PACT Official Statement regarding Channel 4’s upcoming ‘Train Your Baby Like a Dog’ programme

Sadly, we are once again faced with having to release a statement regarding an unethical and sensationalist dog training-related programme to be broadcast by a major commercial UK TV channel.

The tagline for the programme states ‘’Dog trainer and behaviourist ……………… 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.’’

The Professional Association of Canine Trainers has serious concerns regarding:

  • Promoting the concept of ‘training your baby/child like a dog’
  • The programme appears to focus mostly on behaviourism
  • Misrepresentation of the dog training and animal behaviour sector
  • Portraying the dog training and animal behaviour sector in a negative light and bringing the industry into disrepute

Promoting the concept of ‘training your baby/child like a dog’

Science-based methods of parenting have long moved on from the sole use of reward-based techniques and behaviourism. Whether morally acceptable or not – suggesting clicker training your baby or toddler to change his or her behaviour is not only a step backward, it ignores several important points.

The focus of the programme is on behaviour and changing behaviour. When attempting to change behaviour in dogs, there is a great deal more than just applying clicker training. The content appears to suggest that the use of operant conditioning alone is used to transform the child’s behaviour. This approach focuses on behaviourism and ignores other important parameters. It is flawed and suggests a lack of understanding of current clinical animal behaviour science. In short, suggesting the use of a framework for changing behaviour in children which is already questionable in dogs is absurd.

Focus on behaviourism

The methods outlined in the promotional material appear to focus mostly on the use of operant conditioning. 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.

RE: ”But why not wait until you have seen the programme to comment?”

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.

Misrepresentation of the dog training and animal behaviour sector

PACT would like to make clear that it does not support the concept of ‘Train Your Baby Like Your Dog’ and that the premise of this programme is not representative of our views nor those of our trainers.

Portraying the dog training and animal behaviour sector in a negative light and bringing the industry into disrepute

Sadly, this programme could reflect negatively on the industry. Members of the public who find this concept abhorrent may believe this is the current thinking of most dog trainers while in fact it is not. In an industry where we campaign against outdated thinking of any kind on a regular basis, this programme is far from helpful.

This occurrence again highlights the need for canine training and behaviour professionals to hold standardised and regulated qualifications, and to be overseen by an official body.

It also highlights the need for the media to adopt a more ethical and informed approach to programmes relating to dog-training and behaviour.

If production companies/TV networks are keen for dog training and behaviour programmes to break new ground, we would suggest a programme about the lack of regulation in the dog training and behaviour industry and the damage this is causing. Or following the behaviour rehabilitation journey of Drax the Wolfhound and the wonderful work his qualified and ABTC registered clinical animal behaviourist and dog trainer owner is currently doing with him.

Please stay tuned for our upcoming multi-part blog titled ‘Who is Teaching Who?’, about the requirements for and the responsibility of educators in the dog training industry.