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How women are learning to control their men: operant conditioning!

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From The Independent:
"Bring Your Husband to Heel is a new [BBC] 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." Read the full article at:
Independent Online Edition > Media : app5

UPDATE: Read the comments to see what Karen Pryor has to say about this program as well!

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I ave heard that one of the

I ave heard that one of the marriages has since broke up , because of the deception from the wife . Anyone know if this is true ?

Miranda Hersey Helin's picture

"Bring Your Husband to Heel"

"Bring Your Husband to Heel" is a BBC television program only, not a book (as of yet, anyway).

does annie clayton have a

does annie clayton have a book in regards to husband to heel

On several occasions I

On several occasions I offered classes for the husbands of female students in my classes who complained that their partners were not appreciative or supportive of the approach that the wives were learning in my dog training classes.

The 'husbands only' classes were structured as two meetings, several weeks apart. In the first session I presented a lot of introductory information, we played the training game and then I offered the opportunity to develop a plan to change one aspect of their wives' behaviour. They were instructed to use verbal markers and to select appropriate reinforcers and to keep their intentions a secret until they had achieved their goals.

They then went home to implement their plans. I kept in touch with phone updates and then they returned for a follow-up session with progress reports. We then had a more extensive discussion of what they had learned and how they could extend it with their dogs, families and co-workers.

It was fun because the wives thought they were one-up on their partners but I gave the partners a chance to turn the tables on them. The opportunity to do that was enormously reinforcing to the husbands and really helped them learn the material.

Karen Pryor's picture

I got this email last night

I got this email last night from Andy Bondy, a well-known behavior analyst, and his wife. They have a great take on "Bring your husband to heel." :

Lori and I are in England and we're watching a show on BBC called "How to
bring your husband to heel"- pure clicker training! I've not seen this one-
the woman (Annie from Annie's dog training school) first teaches women to
work with dogs via clicking and shaping and then turns them loose on their
husbands! It is like one of our 'reality' shows in that it includes video
from within the home. It is truly hysterical- especially when they reveal
all to the hubby!

It was 'spot on'- total emphasis on reinforcement, ignore 'other' behaviors, demonstrated shaping pretty well and clicked frequently. Lori liked that each time the wife
praised her husband a clicker appeared on the screen with an audible click!
I hope the show makes it to the states!
Andy Bondy

"...watched it without

"...watched it without understanding what was happening."

"A LONG way from people’s image of ‘dog training,’ but they attack on the basis of the image, not the reality."

Yes! So our challenge, should we choose to accept it, is to educate the people who produce and market these programs. Or even produce and market them ourselves! That way the audience will come to the program with an open mind, and be able to understand what it is they are seeing.

Titles like "Bring Your Husband to Heel" set the audience up to be combative, which may be great for marketing but is not good for creating a learning environment. Even "How women are learning to control their men..." is a little provocative, if you know what I mean. ;-)

Karen Pryor's picture

People were up in arms at

People were up in arms at the very idea of training a person the way you would a dog, etc. Lots of references to feminism as well.

In fact the show does not use ‘traditional obedience training’ at all, although even the producers seem to say that. The trainer is teaching the wives how to use the principles of clicker training; positive reinforcement for everything, breaking behavior down into increments and just asking for a little at a time, making sure the cue is understood, ignoring mistakes, and so on. The problems are untidiness, not helping, and so on. The wife learns to use observation and reinforcement (smiles, hugs) instead of nagging and anger! The husbands generally are vastly relieved and not a bit demeaned. People who are attacking the show either haven’t watched it, or watched it without understanding what was happening.

Kay Laurence and I were both approached, last year, about working on what I presume was this show; I declined but Kay I think has contributed as a consultant, and indeed the training of the trainers is just what you would want to see. A LONG way from people’s image of ‘dog training,’ but they attack on the basis of the image, not the reality.

Karen Pryor

Does anyone know if there is

Does anyone know if there is anyway to view these programs?

I know that BBC has put a great deal of their programs on the internet.

Absolutely. And, when

Absolutely. And, when applying clicker training principles to our relationships with humans, be sensitive to the fact that the word "training" carries deep and negative meaning for most. The concept of training--or behavior changing--as a positive, mutually rewarding process is a difficult threshold for the non-clicker trainer to reach.


Yes, I completely agree. I

Yes, I completely agree. I looked in vain for a more thoughtful review.

The premise for the show sounds great. I can imagine a show where the viewers come away feeling good about the program, even if they aren't aware of the differences in training methods. Who can watch an excellent teacher of trainer at work without smiling? And who doesn't enjoy a light-hearted, insightful joke about the challenges of marriage?!

I suspect that while Annie Clayton and the wives were using positive reinforcement, something about the framing and promotion of the show left many viewers feeling punished. They apparently saw husbands who had been deceived and demeaned.

The take-away lesson for me is this: When promoting clicker training in a non-clicker-savvy media, always maintain some creative control.

"BBC2's Bring Your Husband

"BBC2's Bring Your Husband to Heel features dog trainer Annie Clayton using traditional dog-training techniques to improve husbands' behaviour."

What the response and commentary to Annie's show on BBC mistates is that her techniques are not based on traditional dog training, but on clicker training. If the BBC and the reviewers were aware of the difference, the response might be quite different. The principles of clicker training are not about dominance and control, but clarity, communication and rewards, elements that should be a part of all our relationships.

A quick search on Google

A quick search on Google shows that 'Bring Your Husband to Heel' was not a very positive experience for many viewers. One example:

" Viewers left barking mad "

" The BBC has been forced to apologise after 200 viewers complained about a hidden camera show in which women train their husbands like dogs ... "