Treat Your Toddler Like Your Dog

According to an animal behaviour expert, the techniques used to teach dogs and puppies also work for toddlers.

The Deputy Head of Behaviour at Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, Pat Moore, claims that the ‘positive reinforcement’ training techniques that many dog trainers use should also be used for toddlers.

These ‘positive reinforcement’ techniques work by rewarding good behaviour rather than focusing on punishing mistakes and bad behaviour. There are different rewards that can be used for dogs, such as giving small edible treats, verbal praise, playing with a favourite toy or simply a scratch behind the ears. Whatever pleases the dog is suitable as a good reward.

In a similar way, Pat Moore recommends rewarding a well-behaved toddler instead of threatening them with staying in their room or time spent on the ‘naughty step’ as favoured by the television nanny. Suitable rewards for a toddler could include a trip to the swings or a few sweets.

However, as with dogs, using their top-level, all time favourite treat every day is not recommended.

Ms Moore said:

If you use the best treats all the time – such as a chew – it loses its value and isn’t so attractive. While we aren’t child psychologists, it seems that parents should act in a similar way, keeping a range of rewards for different circumstances.

At Battersea Dogs Home, the trainers mainly use food titbits when a dog is behaving really well. In the same way, toys can be used sparingly for children.

As with dogs, body language is also important. Dogs are just as good as toddlers at picking up on both your facial expression and tone of voice, although that may come as a surprise to some. Consistency is very important to make sure that your message is clear. Both puppies and toddlers respond well to consistency.

The Battersea Cats and Dogs Home magazine, ‘Paws’ will be publishing Ms Moore’s toddler training advice when the next issue comes out next week.