[00:00:00] Matt: So, getting Kingston out into the world was the beginning of me reentering the world, and that’s a cornerstone for me because what I can say, without a doubt now is that if I help a dog, my life gets better.
[00:00:19] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…
[00:00:34] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…
[00:00:36] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.
Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts.
The voice you heard at the beginning of today’s episode was Matt Beisner. Matt Beisner CPDT-KA, FDM is the founder of The Zen Dog and host of the popular international show Dog Impossible on Disney Plus. Matt is dedicated to humanely helping dogs and their humans navigate the real challenges that come with living together. He understands that there are no bad dogs and works with them to support positive behavior change rather than relying on fear, force, or commands for control. ” What’s good for a dog is good for the world”, says Matt, who also serves as an ambassador for the Texas Humane Network. He and his wife, Brooklyn now live in Austin with their son, daughter, and family of once impossible dogs.
I’m so glad that we started the season with Matt. One of the things that we see a lot, not only when it comes to folks learning more about enrichment, but just in the field of animal behavior itself, is that it can be really hard to assimilate new information that conflicts with what you previously knew. Some people let this stymie them and keep them from growing and learn.
Other people like Matt, are able to go through this process with humility so that they can continue learning and growing. So, while today’s episode is not as enrichment heavy as others, this is a topic that will help you to get to that next level with your enrichment strategy and life, I suppose. In this episode, you’re going to hear Emily and Matt talk about how to process when you’re presented with information that conflicts with what you know, how to keep from drinking your own Kool-Aid, and the ever-present imposter syndrome. All right, here it is, today’s episode, Matt Beisner Growing Publicly.
[00:02:40] Emily: Okay. So, I’m going to start by asking you to tell us your name, your pronouns, and your pets.
[00:02:46] Matt: Thank you, my name is Matt Beisner and I refer to myself as he, him, and I’m happy to be referred to however people feel comfortable. My pets are, I’ve got five senior dogs which, as I said, in a conversation before was not great planning on my part, but here we are, and their names are Renge’s a 16-year-old Jindo.
We have Kingston who is a 15-year-old Tibetan terrier mix. We have amazing Nama, she is a coming up on 13-year-old, staffy sharpei mix. We have a ten-year-old named Deja Blue, she’s a blue nose pit, the Deja Blue, blue nose pit with a Blue Lacy, which is fun fact state dog of Texas. I have a coming up on 10-year-old German shepherd named Hess.
That’s our posse. And then we’ve got my son is five and three quarters and our daughter is, uh, about two and a half.
[00:03:40] Emily: That is quite a family. That’s very sweet. I love your crew. I also have senior dogs, so go team senior dogs. So, tell us your story and how you got to where you are.
[00:03:52] Matt: Well, I was a derelict and then I started training dogs.
I think part of how I can, set it up as, like a lot of people I had a lot of challenges early on, and none of this, none of its ever for excuse, I’m responsible for anything that I’ve ever done.
But it is some context, because one of the things that I really am driven by now is, in support of the animals that we’re here to support, is the mental health and wellbeing of the humans, that support the humans, that support the animals. So, I did not come from a place of wellness.
I didn’t grow up practicing healthy behavior and, found myself with a really serious drug and alcohol problem, which ended with me in a blackout, almost killing somebody on their motorcycle. What one of the things that was eye-opening about that to me was I was in my brother’s car, and the reason why that’s significant is that my brother had died on his motorcycle in an accident.
[00:04:49] Emily: Oh, wow.
[00:04:50] Matt: So, at that moment, when I pulled over and waited for the cops to show up at four o’clock on a Monday morning having left a club, I knew that I was done with whatever it was that I was trying to do, but I didn’t really know how to get help.
And that’s something I’ll come back to a lot is asking for help. Whether or not I knew I was asking at that point, I knew I was asking for help. As part of my early recovery, I lived with it then girlfriend who had just adopted a little Tibetan terrier, Kingston and Kingston was, at that time, what we would have judged as aggressive.
I mean, knowing what I know now, there’s a lot more to it obviously, but he would attack me anytime I would move, and he was afraid of things, and there I was, detoxing in her home. And so, it was kind of a nightmare situation, but what stood out to me was that when Kingston had to go out and she was at work, I had to take him.
So, getting Kingston out into the world was the beginning of me reentering the world, and that’s a cornerstone for me because what I can say, without a doubt now is that if I help a dog, my life gets better. If I do what’s best for the dog, I changed for the better as a human being. So, that kind of rolled me into, I think I want to help dogs, and I was afraid of dogs. My growing up, I was bit when I was a kid, and I was afraid growing up, and well into adulthood, which became a really kind of embarrassing, shameful thing, go to friend’s houses, and I’m trying to pretend that I’m not scared of the dog that’s over there in the corner. Even the rottweiler that had a diaper on, I was, you know, like I just was scared.
So, I can relate to that for a lot of my clients as well. I started copying stuff that I had seen on TV, and I will say in hindsight, obviously knowing what I know now, there was a lot to be, there was a lot that was problematic. The thing that I want to acknowledge was that what spoke to me at that point in my life was that there was, there seemed to be a heart about it. There seemed to be something about wanting to help animals. And that was really, I was compelled to pursue that. And I didn’t, I don’t even really know if I was employable anyways, so I’m not sure what else I was going to do. So, I started to help and kind of a hacked way, and then people said, hey, can you help my dogs, or my friend’s dogs, and something like that.
So, I started doing this thing a bit on the side, with no education, afraid of dogs, and copying stuff I was seeing on TV. So I was, I was totally, it was a perfect fit for aversive methods. I was a perfect fit for contributing to the dominance down paradigm, that we’re still in and, and trying to recover from.
