Dog training or Couple's training, which one do people like better?
Now, I'm not saying that this is a scientific study or anything, but from what I'm seeing dogs win. Hands down.
A brief explanation: I offer a half day couple's training that can be registered for on-line through Ann Arbor Rec and Ed. Because of how the alphabet works, before they started adding winter classes, Dog Training came right before my Fight Right, Love Better class. Checking in to see how registration was going, I found that the last Dog Training class filled fast and you'd better hurry up for the January session. My class however is not even getting a bite.
So I have to ask myself why is that? Here's what I don't think it is: Since I have a decent reputation for my classes and the dog class is filling up - I don't think it's me, the marketing, the economy or people's time that are the problems. And while I wish it meant that couples were getting along so well these days that they don't need support I don't think that's the reason either. What I really suspect is that - it's easier to believe that your dog can learn new tricks than your partner.
First of all, your dog doesn't get a vote on whether he or she goes to this class which bodes well for actually attending the training in the first place. In my experience, women say that they would like to come to a workshop like this but their husbands wouldn't go. And while this could be a convenient excuse for not even asking, there is likely some truth to this as well.
In fact being willing to be influenced by your mate is one of the strongest predictors of a successful marriage. And men do tend to have a harder time with this than women because they may relate it to being controlled. Of course women may want to take a look at how they try to influence too. One approach is what John Gottman calls a “Soft" rather than a “Harsh" start-up. And hey - we actually talk about that in the workshop.
Also, for many men it can be hard enough to seek help for their dog troubles let alone their marriage troubles. So going to a class might feel uncomfortable. But again couples who are willing to manage some potential discomfort in order to find better ideas are already way ahead of the game. And to most people's relief classes are usually more fun than they expected.
In fact, just as dog training can work to get your dog to stop chewing on your shoes, couple's training can work to get you and your partner to stop chewing out each other. What it takes for both is to learn what works, practice these skills and be committed to applying them consistently enough until they make a difference. Of course as any good dog trainer will tell you - the hardest part may be getting the owners, not the dog, to change. And so it goes with relationships. It's usually the owners that aren't owning their share of the responsibility.
Obviously dogs and partners are not the same. And I will give you this. It is likely easier to get your dog to stop barking than to get your spouse to - because you can't put your partner in a cage for a time-out (and just to be clear - your partner shouldn't actually have a cage!). But I think it's easy to argue that investing in couples' training can have a much bigger payoff than helping your dog and can make a cage or a dog house or a divorce unnecessary to begin with.
So while you're signing up for training to get your dog to sit, stay and not bite, consider signing up for a couple's training class for the same reasons. It's cheaper than divorce, it's a whole lot more fun, and in most cases, it really can teach new tricks.
Annie Zirkel, LPC is a Relationship Consultant based in Ann Arbor, Mi. You can find out about her classes and services at www.practicehow.com or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. But you don't have to take her class. Do some research and take any reputable class! (There are classes everywhere. Search the internet or start at www.smartmarriages.com or contact Annie for ideas. Good luck.) Photo credit: Creative Commons license donjd2