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You can learn a lot about child rearing from a TV show on dog training. Now, I'm not saying kids and dogs are the same, but if a dog has the mental capacity of a two-year-old, it would stand to reason that you could at least try the same techniques you would use on a dog on a toddler. So I decided to test out a theory...

What if I applied what I knew about dog training and used it to correct the unwanted behaviour of my troublesome (almost ) two-year-old? I'm not talking about anything major- just some minor issues I'd like to sort out between me and my daughter so she knows daddy's in charge. Things that if left "unchecked" could put my daughter at risk. And I'm not talking about employing the use of leashes, or choke chains, or shock collars- I'm talking about using dog psychology to establish myself in to a leadership role before my daughter has me wrapped around her little finger. 

Goal: Turn Daddy from cream puff who falls for his daughter's puppy dog eyes in to a strong, assertive "Alpha Dog" that his daughter would not dare to defy.

Methodology: Simply watch the "master." No, not Barbara Woodhouse (the "Walkies" method of dog training, circa the late 1970s), I'm talking about Cesar Milan, the man known as The Dog Whisperer; the master of "Shh!"  A man who shows you that you don't need clickers, or cookies, or coercion to maintain control, just "calm, assertive, energy," and a few simple techniques.

So, I watched a weekend's worth of The Dog Whisperer with my daughter. I took some notes, she took her regular liberties with the TV remote (changing the channel, turning the TV on and off, throwing the TV remote at the dogs), and we were ready to begin. And, not surprisingly, by applying these 5 simple dog training lessons, I was able to re-establish myself as the 'Master of My Domain' (until my wife gets home). 

Cesar Milan, "The Dog Whisperer"

Lesson One- Show No Fear:
Using the "pack" mentality, a pack leader (or father in this case) must project a "calm, assertive, energy" to put the rest of the pack members at ease. In other words, if Daddy gets frustrated, or flustered, or starts fuming about every little thing his little girl does to push his buttons, she's just going to keep doing it for the attention. However, if Daddy ignores this negative behaviour and diverts her attention to more productive activities (reading to herself, playing with a favorite toy, watching an educational video) he will be in a better position to obtain her obedience. Sounds good to me.

Lesson Two- Provide Plenty of Outdoor Exercise to "Maintain a Healthy State of Mind":
This is a no-brainer. It is well-known that fresh air and outdoor activity tires kids out so they are more pliable and easier to handle. So if your tiny tot is whining to "Go on the swing," "Go on the slide," or "Walk outside," it's just wiser (if time permits) to let them expend some energy in the great outdoors, instead of plopping them in front of the TV and hoping they'll be quiet so daddy can get some work done. In other words, give your kid some outdoor exercise and she'll be much easier to handle (mostly because she'll be passed out on the living room floor). Don't give your kid any outdoor exercise, and she'll be climbing the walls in no time... and so will you.

Lesson Three: Stimulate Your Child's Mind and Challenge Him to Do New Things:
If "idle hands are the devils play things," a kid with nothing to do is just an accident waiting to happen. So, even if you're doing two things at once (watching your kid and getting errands done) you can still stimulate your child's mind. Ask your kid to sing you a song she learned in daycare while you fold the laundry your wife left for you. Practice her counting with her as you wash the baby bottles you forgot to wash yesterday. Have her race you from the living room to the kitchen to check on the dinner you're making your wife to apologize for forgetting to wash the bottles you were supposed to wash yesterday (great if she's just learning to walk). Time doesn't always permit you to pay full attention to your child, but if you're in tune with your child's mood you can prevent any bad behavior by heading it off with an old or a new activity that suits the moment and what you yourself are trying to accomplish. Teaching your daughter a song, asking her to pronounce new words, and getting her to help you with your tasks is always better than listening to her scream from behind her "baby barrier."

Lesson Four:  Use "The Touch" to Get Your Child Out of the "Red Zone:"
If you've ever watched Cesar Milan employ this technique on dogs, you know that it can be quite effective to stop aggressive behaviour right in its tracks. Well, it also works quite well on toddlers. When kids go in to a "red zone" (as Cesar calls it) simply use touch to diffuse them or distract them from persisting with the unwanted behavior. For some kids (my daughter included) tickling works quite well, for other, more stubborn psyches, a quick unexpected tap on the shoulder works wonders to calm them right down while they wonder what the hell just happened ("Who Did Dat?"). Kid's wailing uncontrollably? Just touch with the tip of your finger under their arms, behind their ear, or on the back of their leg. It works!

Lesson Five: The Power of "Shh!:"
By far, this is my favorite lesson of them all. If you want to teach your little one to adjust their volume, or calm down (re: hyperactivity), or simply to pay attention to you without having to use their name in vain, using "shh" is one of the best tools in a parents arsenal. And, it works even better if you use a Ross Geller style hand gesture, or use it with lesson #4.  Sure, you can expect your toddler to use this against you in the future by asking you to "shh" every time you bother them while they're watching their favorite show, but for now, it's just another way to help you maintain some semblance of control. Just a quick, forceful "shh!" should do the trick, and your baby boy or girl will start to get the message that you either want their full attention, or you want them to cease and desist with their bad behaviour. Works for me (although it doesn't always work on younger kids- my daughter still laughs when I do it).

Final Thoughts:

All in all, utilizing the techniques employed by a TV dog trainer might seem like a ludicrous idea to some, but at the end of the day behaviour modification techniques are behaviour modification techniques. And if these techniques work for you, who is to tell you that you're wrong. Personally, after seeing some of the weird things that are on the market for kids these days (safety helmets for new walkers and leashes to walk your kid around the mall) is this really so strange? Test out some of these techniques on your kid, and you tell me?

Not so sure if this will work for you? (I mean, we're not experts after all). Here's how the human trainers do it:

Helpful advice (links):

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute expert advice as it is merely the musings of one man, suggesting a possible correlation between behaviour modification methodology in toddlers and dogs. As well, Fodder 4 Fodders is not liable for any "expert" advice from third party links. This post is for entertainment purposes only. For help with your child's behaviour, please consult a professional in your area.

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Reader Comments (1)

This is so wonderful! Once upon a time, long, long ago (1962 to be exact) a movie with Sandra Dee & Bobby Darin called "If a man answers," used the same premise on newlywed husbands. Great movie and like your experiences with your daughter, it worked. Enjoyed the post, keep up the good work and rest when you can, she'll outrun you every time! It is our own fault too, we make sure the kids are well fed, well hydrated, plenty of fresh air and sunshine and they get way more rest because a two year old's bedtime is hours and hours before the grown ups and then we wonder where all the energy comes from. Good luck Dad, you are going to need it.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMature Canadian

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