Wednesday 18 September 2019

Train Your Baby Like a Dog: Petition calls for cancellation of controversial new Channel 4 programme

Train Your Baby Like a Dog, Channel 4. PIC: Plimsoll Productions
Train Your Baby Like a Dog, Channel 4. PIC: Plimsoll Productions
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

A petition has been launched calling for the cancellation of a new Channel 4 programme, 'Train Your Baby Like a Dog'.

The one hour programme, due to air on Channel 4 on Tuesday, August 20, sees dog trainer and animal behaviourist Jo-Rosie Haffenden applying dog training techniques to two young children.

According to Channel 4, Ms Haffenden has applied these techniques to her own children and believes that rather than telling children what not to do, she aims to help movitae them and help them understand what to do.

"Jo-Rosie wants exhausted parents to turn their backs on discipline, and the naughty-step and instead embrace positive dog training for children," explains the release.

“If everyone parented their child the same way we’re training our dogs, we’d end up with much more caring and compassionate human beings," added Ms Haffenden.

The techniques are applied to two children in the pilot episode, the first of which is Greydon (3) who has "daily tantrums and violent outbursts" which are impacting negatively on the lives of his parents Jo and Garrett.

A second child, Dulcie (18 months), is also subjected to the training as her mother Rosie struggles to get her to sleep in her own cot.

However, concerned parents have taken to Change.Org to start a petition calling for the cancellation of the programme.

Emma Dalmayne, CEO of Autistic Inclusive Meets, started the petition, which now has almost 18,000 signatures of a 25,000 goal, as she believes the training may have a negative impact on children.

Ms Dalmayne references the fact that Jo-Rosie uses "clicker training normally used on dogs to train [their] children to be compliant with treats".

She objects to the use of the clicker technique which is "used in the behavioural therapy Applied Behavioural Analysis, used on authistic children" and which she claims "is shown to cause PTSD in adults that were subjected to it".

The petition also  includes a statement from the Professional Association of Canine Trainers (PACT) in the UK in which they cite several concerns about the programme.

PACT claims the programme misrepresents the dog training and animal behaviour sector and brings the industry "into disrepute".

PACT also questions the apparent focus on behaviourism and adds, "In short, suggesting the use of a framework for changing behaviour in children which is already questionable in dogs is absurd."

The statement adds, "When attempting to change behaviour, aside from a full history, all initiating and maintaining factors responsible for the presence or lack of a behaviour need to be thoroughly investigated.

"Those include the child’s physical, physiological, mental and emotional state, medical issues, environment, emotional development and reasons for established patterns of behaviour, to name but a few.

"Therefore, any approach to resolve problematic or challenging behaviour is likely to be multi-faceted."

It continues, "If once broadcast, the programme shows some or all the potential underlying causes are being examined and an attempt made at addressing them, this is an undertaking beyond the remit of a dog trainer and highly unethical."

The programme is produced by Plimsoll Productions for Channel 4.

A Channell 4 spokesperson said, "The programme explores a new approach to childcare, grounded in positive, science-based motivational techniques that are used widely by parenting coaches and animal behaviour experts.

"Throughout filming and broadcast, the welfare of all contributors in the programme is of paramount importance and the process is supervised by qualified child psychologists."

Train Your Baby Like a Dog will air on Channel 4 on Tuesday 20 August at 8pm.

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