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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How To Train Your Man Like A Dog

There are many days when I wish that my man could be tidier, more organized, less forgetful and more helpful. I realize that I cannot change him and probably never change his ways but that doesn't mean that I can't read up on tips on how to communicate better and cohabitate happily ever after. I recently read the book, "What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love And Marriage: Lessons For People From Animals And Their Trainers" by Amy Sutherland. Today I am going to share with you ten of her tips on how to train your man:

1. STOP NAGGING AND SHOUTING: Often times your mans bad habits or behaviour can lead to you nagging and shouting out of frustration. We often assume that by pointing out what we don't want makes clear what we do. In actuality, punishment tends to have nasty side affects such as apathy, fear and aggresion which are not conducive to learning. Animal trainers use a technique called 'gentling' or 'affection training' which means that they reward good behaviour and disregard what they don't like.

2. IDENTIFY YOUR SPECIES: Animal trainers often try to learn as much as they can about the animal hoping to understand how an animal thinks. The same rings true with men. Try to understand their strengths and weaknesses, play true to their strong suit and love and accept them for who they are.

3. IGNORE BAD BEHAVIOUR: The idea here is that any behaviour, whether positive or negative, provokes a response. Therefore, rather than drawing attention to behaviour that you don't like, ignore it and it will eventually go away.

4. REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOUR: If ignoring irritating habits and bad behaviour weans them off of it, then rewarding the things he does right leads to good behaviour. The author states that it is important to point out good behaviour immediately, even if it is something small such as putting one dirty shirt in the laundry basket but not the rest of the dirty clothes. Being positive with your man makes him less defensive, less aggressive and more likely to repeat the things he's been rewarded for.

5. LURE AND BAIT: Luring meaning "You get this if you do that" and baiting referring to some sort of an award. Some animal trainers use this method and some choose not too believing that the animal will choose in advance whether the reward is good enough and hold out on you. The author states that this works on some men and not on others and therefore you must judge if you think your man will think the prize is worth the bother. An example of an award could be cooking your mans favorite meal.

6. BREAK THE TASK DOWN: To get an animal or your man to perform a particular task you need to break the task down into baby steps and focus on the most important part of it. The task will not get done if you over complicate and confuse the message.  Also, the author points out that "Yes, but..." messages confuse men about what you want from them and demotivate.

7. DON'T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY: Animal trainers know not to take an animals actions personally. The same rings true for men. Just because he is forgetful doesn't mean he intended to hurt you or that he loves you any less. Not taking your partners actions personally may be incredibly hard to do but is liberating.

8. DON'T DOMINATE: Humans, as well as animals, push to see who's the boss. By trying to be the boss in your relationship you are adding fear and resentment rather than centering your relationship on trust.

9. PICK YOUR MOMENT: Trainers never try to teach an animal when it's having an off day and the same rings true with relationships. The author states that trying to "train" your man should be when you are both in a good mood and feeling calm.

10. READ THE CUES: Animal trainers cannot let the animals attention wander because one missed cue can lead to big consequences. Trainers need to read the animals signals and anticipate their behaviours in advance. The same rings true for men-look for clues, anticipate behaviours and stop them before they start.

I realize that referring to "training" men can be seen as insulting and degrading and if the roles were reversed, women (including myself) would be very angry at such an idea. So do I agree with Amy? Well, let's face it, nagging and shouting gets me nowhere with my man but "bribing" in some sense of the word does. There is, and always will be, some things about my partner that I cannot change, that I need to accept and not take personally. At times the message of this book seems to be to manipulate our men into doing what we want, but overall, there are quite a few approaches in this book that make sense and do work. So will I continue to use some of these tactics to better my relationship with my man? Absolutely. But I also think that men need to feel loved, appreciated and respected rather than manipulated.

So what do you think? Do you agree with training your man or does this idea outrage you? I'd love to hear your opinion and any tips on having a healthy and happy lasting relationship with your spouse.


  1. Oh my, I laughed out loud when I saw your post title! :) I agree with you 100% about not manipulating your man but offering him respect and dignity (and no nagging!!) My biggest problem is asking him to do something and then guiding him or fixing it after he's finished. I need to remind myself that I need to let it go and appreciate the fact that he's helping me and doing it out of love for me. Last year I had the priveledge to see Rick Johnson (author and founder of Better Dads) speak at a convention. He was phenominal! I picked up his book "The Man Whisperer" (speaking your man's language to bring out his best) and I highly recommend it. :)

  2. Hi Jenn,
    I don't think I could train mine if I tried J. Lately instead of getting frustrated I'll just tell him I'm feeling upset right now and here's why... and then I show him how do to x y or z. Is that training or just being honest?

    Anyhow! Kicking off a linky party tomo at www.yesterdayontuesday.com

    It's called "A Crafty Soiree" and I'd love to see you there Thursday. xoxo Malia


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