As time went on, I started to get more support, I started to attend some conferences, I went to my first APDT in 2013, I think it was up in Spokane. And then, as things evolved, I ended up with a facility in Los Angeles and a desire to help what I saw to be grossly underserved, at the time, I would have sent a niche of our community, and that was dogs with aggression because they’re not allowed at daycares they’re temper tests, temperament tests are never set up for them to succeed.
They’re not part of the bottom line, and that’s really where I was drawn. Then I ended up with a facility with a staff of 15 and, and applying education, but, you know, that facility has since closed on account of the impact of the quarantines in Los Angeles, and I just knew we couldn’t keep it open.
Wasn’t sustainable for a number of reasons, but in hindsight there, one of the things that I saw when I was no longer working there is that it was really, really difficult to get out of this cycle that we were in. I was trying to, I really wanted to keep that, that group of dogs and be in service to them specifically. So, it was hard to hit the pause button and say to the entire staff, “Hey, I’m trying to change some behavior, some of my behavior and apply some things that I’m learning and all of these things.”
And I don’t think I did it very well. I think we had certain ethics that were drilled in, but there was a lot that was, there were things that were uninformed, and then as you know, when you practice behavior and particularly if it seems to get results, then there’s not a lot of incentive to not continue to do that, as long as the results are still limited in their contextual understanding. So, we, um, and I don’t know how great it was as, as a manager of people either. On the whole, we were doing something that was important to a community that really needed it, and we were making a sincere effort and there was a lot of heart in there.
Part of that is what led to us being contacted for the possibility of doing a show, which ended up being season one of Dog Impossible. And then interestingly right before, with the understandable criticism around season one, as I was rethinking things myself, and to be frank, I was rethinking things myself not because people hated me. I want to be very clear about that. That nobody owes me anything, Matt Beisner is going to be okay, but I just want to be clear in terms of the messaging that attacking someone is not likely to make them, A want to do better, or B want to join your side.
[00:10:02] Emily: Really that’s weird. I thought attacking people was the best way to change people’s minds. I’m surprised.
[00:10:07] Matt: Yeah, well, that seems to be what a lot of people think because that’s what people practice, and I find it to be questionable, if not glaringly hypocritical. So, I found myself in a position where organizations that I was a member of, that I really followed and was proud to be a member of, were making position statements.
And I don’t blame them for that, but what I want to key in on is making position statements without having reached out to me directly. You were glad to take my money, and you were glad for me to promote your organization, but when it came time to say, “Hey, Matt, we really think that you’re out of line here.”
Nobody bothered to reach out personally. Again, nobody owes me anything. I’m okay, and I accept what I’ve done, and I keep growing, but I want to highlight that because if there’s anything that I can contribute to our profession, and I think I have some things to contribute, that part of the journey I think is important because there’s somebody out there, it might be somebody listening to this right now. That has something to offer and maybe does, or doesn’t know the limitations of their skillset, and to the extent that the tent is wide enough for people that love dogs, and maybe a little bit less wider for people that want to love dogs in humane ways, whatever battle is happening is not going to be won by ostracizing that person that’s coming up. So, I reached out for help with Mike Shikashio because I needed help with a dog. I didn’t reach out because 20,000 people signed a change.org petition to stop me from practicing dog training. So when I talked to Mike, I thought this would be great to get him out to my facility to help me reboot.
And we scheduled it, and he came out, I think three weeks before we locked down for good. So, we never got to reboot, but what I got to do was reboot, and that is the beginning of the trajectory that finds us in this conversation here and, Emily, you were a big part of that. I got a chance to meet with both of you, Allie and Emily early on.
And like, you were very gracious to take time to do that, and then Emily, I was Marco Polo-ing you rabidly.
[00:12:10] Emily: We had several conversations, didn’t we?
[00:12:13] Matt: Yeah, particularly as I was in the process of studying for my certification and you were dusting stuff off, that was really grateful for your, both of you, for your consideration and Emily, and our time together talking together that way for your generosity of spirit. And now that I’m privileged to know people like yourself, in the profession, and to have conversations with a number of people at exceptional levels of skill and education, the thing that stands out to me is that all of those people would, all of you have in common is your humility and your graciousness and your generosity. And it’s almost like the war that’s happening is, did you ever see the movie, Snowpiercer?
[00:12:53] Emily: No, I haven’t seen it.
[00:12:55] Matt: Okay, so Snowpiercer, I don’t want to give it, I can’t, I don’t want to give it away, but let’s just say, there’s a war happening, and there are people who benefit from the war happening. But the people that I’m really drawn to work with and learn from they’re not in the war.
[00:13:10] Emily: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:13:11] Matt: They just don’t behave that way, and so I’m privileged to, as a public figure, to have that opportunity to connect with people directly and to begin to impact change in ways, deeper and more sustainable ways. That is a long answer to your opening question, but I appreciate you giving me space to, to lay that out as a start.
[00:13:34] Emily: Well, I think that it’s an important way to start this because not everybody might know where you came from and the context of this interview. So, I’m glad that you took the time to spell all that out. And as somebody who also crossed over, but more than a decade, almost a decade and a half ago, I sympathize with your experience, although mine was much less public than yours, so I did not receive nearly the amount of vitriol or criticism.
But I think there’s a journey that happens where, at least for me, I can’t speak for everybody, but for me, the journey was those outdated methods were not working for me either. Like they, they worked, they were functional. I see that they would get results, but I could also see the damage in the relationship that was happening.
