“The Strong-Willed Child” CHAPTER 1: THE WILD AND WOOLY WILL, pp. 11-15

Warning: this section contains stories of animal abuse!!!

So Dobson starts telling us about the number of pets his family has, and then he gets to Siggie the dog. If you’re familiar with Dobson at all, you’re probably somewhat aware of this story. Here is how he describes his dachshund Siggie:

“Siggie is not only stubborn, but he doesn’t pull his own weight in the family. He won’t bring in the newspaper on cold mornings; he refuses to “chase a ball” for the children; he doesn’t keep the gophers out of the garden; and he can’t do any of the usual tricks that most cultured dogs perform.”

He continues on,

“Furthermore, Sigmund is not even a good watchdog. This suspicion was confirmed the night we were visited by a prowler who had entered our backyard at three o’clock in the morning.”

He goes on to describe hearing the prowler move on the garage and trying to send Siggie to “attack” the guy, but Siggie cowered in fear. So what have we learned about Siggie the dachshund? That he is a typical dachshund. Seriously Dobson, did it not occur to you to do any research on dog breeds before getting Siggie? Dachshunds are not naturally guard dogs. Most people already know this, but, they are small dogs. If you wanted a guard dog, you should have gotten a breed suited for such a purpose. Also, if you had done even the tiniest bit of research first, you would have KNOWN that dachshunds are naturally independent/stubborn, and tend to get an attitude and resist training. If you had wanted a docile, compliant dog, that would learn tricks and readily obey commands, they are out there. You could have gotten one.

The next couple of pages tell an extremely disturbing story of animal abuse. We start out with,

“The greatest confrontation (between Dobson and Siggie) occurred a few years ago when I had been in Miami for a three day conference. I returned to observe that Siggie had become the boss of the house while I was gone.”

Do you know what this means, Dobson? It means that while you were gone, your wife and kids didn’t enforce any rules and let the dog do whatever he wanted. This is a conversation you should be having with your wife and kids, not beating the hell out of a small dog. It is not the dog’s fault that your wife and kids fell down on the job.

It now takes Dobson two full paragraphs to convey that Siggie has a designated spot in the house where he is supposed to sleep, but at bedtime on this night he was curled up on the toilet seat, which had a fuzzy cover. When Dobson commanded him to go to his room, he refused and growled at him, which I suspect is a sign that Siggie already does not like this man.

 “I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The only way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me “reason” with Mr. Freud.”

Aha! Suspicion confirmed.

We’re not even to the worst part of the story and my stomach is already churning. What a vile person. This is NOT how you treat a pet dog! We continue, after Dobson tells Siggie once more to go to his room and Siggie refuses again.

“…I gave him a firm swat across the rear end, and he tried to bite the belt. I hit him again and he tried to bite me.”

Um, yeah. You were surprised at this because…….

“What developed next is impossible to describe. That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast.”

Ever staged??? This situation wasn’t staged – you had a choice of how to react and behave! Stop wording it like someone else or some other unexplained force made you do this. Secondly, your pet dog is not a beast. He’s 12 pounds, by your admission. Seriously. Pick him up and throw him in his room and shut the door quickly. I have a 15 pound cat and I can manage to do this. Geez…

“I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt.”

Well, in fairness only one of you had a belt…

            “I am embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene.”

You should be, Dobson. You absolutely, positively should be embarrassed. This entire incident should have prompted you to get your ass to a therapist’s office stat, to figure out what the hell is wrong with you that you would have such an extreme overreaction to something that is really not that big of a deal. Instead, you decided to write a book about basically treating children the same way. Lovely…

And yes, Dobson pats himself on the back for eventually getting Siggie into his room that night, and everything he already believed about this poor dog and all children is “confirmed” because apparently, Siggie never disobeyed the command to go to his room at night again. He even says,

“…there is an important moral to my story which is highly relevant to the world of children. Just as surely as a dog will occasionally challenge the authority of his leaders, a little child is inclined to do the same thing, only more so.

Dobson gives zero evidence or proof of this assertion, and furthermore, comparing all children to a dog you find to be a pain in the ass is really telling. Red flag, people, red flag.

The last paragraph of this section finds Dobson whining about how the “experts” don’t recognize or admit this “characteristic of human nature.”

“I have yet to find a text for parents or teachers which acknowledges the struggle – the exhausting confrontation of wills – which most parents and teachers experience regularly with their children.”

