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How to Train Your Husband

Little Lessons Every New Bride Needs to Learn

My husband often jokes with friends that he wants to return as one of our dogs when he dies.

To say our canine children have always been doted upon would be the proverbial understatement. They receive daily walks—rain (with raincoats) or shine, summer (with personalized water bottles) or winter (with fleece-lined coats)—the best of health care, an impressive bandana wardrobe, treats on-demand, and regular baths and grooming. We lavish praise upon them because, after all, they’re perfectly lovable.

Riding shotgun around town with their dad is one of their favorite pastimes. If his pickup starts, you can bet he has loyal companions by his side.

While my husband is their chauffeur, I’m the sous-chef and masseuse. Once the late-night talk show monologues start, the belly rubs and massages commence. These always end with paws in the air, sweet sleepy furry heads resting on the pillows, and loud snoring. These nightly pampering sessions are expected. Once we’re all settled in, if the attention doesn’t start, the raking with large paws will. One evening I was finishing up something on my laptop when our big fella had decided he’d been patient long enough. Using his snout, he tried to flip the computer off my lap.

My best friend and I were discussing our beloved pets when the subject of an old movie came up. The cute 1962 comedy starring Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin, “If a Man Answers,” is often called “How to Train Your Husband.” The actors, then real-life spouses, were ideally cast.

“The moral of the story, of course, is managing unrealistic expectations and learning to communicate effectively—characteristics we readily

share with our dogs.”

In the film, the charming Sandra Dee meets, falls in love with, and marries a handsome photographer played by Bobby Darin. Soon, the honeymoon appears to be over, and her dashing man has gone from a suitor and romantic figure to a plain old husband. The situation is exacerbated by the spiteful interference of one of her girlfriends, played by the beautifully devious Stephanie Powers.

Fearing her dream marriage is turning into a nightmare, Dee’s character does what young married women have done since the beginning of time: She turns to her mother for advice. Mother decides her daughter is ready for “the book”—a dog training manual, the perfect guide to creating marital paradise.

Her mother’s sage advice? “If you want happiness in your marriage, treat your husband like a dog… Many husbands are not given the attention of a well-trained and loved dog. A husband may leave home, a pet never will.”

The young bride immediately studies the guidebook and implements the training plan. Lesson No. 1: “Remember, praise is very important.” It worked like a charm when she wanted pictures arranged on the wall. When she wants him to shop for new curtains with her and he resists, she employs the next lesson: “Never pull hard on the leash. Once he’s used to it, he will lead you anywhere you want to go.”

As you can imagine, there are more lessons and comedic marital escapades to follow, including the husband discovering the book and ending up in the doghouse after he tries to turn the tables on her.

The moral of the story, of course, is managing unrealistic expectations and learning to communicate effectively—characteristics we readily share with our dogs. Once the marriage is back on track and romance restored, the bride's mother points out the crucial point of the exercise: “The only thing that has changed is you, not your pet.”

“Good husband!”

Thanks, Mom.


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