And, and that was deeply harmful to me because I love animals and I devoted my life to them. And so, when I learned better ways and I started moving into the behavior sciences and, humane methods, I felt this sense of relief and safety that I had not felt prior. And so then for several years, I’m carrying this trauma of the previous methods, and the harm that I had done, and some level of shame and guilt about that, right? And so, then when I would people who were still practicing those methods, and still kind of sitting in that paradigm, living in the paradigm, my reactions were huge to them, and harmful to them because I was reacting from my own trauma from my own like, “Wow, that was super harmful. I’m not doing that anymore. Why are you still doing that?” And my journey over the past years has, been learning how to process that trauma, so that I can be present for people who are willing to learn. One of the things that Susan Friedman said to me has been deeply impactful to me is, “When the line of people waiting for our help has been taken care of, then we can worry about everybody else.”
And so, that’s kind of been my policy. If people are coming to me, wanting to learn. I am learning how to sit and have that conversation and meet them where they’re at, and help, shape their journey, but I’m not going to go out and try to proselytize to people who aren’t ready to learn yet.
That has been super helpful in my ability to not have those big reactions that I used to have. So, the reason I’m sharing my story is because, I think that’s also important component of this conversation. That people who are, promoting these kinder, more humane methods in animal training and are not doing the same with people, a lot of times are reacting from a place of trauma that has not been processed yet. They haven’t learned how to interface. And I think where the war happens is when people are trying to interact when neither side is actually in a place where they’re ready to learn from each other. Don’t try to have conversations with people who aren’t coming in good faith to have a real conversation, is how we end the war, right? If you want to do your thing, go over there and do your thing, and I’m not going to mess with you and I’ll stay over here and do my thing, but if you’re ready to learn, then we can approach and have a good faith conversation. And that happened with you, and Allie can tell you when you first contacted us, I was so afraid I started crying, because it was like dredging up a lot of feelings of like, is this sincere? I’ve had several times where people have come to me with a conversation starter and then it was just an excuse for them to argue.
There’s that whole component, which we’ll talk about later of the entertainment industry and the pressures of the entertainment industry. And I was like, I, this is a good faith conversation, I don’t know if I am, if I am evolved enough to have it yet. So, there was a lot of sitting with myself and processing those emotions in order to have that conversation, and then it ended up being really lovely.
So, I think that is the crux of the conflict. Is that people who have already embraced humane methodologies are processing trauma, and so we can’t always be our best selves for the people who are still trying to learn and have that journey.
And it does take some time of sitting with those emotions, acknowledging them, processing them, and then showing up when you’re at your best self, when you’re ready to be your best self. Because it does take courage on both sides, right? It took courage for you to ask for help, and it took courage for me to engage with somebody who had a known history, a very public known history of aversive of methodologies.
So, I think we need to also need to create space to acknowledge how difficult these conversations are from both sides, honor that courage, because it does take courage to do that, to engage in that way.
[00:18:23] Matt: Yeah, thank you so much for saying that. And I didn’t, I I’m hearing, for the listeners, I’m hearing this for the first time from you and what it was like for you to, the experience for you was me reaching out and, uh, and it, it it’s, uh, it gives me pause because it, it, it highlights that much more how gracious you were. And it’s very important, the way that you’re framing this, because this is, it’s the whole picture. whole picture, know, I know enough to not, like I said, I’m responsible for what I’ve done, and haven’t done in my life anyway. And I don’t, I don’t blame anybody for what they did, but it’s, but what’s really an important part of the healing is, I continue to talk with people, yeah, I understand that was really hurtful, and what have I done that may
[00:19:14] Emily: Yeah.
[00:19:15] Matt: hindered your work, or yeah, just the impact of it. And so that, I appreciate that perspective very much, and I think that’s really important for people to hear in the context of a conversation like this.
[00:19:28] Emily: Yeah. Thank you. My point in bringing that up, wasn’t look how gracious I am about it. But my, my point is that there’s a lot of emotions happening on both sides, and it is, it’s difficult for all parties involved. And, in order to have these conversations in a productive way, you need to develop those metacognitive skills where you can be able to observe your emotional response and recognize like, “Oh, I am having a reaction right now.” uh, at Pet Harmony, we call them Big Feels capital B, capital F. I’m having big Feels right now about this thing. What’s that about? Where’s that coming from? What can I do to alleviate that? And also the point was not to say like, “Oh man, you were so hard to work with you.” You’ve been lovely to, to work with, but it’s sometimes getting over that initial hump of like being willing to dive into the conversation that can be the hardest part. Right?
And I think it’s easier to demonize the other side and mock them and call them names and make fun of them than it is to acknowledge the validity of everybody’s perspective.
Even if you’re wrong, even if you’re causing harm, you’re doing those things because you have a reinforcement history for doing them, because you have a social network where that you identify with a social group, that you have, a worldview that supports and reinforces your practices, so asking people to change training methodologies, isn’t just asking them to change what they’re doing.
It’s asking them to change who they relate to, who their friends are, how they self-identify. It’s sometimes it’s asking them to change their worldview, and that is a much bigger ask than can you just use some friggin’ cookies? Like that? You know, like it’s just a much bigger ask, and that journey is very hard to, to make that transition.
[00:21:13] Matt: Yeah, that’s a really good point. And I can think of a few people were wildly popular in Southern California area and I watched them double down on dominance or as I, I probably shouldn’t say this ‘cause this is antithetical to your point, but I watched them double down on dumb, and the animals are suffering, and they’re suffering.
