I'm going to make this personal, shoot from the heart, and talk about how dogs have impacted my life/psychological health from my personal experiences to how humans tend to approach dogs as a society.
I didn't want to come in and spew a bunch of criticisms towards the pet industry (because God knows we will resume with that). You’ll get your dose of me ripping the pet industry a new asshole coming at you again soon on our next podcast.
Pills > rooting out the problem
As you know, we as a society tend to subscribe incredibly hard to certain ideals, and getting into dog training first and foremost was a very eye-opening experience for me. What I found was that the industry was basically a direct reflection of where our society is. Dogs are a reflection of where we are as people, i.e. these days we’d rather put a dog on SSRI drugs like Lexapro, Xanax, Prozac rather than give them a structured walk and boundaries.
Dogs and extremism don’t mix
What I’ve also found over this now 23-year journey in dog training and being around canids in general is that dogs will follow a calm person. A calm person is not an extreme person. An extreme person is someone that has subscribed to one ideal.
We tend to subscribe to different ideals so strongly because the marketing of psychological concepts is used to generate revenue every single day, week, and nano second of our lives. Dog training taught me is that these subscriptions are false narratives, and what I mean by that is that you are not limited to only live one way, one creed, or by one doctrine. You can pick and choose, and that's what's incredible about living and being a human.
We have cognitive thought. We have a very developed frontal lobe (some of us more than others).
Thus, I employed the balanced approach of dog training.
What that means is that we have boundaries, corrections, and discipline...but that is coupled with a lot of love and positive reinforcement.
All of a sudden the dogs I worked with became amazingly balanced in their behavior. So I started thinking I was like, “Man what the fuck can I do to put that in practice with my own life, with my own depression, and with my own struggles?” I asked myself why don't I live a balanced life if dogs are the purest form of behavior/behavioral shaping (it's called Pavlov's dog)? Why wouldn't we follow a similar model?
So what I did was I strip myself of labels. I stripped myself of training labels. I stripped myself of social labels, and I just started doing shit that I liked. I took from every discipline that I could. I took from pure positive and pure immersive dog training. I learned from Republicans and Democrats.
I took from from the hard-working, blue-collar worker and the office job. I took from the fast food worker. I took from the college kid. I took from the poor side of society. I took from the affluent side of society, and I coupled all the knowledge that I gathered and brought everything within balance.
And this is what's crazy about behavior when I'm working with dogs who are just balls-to-the-wall freakazoids or just have explosive behavior. That is not a balanced dog. So I analyze the situation, and then I balance it out. I introduce more of the other until the dog becomes balanced.
So when I wake up in the mornings and lo and behold sometimes I have anxiety. I ask myself, “What did I have too much of yesterday?” Oh, I worked too much yesterday. It's a very common thing that I do.
So if I wake up with anxiety, I can nail it down that I worked too much the day before, and I’ll then do my best to balance it out with more relaxation. Maybe some extra video game time, WWE Network time, or talking to my good friends.
Hell maybe throw some time spent by myself staring at a wall blankly and not thinking one fucking thing.
Maybe that's what we need to balance ourselves. But at the same time, sometimes we can relax too much and exercise is the solution for that pent-up anxiety at that point. So I try to balance my routine as much as possible with good nutrition and good exercise.
What I'm trying to get across is that if you balance out the things that you do and the way that you approach living, you’ll live an experience filled with contentment. You will lead a life that's filled with no fear of judgment, because you'll be giving yourself your own reassurance through your own balance. And that is exactly what I strive to achieve with dogs.
The beauty of balance + tolerance in training
You look in every great theology book ever written, and although they may be worded differently, there’s one common factor: don't be an asshole. A goal of tolerance is what we need to strive for.
When dogs are aggressive (reactive) towards other dogs, one of my most important goals is moving towards tolerance. We don't need to play with everyone. That's unhealthy, and it's the same for people. If you start playing with everybody, you're going to get some negativity in your life, right? It's all matter of balance, balance, balance.
Above: I instill practical, balanced training that will yield a stress-free relationship between owner and canine. The loose leash walk, heel, and auto-sit are crucial to the structured walk.
Pretty incredible. Dogs have taught me that in order to gain control of your life, you must give up control or the thought of being in control. I'm not spreading religion or spirituality, but what worked for me was the calm and disciplined demeanor that ultimately brings good behavior to the forefront.
This approach has allowed me to become a leader in my industry. In fact, a lot of my clients will tell you that they use my balanced principles in their own lives. It works wonders, because dogs are a reflection of our general society.
It's pretty amazing, and what we can conclude from all that is that maybe in the mornings? All of us should make the effort to take care of ourselves. We’re all worthy (canines included) of achieving that healthy balance of eating well, exercising properly, and tolerating others.
Jonas Black, Heroly's top canine behaviorist + consultant
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