Down, Boy! How women are learning to control their men

BBC self-help series for couples claims husbands are like puppies and offers house-training hints
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The Independent Online

At least that is the claim of a new BBC series, which shows how you can overcome marital niggles in the same way you stop a puppy from chewing the carpet.

Canine trainer Annie Clayton has become woman's best friend after applying her techniques to human relationships. It comes amid a wave of recent developments showing how women are coming out on top.

Bring Your Husband to Heel is a new six-part series which deals with a variety of problems such as how to motivate a man to do the washing up or pay more attention to you.

"The complaints we tackled were not marriage-threatening," said Mrs Clayton, a trainer for 12 years. "There was no drunkenness, gambling or knocking about. It was more 'I wish he would hang up his clothes'. Those things you learn to live with but would be nice if he changed."

She uses "operant conditioning", a method of encouraging each step on the journey to the required behaviour with a small reward.

"It is up to the woman to decide what the reward should be. It could be a thank you or a touch. But rewards need to be quickly delivered. It has to be the moment the right behaviour happens."

British women receive a further boost this week when academics publish a guide to identifying a breed of male happy to do his share of house work.

Researchers have found that the real "new" man is not the liberal office worker of popular belief, but a blue-collar worker who ends his shift in time to help back home.

The authors of a European Commission-funded report, due to be published in the Bradford-based International Journal of Manpower, conclude that new men are willing to do two-thirds of the housework, compared with the average male who manages a fifth.

Accounting for only 7.5 per cent of men in total, the elusive breed is most likely to be a manual worker. He is also more likely to have a contract job than a permanent one. It is also key that his wife is comparatively well educated.

With women now prospering at work, men's refusal to take domestic duties seriously is emerging as an obstacle to female equality, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission. In Spain, where four out of 10 husbands do no housework, the authorities have taken a draconian step. New civil marriage laws force husbands to agree to share "domestic responsibilities, the care of children and elderly family members".

'I didn't analyse what was going on - she just reeled me in'

Michelle Wells, 40, has been with her partner, David Carty, 34, for seven years. They work together running an IT software company.

Michelle: "David was a workaholic. He also worked from home and would clutter the place with books, CDs and paperwork. I wanted to stop him using the kitchen as an office and using the computer all the time. What I was taught with the dog training was to entice him away. It worked out to be expensive because I would reward him with M&S best prawns. I would ask him to give me a hand and say he would do a really good job. I guess it is brain-washing."

David: "Michelle had been very keen to separate work life from home life. She said she had seen some sort of psychologist and when the cameras came in I thought, if it stops her getting on my case I'll let her get on with it. She reeled me in and I didn't analyse what was going on - I was getting strawberries and chocolate. I'd compare the changes to learning to type. After a while it's natural. I'm getting the balance right now."

HOW TO BRING YOUR MAN TO HEEL

1. GOOD BOY!

The problem: Bad behaviour of all kinds. Owner feels like she is talking to herself. The technique: Constant nagging confuses dumb animals. Use a "loving touch, a smile and thank you" to encourage good behaviour. The problem: The beast will not stay by your side. He disappears for hours, arriving home in a mess. The technique: Be clear about your demands. But reward his return with treats and tickles behind the ears.

2. HEEL!

The problem: Will not retrieve anything, eg a dirty plate (from table to sink) or a gin and tonic (from fridge to you). The technique: Reward progress with treat, eg beer, until behaviour is automatic.

3. FETCH!

The problem: The animal pesters you with constant pawing and inane noise.

4. STAY!

The technique: Curb his enthusiasm by rejecting it. Reward sitting quietly with food and the occasional tickle.

'Bring Your Husband to Heel' begins on BBC2 on 22 August

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