[00:21:37] Emily: Yeah. I think there’s an added element, which actually this brings us back to why we’re here. Why we’re veering a little bit off the enrichment topic to talk about this. Because the reason that Allie and I wanted to hit the pause button on talking about enrichment in a more direct way, and have this kind of indirect conversation, is because, as we have been teaching people about what enrichment actually is, and how to do it, and what that looks like in terms of a philosophy, and a mentality, and a framework, we have encountered this, you know, these deep struggles that people have with like that paradigm shift that is super hard. And, it is extra hard, there’s an added layer of difficulty when you are a public figure, and you have built a reputation for yourself as somebody who does this thing, and you have a following and your livelihood is contingent on you continuing to exist in this, community, right? Or this mindset. That’s why we wanted to have you on, because being confronted with information that conflicts with your existing beliefs and worldview, accepting that, processing it, and changing what you do based on that information is hard, in general for everybody, but it takes an added layer of courage to do that when you are very much in the public eye, and you have all of your stakes invested into this methodology.
So, it’s understandable why people who are in that public eye when they’re confronted with information that conflicts with their world view, it’s completely understandable that they doubled down because the other option is telling the entire world publicly, “I was wrong.” and I could lose all of my followers by saying this, but we’re going to do this other thing now that completely conflicts with my entire previous messaging. That is very brave thing to do. I wanted to bring you on because you had that next level experience, that added layer, of changing in a very public way.
[00:23:39] Matt: Yeah, a friend of mine said a long time ago, it’s funny now, she said to me, “Matt, you’re the kind of person who grows in public.” And that was before I had a TV show, it was before, the criticism, it was before certification, it was before this whole arc, she said that. I laugh to myself that I think it’s funny now, because when I was in it, it was not funny at all, and I kept remembering, and I’m still in it, I just have added to my support. That just seems to be it, and I said to somebody recently that, I had the privilege to be invited early on to the LIMA Beings by Dr. Chris Pachel, and I was frankly shocked that I was invited. They’re just such an amazing group of people, Lynn Ungar, Barrie Finger, and Marissa Martino and Kathy Sdao and Chris. It’s really something to be a part of that group, and to watch for all of the different levels of animal experience, to watch people wrestle with the very things that we’re talking about right now.
For me, it’s really heartening because it encourages community for me in a way that I wouldn’t have, because I wouldn’t think that those five people, I just mentioned have similar struggles.
Even if we’re not talking about technique, we’re talking about, can we practice these principles in all our affairs. And what we are revealing to each other is “No, I’m coming up short, like in some real areas.” It is a particular journey, and so I said to somebody recently, and I realized I embraced growing publicly. And for that to be true for me, it’s been part of the arc of my healing, and I have so much support. I have, it’s incredible both in and out of this profession, that kind of support that I have, and need to be able to grow just as a person and certainly to grow professionally.
But in the beginning, I was like, “Wow, I guess, you know, this is going to suck.” And then I thought, “Well, this is going to be hard.” It went from suck to hard. Somewhere there like somebodies got a chart there’s a flow chart in here somewhere it went from suck to hard, to, I, I don’t know, willingness, like I remember when I was studying for the certification, we were filming our second season for CPDT for those that are aren’t aware, for knowledge assessment.
I remember that we were filming the second season, so it’d be like a 12, 14 hour filming day, big shout out to my wife who was taking care of the dogs and the kids while I was off with the opportunity to do that on the daily being interrupted by fires, California fires. And I mean, it was just really a thing that second season, but I said to myself, “Look, do I want this or not?”
And take away whatever I think anybody else is gonna think about it, and I thought, you know what? I’ll be disappointed if I don’t add this to part of my evolution. So, I went for it when I had to commit to going for it in an emotionally sober way. So, I said, look, I can commit 30 minutes a day to study for this thing, and if I fail, I’ll take it again. And so, that went from suck, to hard, to challenging.
And along the way I realized, oh, that’s what my friend was saying, I’m willing to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and now I embrace it and I feel remarkably fortunate.
[00:26:51] Emily: So, let’s talk about that, internal process that happens. Because I think that’s a big component of being willing to change when presented with information that conflicts with your beliefs. A big component of that is an awareness of your emotional response to that and processing that. So, talk about that. When you have those moments where somebody is like, “You’re wrong, Matt. Here’s some information proving that you’re hella wrong.” And you have that initial, like icky feels about it, what is your process? How do you move through that?
[00:27:24] Matt: My short process, that’s a great question. It’s a wellness issue, for Matt Beisner, it’s a wellness issue as I would hope to support others in their process. I’ve done it, a decade and a half of, self-reflective work specific to making sure I never drank or did drugs again.
So, I think I have an advantage in a certain way, because if I work this backwards, if I’m carrying big feelings that aren’t processed, I’m going to need relief. What do I do for relief? Well, I ended up in jail and it only goes down from there. You know what I mean?
So, I have my frame of reference and the consequences are very clear. They’re historically evident. So, with the support that I’ve been given, and a ton of support in the personal process work, which can be also a big shout out for meditation, includes morning and night meditation. Or as I like to point out, nobody really notices when I meditate, but they notice when I don’t, so I’m going to keep meditating.
So, in those instances, I have a quick checklist because I have come to realize when I feel angry, it’s probably because I’m hurt or afraid. And what I know is that when I get angry, it makes me feel like I’m bigger than the problem. It gives me a sense of power. Which totally serves a lot of dog training, that’s where one can fall into, “Well, this dog doesn’t respect me.” Well, maybe you don’t feel respected in your life and this dog is going to pay for it. Maybe we get a little bit more honest about it. So, I have a quick checklist of things when I have big feelings or when I have behaviors.
