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How to Use a Dog Training Manual as a Guide to Marriage

by Brenda Mahler 3 years ago in marriage · updated 10 months ago
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Six Steps to an Enduring Relationship

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Dog training manuals provide the instructions for successful relationships. The authors’ intended audience may have been dog owners but the steps are effective in both situations.

Think about it.

In both situations two personalities are starting a partnership by moving into a shared space, and leaving behind a past world for new life experiences.

Keep an open mind and explore my proposal.

At first our minds rebel when comparing a marriage to dog ownership because the word ownership implies superiority of one over the other. Simply change the perspective to the idea of two personalities coexisting, for that is what is truly happening in both instances.

When two unite they are accepting each other with open arms and an open heart to live forever in a shared home. They accept each other for the highs and the lows, the challenges and the celebrations, the feelings that make them happy and the emotions they have yet to explore.

Sound serious?

Yes, neither a wedding or pet adoption should be entered into lightly. Each requires commitment and a desire to learn to adapt and meet the needs of the other.

Step 1: Begin Training Immediately

Pet manuals instruct to commence training immediately. Animals learn bad habits quickly which become difficult to break. Thus, when a puppy joins the family resist the desire to spoil them because early interactions instill lifelong behaviors. Puppies will cry at night; you will be tempted to cuddle them in your bed, and when they are snuggled up sleeping under your chin, few people will transfer the adorable creatures back into their own bed.

This is fine if the choice is to have a dog sleeping in your bed but make sure it is a conscious choice. Bad habits are harder to break than to establish proper habits in the beginning.

The moment you commit to spend your lives together, begin training each other.

Relationships are not one sided so they take communication and compromise. The task may seem overwhelming as it is a huge project, but the result will be valuable and produce a spouse who is obedient, loving and never wanders. As your family grows, proper training will keep the family protected well into the future.

On occasion an older dog or spouse may join the family. If this occurs the same steps will eventually lead to success, but more time, consistency and patience may be necessary.

Step 2: Identify Expectations

Some owners refuse to allow a dog on the furniture, but others enjoy a cuddle buddy while watching TV. While it may fit a lifestyle to provide free reign feeding and have food always available, many prefer to feed on a schedule. Decisions such as installing a doggy door, crate training, or whether to allow frequent interactions with other dogs all need consideration and are subject to personal desire.

Prior to even saying, “I do” begin to outline your expectations.

Take time to begin a running list of the perfect relationship characteristics early. Then align your expectations to develop realistic qualities in your marriage. Early planning provides the opportunity to experiment, practice and refine the list prior to the wedding day. To achieve success, a concise list is most effective and achievable.

Below, I share the 5 expectations in our home that have provided 40 years of marriage bliss.

  • Family comes first.
  • Create a relationship based on friendship.
  • Work is equally shared
  • Show affection
  • Dedicate time to each other

Step 3: Establish a Space

When an animal enters a new home, there are feelings of insecurity. Once adopted, they enter an unfamiliar environment and often become separated from friends and family. A caring owner will present their pet with a blanket or bed to call their own. Providing chew toys and interactive playthings prevents behavior problems, reduces boredom, and offers comfort.

All people require space and toys — both become bigger and more expensive with age.

My husband covets his garage and through the years as our income has grown, his space has grown. It is essential that it remain his domain without intrusion. In our house, there are two sacred items I do not touch: his wallet and one dresser drawer. To my knowledge my husband has nothing to hide and after all these years, if he does, I don’t think I want to know. If he does have a bone buried somewhere, it is best to leave well enough alone.

My domain consists of the office and computer. Writing provides an outlet of thoughts and emotions. I write everything down — even some ideas that are fleeting feelings. Knowing my privacy is respected allows me to rant and explore through words on paper (or screen). If my husband read some of what I wrote he would be hurt, astonished, and confused because I, like most humans, need to process ideas before finding my truths.

With trust established, the parties in the relationship feel responsible to fulfill the obligation but are also provided an opportunity to be an individual and find satisfaction. In a marriage, both parties benefit when personal interests are encouraged and supported.

