ask the dog to “do it”, and the dog will do the same thing! Or, the child can teach the dog to manipulate an object by demonstrating the behavior themselves.


A Dog’s Eye View of the Program


Your dog will join you and your kiddo at one initial and two follow-up assessments.  During these assessments, your dog will engage in a dog behavior assessment where they are asked to show us their current skills (e.g., sit, stay). They will also be exposed to some stimuli that mimic things the dog would encounter in everyday life (e.g., a realistic stuffed dog). These assessments give us a chance to make sure that your dog is (still) feeling comfortable participating in the study.

Dogs (and children) that are randomly assigned to the intervention condition will visit us for a total of ten 50-minute training sessions spread out over 2-5 weeks. Our skilled research assistants will help your child learn about dog body language and handling and the dog will learn new cool behaviors, through the use of positive reinforcement (reward-based) training techniques.

Possible benefits for your dog include increased mental and physical activity and an improved bond with their child.

Upcoming programs in Winter, Spring, and Summer 2023

If you are interested in participating and want more information, click here.