First and foremost, I am not a parent and I’ve only been living the doggy life for 10months. So the following is all my opinion from what I have seen in my own personal life as a dog owner and uncle to many nieces and nephews.
Channel 4 (UK) aired a show titled “Train Your Baby Like A Dog” on August 20th at 8pm. This show sparked massive controversy over the dehumanisation of children due to the unorthodox methods to parenting.
Prior to its actual release, there were campaigns to cancel the shows broadcast and people criticising its methods and message.
As a dog owner, I was very curious to watch this as I have had many conversations with friends and family about the struggles I have with two puppies and sometimes their responses have been “it’s just like having a baby”.
So the irony that through day to day conversation, I hear the comparison with our dogs to babies is quite common for us, but then when a show is released with the comparison for a baby with a dog everyone is up in arms.
That being said, I wanted to discuss my own personal opinions with the concept in general and the methods that were used in the show.
Train Your Baby Like A Dog
Dog trainer and animal behaviourist Jo-Rosie Haffenden has been training dogs for many years. From watching the show you can clearly see she’s very good at what she does. She is a trainer of dog trainers and her dogs are extremely well behaved.
In the show, she is introduced to two struggling families where one family is struggling with a 3yr old boys temper tantrums and then the other is struggling with sleeping by herself in her cot.
For the 3yr old boys tantrums, her techniques are simply identifying when a tantrum is about to happen then diagnose why. Once the trigger has been identified she implements a technique whereby they simply change the environment in someway. Whether that be offering a task or challenge to keep the child occupied or removing them from that environment altogether.
With regards to sleep training the younger baby, the mother in the show was having no success when she was using the ‘cry it out’ method, which is in itself very controversial even in the parenting world. Jo-Rosie identified where sleep training animals also have the same obstacles and that comfort and trust needs to be established before leaving any baby alone.
By the end of the show, it was revealed that the training methods she proposed did in fact have successes and that the 3yr old boy had less tantrums and the young baby girl was in fact sleeping in her cot.
I must state again, I am by no means a dog training expert nor a child raising expert. I will simply be drawing from my own experiences as an uncle and dog owner.
That being said, I feel my position allows me to be unbiased and overall I feel the title of the show is of more controversy than the actual tactics used.
What I saw in the TV show was a comparison drawn between dogs and children on an emotional and communication level.
To someone whom doesn’t have pets, they most likely just see them a living and breathing animal which may, or may not be cute.
What they fail to realise is dogs are extremely emotional beings. They do experience love, loneliness, anger and fear. I would argue in some cases, they feel these emotions on a higher level than any human.
So what did I learn from this show?
Raising a child and training a dog requires you to be understanding, empathetic, patient and observant with your communication.
It’s easy to quickly assume as humans we are the more superior being and that we have a greater level of communicating.
But in reality a new parent will struggle to identify what a baby is trying to communicate with a cry just as much as a new dog owner will struggle with a bark.
Equally a baby or child will struggle to understand what is good and what is bad, just as much as a dog would. Communication works both ways and if you can’t communicate what is good and bad to your baby or dog, then how will they ever learn?
Jo-Rosie promotes the treat based training whereby rewards or treats are offered for good behaviour. Using treats is just a simple way of communicating praise to either the dog or child. Letting them know this is what is desired.
If you take the title out of the equation and understand that most pet owners love their pets like they are their children, you may feel differently by the training methods used.
Likewise every child, just like every dog is different. They have different temperaments, learning ability and so forth. So these methods may not suit your child, but they may suit some children.
When a child’s communication ability increases, you will naturally have to adjust your parenting style anyway and at that point dog training techniques may not be useful to you.
But if you take away the term ‘dog training techniques’, you have jobs whereby you get paid more commission on top of your salary for performing better? Is that not the same as a treat? Do you feel like you’re being treated as a dog?
So all in all, my stance on the show is that you do whatever works for you and what you feel comfortable with.
If your techniques as parent is working out for you, be happy! But if not, there are alternative methods and in this show, there are some ideas presented to you.
But no need to setup campaigns to pull this show from being aired.
Anyone who doesn’t agree with the message or methods used, simply don’t use them.
Click Here to watch the show on 4OD. It will be online for 25 more days, so catch it whilst you can.