I also do a lot of work to track the way that I say things. Even now, you know, I, I want to say in the context of what we’re talking about, when you mentioned what it was like for you, and that it’s a lot of people are responding from a place of trauma to something, for example, that they might’ve seen, that I have done, I have feelings about it, and I have to continue to consider where that person might be coming from. Cause that was a really, amongst other things, it was really disappointing. It was really disappointing, and it was disappointing for a lot of people.
So, when I say certain things or, or as I identified once I have the Six F’s. If I hear myself saying this, one of the Six F’s, F you, F me, I’m F’ed, Let’s F, F it, or what the F? If I say one of those six things, then I’m on notice that I am, I probably have a charge about something, or trying to justify some nonsense.
[00:30:01] Emily: Right. Right. Exactly. Okay. So that’s great. So, what I’m hearing is that like me, the metacognitive skills that you have come from a place of having to go through a self-healing process. So, you, you gained some life skills and some tools from having had some trauma and some damage, and in the process of healing, you learned these tools and now you apply them to this, this journey that we’re all on, where we realized over, and over, and over again, that we’re wrong. And we have more to learn and we, we keep learning, right?
[00:30:41] Matt: Yeah.
[00:30:42] Emily: So, it’s not something that comes naturally to anybody. You know, there’s not these magical people who are just experts at metacognition. These are life skills that we all have to develop, and hone, and continue honing for the rest of our lives.
[00:30:56] Matt: My friend said to me, “Matt, you are totally right about everything up to a point. And after that, you’re totally wrong.”
[00:31:05] Emily: Right. I mean, that’s, that’s the thing. I think, we tend to think in a binary, like you’re either right. Or you’re wrong and that’s not how any of it works, right? And all of us are perceptions, there’s some validity to our perceptions. We’re kind of grasping on some kernels of truth, and also, they’re kind of surrounded in this coding of like, “Nah, that ain’t it. That ain’t it.” Right? I think it’s easier to embrace, “I was wrong about this.” When it’s not, ” You are 100% wrong and incompetent.” If you can shift your mindset from being like, “Oh my God, I’m wrong. That must mean I’m worthless.” To “Okay, there’s all these things that I’m grasping competently, and I have all these skills, and it’s a big, it’s a big, complicated mess, and there are these things that I need to refine and hone and, and move forward.” That’s an easier journey, right?
[00:31:56] Matt: Yeah. And you’re not wrong, that that idea is incorrect.
[00:32:01] Emily: Yes. Being able to separate yourself from the information that you possess. It’s things that you hold, it’s not who you are as a person. That is a big one as well. Thanks for bringing that up because that’s an excellent point. Yeah.
There’s an additional challenge for people in our position, yours, mine, Allie’s that, we all have a lot of people telling us how great we are and how much we’ve helped them, and we have people who follow us, and it can be really tempting when you’re in this position to either rest on your laurels or start to drink your own Kool-Aid. But that’s, that’s really antithetical to learning and growing and improving, right? So, Allie and I have this really beautiful relationship where we kind of act as each other’s checks and balances. We also surround ourselves with mentors who constantly push us and challenge us to keep growing. So, what measures do you take to prevent yourself from drinking your own Kool-Aid?
[00:33:00] Matt: It’s a great question, I have the, the internal checks and balances. I do what one might call an inventory every night, I’m doing an inventory of what I thought, said, or did. And I write it down, and I keep it historically, and if I see patterns of that, I have been given the skills for accurate self-appraisal and regulation, not skills that I had.
So, that is a part of it. I regularly am accountable to people in and out of our profession. and most of the people, are not in our profession, what they’re helping me stay accountable to is, my ethics, and my integrity, and that kind of thing. So, I can’t, even if I was going to slide, I can’t go very long before somebody is going to say, “Hey, man, I haven’t heard from you, everything good?”
That’s a big part of what’s built in, and then I want to give just a huge thank you to the people that do follow me, because the support is because I get to interact with people a lot, and the support is real, and it matters. And the reason why I’m bringing that in is, I had a misstep, maybe it was a few months ago, where I didn’t like what another pocket or trainer was doing, and tried to polish a turd, like bring it up, but presented in a way that maybe might have some kind of insight, and a number of people called me on it. Number of people that follow me called me on it and they DM’d to me personally, and said “You’re out of line, this isn’t you.”. And they were right, I shouldn’t have done it in the first place, and I was so grateful, after a little bit of butt hurting, I was so grateful, that it was, it was revelatory to me, “Oh, this is my base, people that expect me to grow in integrity, be visible, accountable.” so I’m really fortunate that, that is the base that I operate from publicly.
[00:34:52] Emily: I think that’s really important. I think nobody outgrows mentors, right? You never get to a point in your journey where you don’t need people who are farther along that journey, or on a parallel path, who can give you perspective, and continue to challenge you, and continue to show you the ways in which you have to learn.
So, I think having mentors is such a huge part of that process of continuing to grow, and learn, and not end up resting on your laurels and sort of losing perspective a little bit, right?
So, now that you’re certified, if you’re anything like us after certification, you realize, “Oh, this isn’t the end of my learning journey, this is just the beginning.” Right? The more you learn, the more you realize that there is to learn. So, what are your next learning goals? Where are you interested in diving deeper?
[00:35:39] Matt: Yeah, there’s, there’s a lot of things on my list and I’m trying to do things in an emotionally sober way and avoid my response to imposter syndrome is a compulsive need to prove. So, I’m trying to avoid that, but here are some things that I’ve talked to some people about that I am, I’m really, I really would like to know more about.
