Train Your Baby Like a Dog – No – Just No!


I’ve resurrected an article I wrote back in 2014 because I’ve just learned of a programme being aired on Channel 4 on August 20th called ‘Train your baby like a dog’.  Frankly, I’m horrified it’s being given air time…..

“Dog trainer and behaviourist Jo-Rosie Haffenden believes we should apply dog training reward techniques to our kids. She tests her method with a toddler and a tantrum-prone three-year-old.”

What the actual?!……

Perhaps the most alarming fact is the amount of potential viewers already dicussing this programme on social media and claiming it is a ‘good idea’.

Sadly this programme is opinion based journalism at its worst……it contributes to the imaginary ‘mummy wars’ and is so detrimental to society, to parents, and to long term human mental health and well being.

Having got ourselves a puppy 6 yrs ago, around the time I was also raising a 5 and 3 year old, I sadly started to recognise huge similarities in popular parenting and popular dog training methods.

Our puppy was gorgeous, lovely, full of life and excitement, a little destructive, a little temperamental – we all loved her – she brought us much joy and laughter!!

Every time we have introduced new pets in our home the period of ‘what have we done’ kicks in shortly after – a sort of post pet depression if you will…….

It is a huge responsibility to own pets and it brings a whole new set of issues (that I usually haven’t considered when making the decision to get the pet!)

The biggest revelation for me after getting the puppy was that I now suddenly understood where Gina Ford, Tracey Hogg, Tizzie Hall, Jo Frost and all the other ‘Baby and Toddler Experts’ got their inspiration from when writing their popular baby/toddler training manuals! Honestly – having a puppy comes with the same set of conflicting instructions I got from many when I had my first baby!!

Dogs Babies/Toddlers
Purchase Crate (to keep them safe at night) Purchase Cot (to keep them safe at night)
Ignore them when they cry at night Ignore them when they cry at night
Show them who is boss – do not let them upstairs/on the sofa/through the door before you etc. Do not make a rod for your own back by spoiling them with attention.
Shout/Use Stern Voice at them for Barking, Jumping Up. Distract them with toy. Do not reward bad behaviour with attention.Distract/Ignore toddler when they are having a tantrum.
Train dog with rewards/treats Train child with stickers/reward charts
Reward Compliance with words such as ‘good girl/good boy’ Reward Compliance with words such as ‘good girl/good boy’
Punish Bad behaviour – and ignore dog afterwards. (You must nip any challenging behaviour in the bud otherwise the dog will be in charge of the whole household! Before you know it – you will be sleeping in the crate and the dog will be co-sleeping with the children in the king size bed!) Punish challenging behaviour – using time-out and ignore child.

Although it took me a while, I started to question a lot of the advice I was given as a new parent.

Of course babies don’t have to sleep in a cot – we quite enjoyed co-sleeping (see BASIS for safe co-sleeping guidelines) and we definitely do not need to ignore babies and toddlers when they cry at night – their brains are not developed enough to be developing bad habits until around 12 months old, it is normal for them to wake at night and seek reassurance from their parent.  Building a human brain is different to a pet.

We absolutely won’t spoil our children with too much love, too many cuddles, too much attention – in fact quite the opposite is true – every time we respond to them we are contributing to them becoming very securely attached and confident little beings.  We do not need to raise children with ‘training techniques’ that show them we are in charge and that they have to comply with our demands.

Challenging behaviour in toddlers is often their way of communicating something when they are non verbal, so whilst we don’t need to reward emotional outbursts – we probably should give it some attention, give them some suggested words for how they might be feeling – and actually support them to work out what it is that they need!

I personally don’t like to be ignored when I am upset or frustrated about something. I much prefer someone that cares about me to help me work things out and offer me a hug so much the same applies to a child.  Think about the way you like to be treated when you are confused or overwhelmed or sad as an adult and apply the same logic to your growing child.

I don’t need a reward/sticker for completing a challenge that I was already motivated to complete, intrinsic motivation to learn is inbuilt in humans…..distraction techniques may be necessary for pets – but distracting or ignoring human needs or feelings will not build an emotionally intelligent adult.

I also am not keen on being called a ‘good girl’ when I do something that someone else is grateful for!  A child will learn much more if you thank them for something they have done that is pleasing to you.   Save the Conditional language for the dog.

Whenever someone gives me advice – parenting or pet – I ask lots of questions, and consider the answers and then I return home and google (but I always google my query, followed by ‘evidence based’).  Rather than getting a lot of completely contradictory information and personal experiences (often surrounded by myths, tales and completely ridiculous advice) I actually get research based information – based on studies and facts.

So – a message and suggestion to Gina Ford, Tracey Hogg, Tizzie Hall, Jo Frost and now the new person being given air time: Jo-Rosie Haffenden (and all the other ‘Baby and Toddler Experts’) – Why don’t you all re-publish as Expert Dog Trainers? Or stick to training dogs?!

I think you might find that your techniques and suggestions are better for those struggling with puppies (it probably isn’t even good enough for that!)  But your advice definitely isn’t based on what is best for human babies!!

Sadly many popular parenting/behavioural techniques we see in our modern western world are actually based on animal lab experiments…..

Dogs and Babies are not the same.  You may be able to use similar training techniques on humans for compliance but there will be detrimental long term impact to the adult human if they are trained to ignore their human needs as a child.

The things a human vs a dog need to thrive are very different.  Anyone that doesn’t recognise or understand this really is a cause for huge concern.  Those that lack emotional intelligence themselves should not be giving parenting advice…….it is detrimental to humankind.  Shame on Channel 4 for not doing their research and for giving such codswallop air time.

My suggestion to anyone watching the programme that thinks its a great idea, and it might seem obvious – but if you want to train a dog, might I suggest not having a child – and instead getting a puppy?

To sign the petition to stop this ridiculous programme from being aired: pls sign here: Petition


4 thoughts on “Train Your Baby Like a Dog – No – Just No!”

  1. Interesting. But most of the dog training elements in your grid don’t really apply to the training ethos used by Jo-Rosie. At all.D you know this? Have you looked at any of her content to see if it fits with this prejudgement?

    • Hi – thank you for your comment. I published this article prior to being able to watch the content as the show hadn’t yet gone out, just advertised with a trailer. From the trailer I did draw conclusions that Jo-Rosie would follow some of the other training baby formats that are popular on mainstream tv. After watching the entire show, I wrote this overview. Fundamentally the human brain and the dog brain are different, and therefore need different things to flourish. You can read my overview here:


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