The UK’s Channel 4 aired a documentary called ‘Train Your Baby Like A Dog’ on August 2oth. It revolves around psychologist and animal trainer Jo-Rosie Haffenden training babies like – well, dogs. This process involves using treats as rewards and teaching babies to sit.
Already this has made a lot of people very angry and has widely been considered a bad move. A petition to take the show off the air has, at the time of writing, clocked up over 28,000 signatures. For the sake of journalistic impartiality, it’s worth noting that there’s also been plenty of noise on social media defending the program. As a sample of the divergent opinions people have voiced, I include some of the more legible tweets on the subject below:
I’m seriously concerned how close #trainyourbabylikeadog is to abuse. Appalling failure. Drs and MBE’s and professional who know what they are talking about have been trying to tell you for days how disgusting this is. @Channel4 is a joke.
I’ve always compared my kids to puppies in that they need lots of cuddles, love & attention, clear boundaries, discipline, regular meals & bedtimes, lots of fresh air & exercise. It works. #trainyourbabylikeadog
‘he’s gone from tantrums to absolute silence’ says it all. Poor child. All he wanted was some attention. It’s the parents who need help not the child. Disturbing to watch. Trainer didn’t once kiss and cuddle her own child #trainyourbabylikeadog
Watching #trainyourbabylikeadog and its BRILLIANT. The title doesn't do it justice . More about positively reinforcing good behaviours and getting better communication with little ones as they learn to Express themselves. Take the dogs out of it and you've got really great ideas
The funny side of this, of course, is that this was the plot of a beloved episode of South Park from back in 2006. The season 10 episode ‘Tsst’ saw Cartman, an awful child for the ages, burn his way through the various reality TV ‘supernannies’ who were popular at the time (driving at least one insane). As a measure of last resort, Mrs. Cartman turned to Cesar Milan, of the show ‘Dog Whisperer With Cesar Milan’, whose harsher measures actually ended up working. But, to perhaps state the obvious, South Park probably didn’t intend this to be used as childcare advice.
Milan was delighted with his portrayal in the show, yet one wonders if he would actually endorse this happening outside the world of animated comedy – or if he ever even expected such a thing to actually take place. Perhaps more importantly, does Haffenden owe South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone due credit for the idea, and should Milan have been given first crack at actually trying it out?