Step 4: Daily, Spend Time Together

Set aside time to relax and play. When a pet remains home alone, time is irrelevant. If I return after five minutes or five hours, our dog greets me at the door with a wagging tail, excitement, and often a toy in her mouth. The first thing I do is sit on the bench, and we play for a few moments. It doesn’t take long before she takes her toys and runs off happily.

Couples who greet each other with the same enthusiasm, reignite their love each day.

If needed, intentionally plan activities because nurturing a relationship builds a bond. Spontaneity adds romance to the relationship but isn’t always easy with busy lifestyles. We all become trapped by chores and schedules that require attention. However, remember relationships are like trash. They begin to stink when not attended to.

Even on the busiest day (actually, especially on those days), make time. Lay on the carpet and share events from the day, sit on the porch in the sun together in silence, take a walk around the block, or simply complete chores as a team. A bond develops by sharing experiences with your spouse and with your pet accompanying you, the family is complete.

These strategies promote bonding — proven effective for humans and pets.

  • Make eye contact. In this day of technology, it is easy to be in the same room together without ever really connecting. Turn off the TV, computer, and tablet, put the phone down and look each other in the eye. Communication improves when more than words are part of the process. Share body language and silent signals to reveal unspoken messages.
  • Reach out and touch. When walking past, touch your loved one, rub their back, scratch behind the ears. Physical contact has proven to lower a person’s blood pressure and releases the “cuddle hormone” known as oxytocin.
  • The adage remains true: The way to the heart is through the stomach. Food provides opportunities to build connections. Eat together. For many preparing the meal encourages intimacy. Some couples find a meal out is perfect to rekindle the flame.

Step 5: When Training — Teach, Practice, and Repeat

Behavior should be systematically taught. State commands using the same words so the pet learns the cue. Practice often and repeat the process at regular intervals. Be consistent and refrain from varying your response as this confuses the animal and decreases results. As mentioned above, the positive effects of food and physical contact should not be underestimated. Both offer positive reinforcement. Continue to provide immediate responses to achieve optimum success. And remember to praise and reward every time there is an appropriate response. Negative consequences seldom work.

Provide time for behaviors to be internalized so they become part of daily patterns.

All people learn at their own pace. Some will advance faster while others require more interactions to internalize the expectations. If both partners are experiencing their first marriage, learning will probably move quickly as both adapt together. However, past experiences impact success and the older the couple, the longer it may take to find common ground. Most importantly, do not give up.

Step 6: Be patient

Teaching and learning new behaviors requires time. There is no fault in having to repeat commands until responses are instinctual. It is easy to become discouraged with yourself or the learner when change occurs slowly, but there should not be fault or blame associated with the time it requires to learn. Every noun in the pet’s life changes upon entering new territory which creates fear and anxiety. In most cases they want to please but have not identified how to respond appropriately. Give yourself and the pet time to adjust.

Marriage is a life commitment — ’til death do us part. Sharing of yourself, accepting differences, adapting to changes, and being in the moment fortifies a relationship to stand the test of time. Be ready for challenges and expect two steps forward and one step back. Change takes time but with patience is achievable. When all else fails fall back on the love that inspired the marriage. Love works as a building block; it is the foundation of all successful relationships.


At the end of the training process every pet owner, arrives at a personal discovery, that not only has their pet matured into an obedient, submissive, loving companion but that they themselves have evolved into responsible, dedicated, compassionate pet parents.

The same is true in a relationship. Not only will your spouse become the perfect partner, but you will have adapted to their needs, thus, creating the components for a forever marriage.


With age and retirement, I've discovered the companionship, love and support a pet teaches me how to be my best. Dagney is part of our family.

You might enjoy her stories.



About the author

Brenda Mahler

Stories about life that inspire emotions - mostly humor.

Lessons about writing based on my textbook, Strategies for Teaching Writing.

Poetry and essays about the of art of being human.

I write therefore, I am.

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