I would like to explore more about fear free work, force free work, I know zero about, clicker work. So, from a skillset, obviously ethically and also from a skillset, that would be amazing. Another thing that I’m really drawn to, and I was, I was thinking, as you were talking earlier, about where people are at, in their process in terms of receptivity, Andrew Hale, I remember saying from his work as a human psychologist, as a psychologist or psychiatrist, that are three groups of people, and there’s the group that is aligned with you, the group that is open, and the group that is not, and he said, you don’t spend any time with the group that is not.
[00:36:39] Emily: Yeah.
[00:36:40] Matt: So, in my imposter syndrome, and compulsive need to prove, I’ll be hanging out with people that don’t want me there.
[00:36:47] Emily: Yes.
[00:36:47] Matt: When I look at where, what I’d like to learn, and what I’d like to do with it, really is about expanding what I can do to help dogs, and to help the people that help dogs. Even take a step further back, I’m particularly interested, given my own experience, in how to help the people, who help the people, that help dogs.
How can I support, I guess it would be like a mentorship, but I’m more comfortable, it’s like a partnership walk in that way. And how can I support the people, who are trying to support the humans, who are trying to support their dogs? That’s something I would like to contribute to our profession, and something that I would like to leave behind.
[00:37:26] Emily: I can definitely resonate that with that since I run a Mentorship Program, and realizing that I love working with animals, and I love working with clients, but the way that I address my own sense of urgency about how much that needs to change is by impacting the most people.
And the most efficient way to do that is to help behavior professionals, who can help clients, who can help pets. I totally empathize with that, and also, I’m just telling you now, it is way bigger, way, way bigger of a project than I ever could have imagined. Every day I’m terrified, and I question if I bit off more than I can chew. So, I wish you all the best in that journey, because there’s just this sense of this responsibility of like, “Oh my God, I’m responsible for all these people’s careers, and also, I don’t know nearly enough to be doing this, and also I there’s so much that I have to create for them, and there’s like, I have to make space for them in this really mindful way, and everybody has different needs.” And it just, it’s just this huge project.
So, uh, I’m not saying that to discourage you at all. I’m just saying it is a terrifying journey, and so if you get to the point where you’re doing that, we can be each other’s support system.
[00:38:43] Matt: Along those lines, when I was talking about the dominance down paradigm, which is still prevalent, I recently became an ambassador for the Texas Humane Network in Texas Humane Legal Network. And the Legal Networks goes for the laws here and a big applause for what they did, because they were actually creators of, and the force that got a bill passed, that was first rejected by the Governor, and ultimately it was passed that, mandated the dogs begin and certain provisions in shelter. So, the length of water, a length of a leash, type of leash, access to water, inclement weather, our local, our Texas law officials are now empowered to be able to address that situation immediately without having to file it and wait 24 hours for a dog to come out of the freezing cold.
One of the things that in my early conversations with Texas Human Network I was asking, “How can I help?” And they said, “Well, what kind of things are you interested in?” I love working with kids, and so when we think about this paradigm, and so dominance down, and then I think baseline it’s consideration up.
I think a lot of people might say compassion, but compassion is not something that necessarily resonates with some people, but consideration, “Hey, you ever think about this?”
Like, that might help reframe something, like when I talked to a client recently and I said, “Your dog’s behavior is a hundred percent appropriate based on how it’s experiencing the world.”
That was kind of revelatory for them. And to your point about the, the management, and that level that you’re working at, what I am particularly interested in is the youth. Because the youth who are not yet there, they are witness to and absorbing the impact of the current paradigm, but they’re not yet the consumer market.
And what the evidence has shown, is that a child who witnesses humane training of an animal can go in and impact the way the entire family treats the animal. That’s different than the adult coming home and saying, “I just learned something” and telling it to the other adults in the room who didn’t say, “Hey, tell me what you learned.” You know, it’s different. So, when I think about where to make impact, that’s another place that I’m particularly drawn to.
[00:41:01] Emily: I love that. Awesome. Well, that’s a great goal to have. So, what are some observable goals and actionable items that people can take away from this discussion?
[00:41:11] Matt: Well, an observable goal, in the realm of self-reflection, I find it really useful at a television show to do it, to watch film of what I’m doing. When I saw the first season, then I thought “Ah, are some things that I wish I had done differently I didn’t do.”
There was a one moment where something that I hadn’t done for years to make the editing that’s on me cause I did it, and I thought, “Man, I really wish that, that one thing that I had done was out there.” And I’m not going to get into it cause it doesn’t deserve any more, any more space. So, watching oneself in the work, and sometimes it’s usually just, in terms of technique.
“Oh, I see, that I’m tight here on the leash. And I see that, that, that, where I’m holding the leash, and I see that I’m, I’m, my body language is changing and, and I didn’t pick up with the dog’s read is on that.” That kind of stuff is invaluable. Those are easily observable goals; I’m going to change the way that I’m handling leashes. I’m going to change the way that I’m approaching a dog. I’m going to change the way that I set up the scenario. Observing people’s body languages. One of the things about needing to go virtual in the last couple of years is I was not in the room, which is amazing for a lot of reasons, and I get eyes on people and their dogs in a way that I wouldn’t normally.
So, for me, an observable goal is, to the extent of this person is demonstrating physically, and or verbally, their interest in what we’re doing. What am I offering that indicates that they might be interested? Or where am I losing that person? And so, my job for reading the room, if you will, is vital to the support of the dog, and so an observable goal for me is what that room looks like, and how I respond to it. Because my virtual sessions are recorded for my own use, that’s stuff that I can reflect on pretty easily as well. And then there was a second part of that question. I don’t think I answered it all.
