Obedience school and my marriage

Two months ago we adopted a second dog, Shoelace (named after U of M’s quarterback, Denard ‘Shoelace’ Robinson.) Shoelace is a year old hound/shepherd mix from the Cascade’s Humane Society. To say this dog is our “Marley” would be an understatement. After losing 3 pairs of shoes, 5 chew toys, a pillow, a rug, a blanket, a chair, a leash, too many towels to count, and my sanity…we decided to sign up for obedience class.

If you are not familiar with “clicker training” it involves a clicker as a marker for good behavior. The method uses only positive reinforcement, and is reward-based. The number of things Shoelace has learned to do in the last 3 weeks would astound you. But that’s not the point of this blog post.

Here are 5 things obedience class has taught me about marriage (and dogs):

  1. Use positive reinforcement for good behavior instead of reprimanding for bad behavior. (a.k.a. thank your spouse when they do the dishes instead of whining every time  they don’t.) Your spouse wants to please you, and will most likley repeat the behavior you positively reinforced.
  2. Your tone of voice affects how your message is received. Keep your voice soft and happy.
  3. Too much criticism shuts your spouse down. Keep a 5 to 1 ratio of praise vs. criticism.
  4. If you don’t give your spouse the attention they need, they will eventually take their attention and energy elsewhere.
  5. Reward with a treat 😉

I’m certainly not comparing my husband to a dog, but I think we can learn a lot from these concepts, and how they relate to our spouses. Relationship expert Ken Blanchard co-authored a book titled “Whale-Done” where he discusses these same principles regarding the power of positive relationships; specifically exploring lessons learned from the trainers at Sea World. I encourage you to check it out!