Channel 4 are facing calls to cancel a new series that encourages parents to “train” their babies like they would their dogs.

The show, titled Train Your Baby Like a Dog, sees dog trainer and animal behaviourist Jo-Rosie Haffenden teaching parents to use dog training techniques to help their children. Haffenden, who claims to have used the same techniques on her own children, assists a three-year-old boy in dealing with his tantrums in the show’s first episode, and an 18-month-old who refuses to sleep in her cot. 

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But a Change.org petition so far signed by nearly 25,000 people has called on Channel 4 to axe the show, claiming that the programme is “dehumanising” to children, and “could potentially turn those involved into “prime target[s] for grooming in the future as they will have been taught to comply to an adult’s demands, regardless of their own comfort or autonomy for reward”.

They specifically cite Haffenden’s use of “clicker training”, which it describes as “taking a child’s favourite object and using it to bribe a child into doing a chore or task”.

The petition, started by the organisation Autistic Inclusive Meets, additionally claims that “clicker training is used in the behaviourial therapy Applied Behaviourial Analysis [and] used on autistic children. It is shown to cause PTSD in adults that were subjected to it”.

In a statement to the Huffington Post, a Channel 4 spokesperson defended the programme, claiming it “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.”

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