[00:43:02] Emily: it was, actionable items that people can take away from this discussion.
[00:43:06] Matt: Yeah. Thank you. Getting a group around you that is, it’s been invaluable as difficult as it’s been, it’s been an invaluable experience for me to have people, that in my circles, that I don’t agree with. Because at the very least actionable item is, ” Can you, are you willing, and or capable of having conversations with people you don’t agree with?”
That’s pretty clear. And, and if not, what kind of actions can you take towards that? Well, a self-reflection which includes B meditation, which C includes, you know, inherently includes the practice of consideration. think about it that way a lot, because the way that I come out publicly, the way I show up in a conversation like this, the way I show up in somebody’s home, that I’m a flaming antecedent.
[00:43:54] Emily: Yeah. Yeah. I think that is, it’s important to learn how to disagree without ad hominem attacks. So, you can say, “I don’t agree with you” without saying, ” You’re a monster.” And, and that is a really important skill, I completely agree. I have one mentor in particular. We’re both kind of spicy, and so whenever we have these conversations, we end up in these like really heated debates.
And then, you know, at the end of the conversation, we were like, “Cool. It was good to talk to you again, love you, man. See you later.” Right? Like looking forward to next time. And that is, it’s such a healthy thing to be able to just like even vigorously argue with somebody, without ever attacking each other, or making any kind of insults.
And then at the end of it be like, “Cool, good conversation. Good talk. I’ll check you later.” It’s very healthy. Yes. okay. So, we allow our Pro Campus and Mentorship Program members to submit questions for our guests, and the most popular one for you was, ” There’s that saying, good training makes for bad TV and bad training makes for great TV. How do you balance entertainment and welfare? When those two things are often at odds?”
[00:45:04] Matt: Thank you for the question for that for the group of people that pose that question. So, I look at the arc of season one to season two, and the first episode I did, and then as season two, finale, episode eight in season 2.. And I think that’s the example of, what the balance looks like, that the season finale focused on a dog with serious wellness issues, a serious bite history. We did no training. We addressed the wellness and the dog never bit again.
It’s staggering, and we also want a dog that came in from a large chain that I probably legally should not mention, so I won’t. But it has three syllables, if you watch the episode, you can see on the e-collar that the dog arrived with, where the dog got the e-collar from. And so, that was also I think example of what that balance looks like in terms of meeting the people where they’re at, meeting the dog where they’re at, not shaming, because that wasn’t going to serve anything. And seeing the evolution. And so, how I balance it, a lot of that, I think I’ve addressed in what we were talking about earlier specific to entertainment.
I am responsible. I am responsible for the content but start there. So, anything is a public figure, and this is true if somebody has a TV show or not, I’m responsible for the content, cause if I do it, it doesn’t show up. I am responsible for the languaging of the content too. This is what this is, and this is why this is happening, and this is both of the practical and the principal application of what I’m trying to do here. am responsible for ensuring that I have the kind of support that elevates growth, and challenges, and expands what I know. I think of the four best things, one of the most impactful things that I learned, particularly when I needed to get clean and sober was that I had to start saying, I don’t know.
Now that sounds like a given, but anybody that’s taken the journey of, I don’t know, sounds like a Dr. Seuss book, actually, anybody’s taking the journey of, I don’t know, they know what it’s like to arrive at the start of that journey. And they know the profound grace, and insight, and beauty, and revelation that comes from being in that journey. And, and the real disappointment and hardship that comes in as well.
So, the people that I surround myself with expect me to come to them and say, I don’t know, and then they share with me their experience of not knowing, and what they did. We have a number of people in and out of this profession who do not tell me what to do, which is sometimes maddening, but they keep bringing me back to principle.
What is the principle here? And then they’ll tell me what they did, and that has really made a world of difference to cause, I have enough voices in my head telling me what I should and shouldn’t do, and how valuable I am based on that. So, to have people that say, “Hey, here’s what I did” or “Oh yeah, me too. I made that mistake.” And then talk about their experience, and then kind of leave it on the table, it opens the door for me to take a step forward of empowerment. I mean, it really sets me up for agency here because now they’ve set the framework. I’m not a dog that you’re putting on a freeway and letting me choose to do whatever I want to do.
You’re actually setting this up where I’m at, and then I can make a choice, accordingly, and then I made the choice. And then I get empowered from that. So, those are all things that I don’t know how specifically I answered the questions and some of it I won’t go into just because of my legal obligations.
For example, credit to the production company, to the network, that were really on board with how I was trying to evolve personally and professionally. And so, I think that got reflected also in the editing and they were, they would come back to me and say, what do you, what do you think about this? And, you know, how would you set that up? And I was really encouraged and excited to be a part of that process with them. That’s my observation as a viewer over the years, if that doesn’t seem to be typically how it goes.
[00:49:03] Emily: I think you made several good points there, and the things I want to sort of highlight is that what you have within your control is the content. And then beyond that, the chips are going to fall, I mean, there are powers outside of your control that are making decisions, and it’s great that you have a production company who supports you.
And then also there may come a time where you hit the limits of how much you can affect change in that context, and because it’s a big machine, and you definitely don’t have a control over a lot of that. But I think what is valuable is, we all want change to just happen right away, but change happens in approximations and it’s kind of this erosion of monoliths, right?
It’s kind of like the ocean hitting the rocks. Where every time a show comes on the air and says, there’s actually a different way to approach this, and we can have different priorities than what looks the most dramatic.
