Rosie Millard: Thrifty living

Want to save a fortune? It's all in the training
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Rather like a high-level diver precariously peering down from a wobbling board, I find myself in the black for the first time in at least five years. I keep checking my account, and worrying about when the next cheque is going to hit it, as if I expect the figures to suddenly veer back into OD status, where they have sat since around the turn of the century.

Interestingly, being in credit has made me far more thrifty than when I was 40 grand down. (Now that a week-long round of champagne celebrations is over). Indeed, I am renouncing costly temptation with more zeal than St Francis of Assisi. All those nice things which I used to fall for, I now see as a trap into revitalised debt, and do you know, I just don't have the energy any more to work my way out of it again. So I give up the morning muffin. I go home for a salad rather than hopping into Pret. I persuade Mr Millard to cook supper rather than ring for a pizza. And instead of doing anything excitingly Continental this summer we are going to Cornwall for a week. (Unless of course I can swing a free holiday, sorry, piece of travel journalism, which has become far more tricky to do now I have so many children.)

Anyway, now we have a family pet, a terrier puppy who revels in the glorious cross-populist name of Disney Mourinho, going abroad is not good, as until he has a pet passport we will have to leave him in kennels. Very costly.

On which subject, can I usher in the latest in my concurrent series of bourgeois exploitative targets? Let me introduce you to the Middle-Class Rip-Off #34 – the dog trainer. When I was young, nobody trained their dogs. We all had dogs, or at least a dog. They slept in baskets, they were walked on leads. They ate Pedigree Chum. That was it.

Nowadays, dogs still have baskets and leads and eat the same rubbish. But dogs these days must be trained. When I turn up with Disney M at the school gates, fervent dog owners line up to brainwash me. "Oh, you have a dog!" say mothers, fathers, teachers, even the lollipop man. Well, bingo for observation. After this comes the follow-up. "Are you getting it trained?" No, I say. I'm already half killing myself struggling to train four small human beings. I'm training the dog myself. They look at me as if I am out of my mind. "You? People don't train dogs any more. You need a professional. Because an untrained dog will take over the house. You need to show the dog who is boss!"

Well, I do that already, I say. If Disney Mourinho jumps up, I push him down. If he does something unspeakable on the kitchen floor, I slap him. Must I pay £90 for a six-week course to learn what seems to me to be information straight out of the School of Bleeding Obvious? Apparently, yes, I should. If you have a dog, you must admit you haven't got a clue, sign up for professional help and hand over your Mastercard.

"Oh, but puppy training is so marvellous!" is usually what comes next. The spokesperson for the day, who is clearly on some sort of commission, then runs through what goes on at these classes. It's always the same old shtick. Training courses are all about "psychologically entering the brain of the puppy", which I now learn is a pack animal, and teaching it that it is not the leader, but the runt of the pack.

Typical pearls you might glean from puppy training include these blinders. When you come home at night, do not enthusiastically greet the dog before saying hi to anyone else in your family. Well, call me sentimental, but obviously you don't start slobbering all over a dog before doing the same to your children, let alone Mr Millard. Unless you are totally mad.

You should also stand in its basket, occasionally. Why? Who knows? "Treats", which you must spend a small fortune on, must be doled out at all times, and for ease kept in a handy pouch hooked on to your belt, in which you also must keep the poop bags, a brush, a leash and probably also the pet passport. You must feed your dog after everyone else has eaten. And don't let it sleep in your bed. That's it. The rudimentary commandments of contemporary dog training. Read this column, and pass on the highlights to your nearest dog owner. Within a week, we'll have brought the pup training world to its knees.

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