Um, maybe because those experts you deride see children as human beings rather than pain in the ass dogs. Maybe those experts value building a relationship with children and treating them with respect and dignity, and they realize that that becomes impossible if parents make everything all about me, me, me and my authority. Maybe those experts are way ahead of you in realizing that if you use communication as your primary tool for raising all children, it doesn’t have to be so exhausting, and that when you are willing to hear your child out, it stops being a battle. Maybe those experts realize that if a child is acting up out of the blue, there is often an underlying reason, and parents have a moral responsibility to figure out what is going on.

Honestly, I can’t even do the math on this whole section. It is so utterly disturbing and disgusting. And this is at the beginning of the book. Why on earth would anyone in their right mind keep reading after he admits all this? The other part that disturbs me so much is that he could not even be bothered to consider that maybe Siggie doesn’t like his room. Maybe he doesn’t have adequate fuzzy things to lie on and he needs a better pillow or something. Maybe the room is cold and that’s why he wanted to stay elsewhere. But Dobson can’t even consider any of this. He just has to get his way, no matter what the cost. He has arbitrarily decided where the dog should sleep and that is the end of the story, and if the dog refuses, then it must be because the dog is being “against him.” And that is exactly how my parents parented me after reading your book.



  1. “Pick him up and throw him in the room”

    But according to Dobson, that would be “letting him get his way” and you just let the pet “assert his authority over you by condoning the fact that his odediance was not direct and cheerful”

    God, I hate these people.

  2. I haven’t look at the updated versions of this book at all, but sometimes I wonder if he removed the dog story in subsequent printings of it… Animal abuse gets taken less and less lightly with each passing year, thank goodness.

  3. I inferred that Dobson the unreliable narrator said that the dog was being allowed to rule the roost when Siggie was just not being “disciplined” a la Paterfamilias. I thought that Siggie had (correctly) identified Mrs. Dobson as food giver and creator of order, therefore Boss Dog, and had reacted to Dobson’s orders as he would to a fellow subordinate member of the pack who was trying to assert higher status.

    Either way, he should’ve bought a Tamagotchi instead. What. A. Jerk.

    1. Certainly possible. Unfortunately, Dobson doesn’t say what happens if his wife orders the dog to his room – but that has me thinking: if Siggie will obey Mrs. Dobson, why the need for the belt. A simple, “Honey, can you please get the dog to his room when you get a second?” would suffice.

      1. That would be because he is a control freak. If he cannot get the dog to obey him, but his wife can, that threatens his masculinity and he wants to feel like the boss of the household. He wants to be in charge of everyone, and have everyone do what he says-even this tiny dog.

        He is such a weak creature that he has to be in charge of everyone, even babies and small dogs.

        Its also why he expects Siggie to be a guard dog, even if he has not chosen a breed of dog that makes a good guard dog. He wants something he can control. Siggie tried to bite him when he hit him with the belt, but because Siggie is a tiny dog, he doesn’t need to worry about getting injured, he would be too scared to get a breed more suited to being a guard dog, because a big dog could probably bite his face off if he beat it with a belt.

  4. There is a correlation between animal abuse and mistreatment of vulnerable human beings. Is it surprising that Dobson promoted violence to children when he abused his helpless dog this way? It takes a big man to beat a wiener dog with a belt! : (

  5. My parents raised me and my siblings on the advice of Dr James Dobson. I remember the books sitting on their bookshelf and the bookshelves of many of our friends and family.

    When I had kids, my mum gave me this book to read. What I read completely horrified me. Particularly by this bit about Siggie – it speaks very loudly to the type of person Dobson is. I never finished reading the book because it made me physically sick that he was so mean, calculated and heartless. All the things my parents were.

    I have done google searches over the years to try and find other people who have critically analysed James Dobson’s work and have come up with very little. There has been a lot on the Pearls and I personally see very little difference between Dobson and the Pearls, but Dobson seems to fly under the radar. In my community, the Pearls were seen as extremist fringe dwellers but Dobson was an everyday name. In some ways, I feel that Dobson was more dangerous because there have been no big public outcries about his advice.

    Anyway, I really wanted to say thank-you for taking the time to write this blog and to respond to some of the harmful and damaging things that Dobson says. The validation in this post alone has been quite overwhelming for me.

    Thank-you ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s