Even if that show isn’t successful in changing the monolith in that moment, the more kind of waves of the ocean hit that rock, there’s this erosion of that monolith, where that change happens gradually. And I think that, if nothing else happens, I think that is the valuable part of you very publicly in season one, going, “This is how you do things.” and then season two, going, wait a minute, “Actually, I’m going to change this and I’m still learning. I’m still growing.” And if there’s a season three, it’ll look better even than season two. And having that be a wave of the ocean, hitting the rock, even if it doesn’t last, it still has a cumulative impact. I think it’s great that you pointed out that all you can control as the content, and everything else is out of your hands a little bit.
[00:50:47] Matt: Thank you for that, and it just quickly, I am privileged to my knowledge, I don’t think there’s another certified trainer on television. In fact, I don’t know if there’s ever been a certified trainer, actively on television. So, that’s a privileged opportunity.
[00:51:00] Emily: So, I have a list of fairly short questions that I ask everybody at the end of the interview. So, we’ll get through those. What is one thing that you wish people knew about either this topic, your profession, or enrichment?
[00:51:13] Matt: My bumper sticker answer is enrichment feels good for everybody.
[00:51:19] Emily: Okay. I accept that.
[00:51:23] Matt: Anybody that I work with and has dialed into enrichment, they all feel better. All the humans feel better. Nobody has said, “Man, enrichment’s working really good for my dog, and I’m really unhappy.”
[00:51:35] Emily: Right, right. Exactly. Yeah, because it’s about meeting needs. Right. And we’re happier when our needs are met. Yeah. Great. What is one thing you’d love to see improved in your field?
[00:51:45] Matt: I want to say a simple answer. First simple answer would be communication, and second simple answer would be support.
[00:51:54] Emily: Yeah. So, do you mean within the profession people improve communication skills with each other or with clients? All of the above?
[00:52:01] Matt: I would say it starts internally first. Yeah. I think the people that need the most support, you know, like we think about the chain there, there’s the dog, and then there’s the dog’s pet parent, and then there’s the person that’s coming in. I think that those that are offering support for the pet parent and that dog or grossly underserved.
[00:52:20] Emily: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I think support for the professionals is a big, a big priority, right? What do you love about what you do?
[00:52:29] Matt: What I love, and what’s really hard about it, is that I get to see who I am.
[00:52:35] Emily: Yeah, for sure.
[00:52:38] Matt: And the more humane my training is, the more I see myself as contributing something valuable to the world.
[00:52:48] Emily: Yeah, absolutely. I love that answer. It’s so true. What are you currently working on? If people want to work more with or learn from you, where can they find you?
[00:53:01] Matt: So, what I’m currently working on, I am fascinated by the possibility, I have a question that’s really been burning and that is, is the relationship itself between dogs and humans a primary reinforcer? There’s a ton of facets to it, agency is inherent in relationship, enrichment is inherent in relationship, but there’s something that seems to be unique about the relationship between dogs and humans. And I, I would really like a bunch of people who are smarter than me to tell me that the answer is no. So, I’m on a vision quest right now, for that. I will welcome any conversations with people about that, cause there’s, there’s a lot of great places for me to explore this, but it’s a conversation that I really would, I need to have with other people to understand where this fits because there’s something to it, and I don’t understand what it is, but this seems to be something to it where people can find me, if anybody wants to follow me after that, where people can find me, I’m most active on Instagram in part because typing skills are terrible. And so, I can’t go long form Facebook. I can dictate to Siri what to do, but Siri, she’s iffy, and then I ended up having to go back and edit everything, so Instagram is great. People can DM me there, make a sincere effort to connect with people, people that have questions, I’m at a point where as much as they want to help, I’m not best serving people, if you contact me and say, “Hey, uh, I have a quick question about my dog.”
I don’t think that does service to the scope of things, but you can contact me at my website the website is the zen dog.com and you can email wag at the zen dog dot com, and we can get a 20-minute courtesy call set up, and your virtual sessions, can self-schedule well.
And people who do podcasts who want to have long form conversations, or people that want to do conferences, like the keynote conference that I got to participate in, am happy to continue having conversations that are challenging with people. I just think it’s so important as a practice and it’s so enlivening. And then also you can call me and my phone number is,
[00:55:07] Emily: Just kidding.
[00:55:09] Matt: I didn’t give you, my Instagram. My Instagram is Matt underscore Beisner my Facebook is Matt Beisner.
[00:55:16] Emily: We can put those in the show notes. Out of curiosity, have you read Dog Is Love by Clive Wynne?
[00:55:22] Matt: No, but it’s on my list, and it keeps coming around.
[00:55:25] Emily: If you’re interested in a discussion about the relationship between dogs and humans, that’s definitely a place to start.
[00:55:31] Matt: Thank you.
[00:55:32] Emily: Yeah. You’re welcome.
Well, thank you so much for joining me today to have this conversation, is lovely to talk with you about it.
[00:55:40] Matt: It was really, it was such a treat when you reached out, I was honored and appreciate so much the work that the two of you are doing, and I’m really grateful to be here and be a part of it and be in the conversation. So, thanks for including me.
[00:55:54] Emily: Of course, it’s been a pleasure.
[00:55:55] Allie: I hope you loved that interview as much as I did. I think we can all learn a thing or two from Matt about humility, and always being willing to learn and grow, and working through the discomfort that learning can elicit instead of digging our heels in.
And with that in mind, next week, we will be talking about cultivating a growing mindset.
Thank you for listening. You can find us at petharmonytraining.com and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.
Thank you for listening and happy training.
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