Matt Morris, A Balanced Trainer
You could say Matt Morris’ career has gone to the dogs.
And he’d take that as a compliment, because that’s exactly where he wants it.
Morris is the founder and owner of Balanced Canine in Midlothian. They offer a variety of services, including boarding, training and private lessons.
There’s even a nice, separate facility on the property that’s climate controlled for the dogs during their stay.
“I used to train from inside my home at my previous place, but since moving, I have my own space for training,” Matt said.
Some Dogs Are Easy, Other Are Tough
Matt, 40, started Balanced Canine almost five years ago after working as a contraband dog handler for Interquest Detection Canines for five years. He said he got the idea to go into business for himself after getting so many requests from people to train their dogs.
“I thought that I could really turn it into something great,” he said. “I am a balanced trainer, meaning that I use all quadrants of training when most trainers just throw treats at dogs. I’m a real-world dog trainer and I won’t candy coat issues just to say what people want to hear.”
Matt understands that dogs, like people, need balance in their lives. He’s had a love for canines since he was a child growing up in Arlington.
“We always had dogs when I was a kid. I’m an animal nerd and pretty much grew up playing in the woods and creeks,” he said. “I started getting interested in dog training when I worked as a veterinary technician. I’d notice some dogs were easy to work with and some were tough.
“I figured out that it comes from how the human interacts with the dog in most cases. Nervous people bring in difficult dogs, while confident people brought in confident dogs.”
Matt’s wife, Tami, is also a big part of the family business.
“Tami has been amazing. Tami helps with the books and the program that I use to book clients,” he said.
A Family Affair That Includes Their Own Dogs
Together, they own three dogs of their own. Pixel is a golden retriever mix, Jazzie is a border collie and Trinity is a shepherd mix.
“We love Matt, and more importantly, our Goldendoodle, Lady, adores him,” said Karen Trimble, a Balanced Canine client. “She was five months old when we first contacted Matt, and my husband was about to begin a long series of medical treatments. Our first goal was to learn how to stop her from jumping on my husband, because we were afraid she would knock him down in his weakened condition. Matt trained us to teach her what was acceptable and what was not.
“We did several private sessions with him during that time period and we saw improvement with each session. Then in May she went to Matt’s for a three-week board-and-train session. We missed her terribly, but a much calmer, better behaved, version of herself returned to us.
“Lady is strong, strong-willed and energetic, and Matt helped us come to the decision that she could benefit from the use of an e-collar. He was careful to work on it with her, and then he trained us to use it safely and correctly. We are grateful to have him in her life and ours.”
Boarding, Training, Love Included
Another client, Leigh Ann Smith, added, “We have had Matt do board-and-train on our two German Shepherds. He trained Kaiser about three years ago, and we just had Krieger trained in September.
“Matt is amazing. His program is structured, while also loving. We share his belief that a dog needs to know who is in charge and ‘know their place’ in the family. A well-trained dog makes everyone’s life better, yours and the dog’s.”
Along with training dogs, Matt often turns them into photographic subjects, with their owners’ permission, of course. He’s expanded his horizon to include shots of his beloved hometown.
“I learned how to use a DSLR camera about five years ago. I started doing portraits of my clients’ dogs as practice, then I started walking around town and photographing scenes of Midlothian,” he said. “”Midlothian is a beautiful town that’s not too cluttered, which can make for some good photography.””
Annual Calendar For Midlothian
He’s also turned that additional talent into a philanthropic opportunity. This year will be the third year he’s done a calendar for Midlothian.
“I’m a photographer and was wondering how I could help others. My good friend, Tiffany Carra, and I got the ball rolling and ended up raising $1,600, which we split between Manna House and the city shelter,” he said. “One was Scenes of Midlothian and the other was Dogs of Cement City.
“I focused on small businesses of Midlothian and did dog portraits last year. We didn’t raise as much money, but we gave what we could to Fostering Hope animal rescue. This year, I’m just doing a dog calendar. I’m hoping to be able to make a bigger donation to a charity this year.”
Recently Matt was hired to take photographs of some Sheepadoodle puppies. “He does a great job making the focus about the dogs. He catches not just their beauty, but also their personality, which can be challenging with puppies. You can tell a dog-lover is behind the lens,” said Jill Eastman.
While COVID-19 has impacted many businesses in a negative way, it’s actually affected his in a positive fashion.
“A lot of people have been stuck at home with their dogs and decided to get some behaviors fixed, or people have adopted dogs while off work,” he said.
“”I just want to thank all of the many Midlothian residents that have trusted me with their dogs during their stay with me. So many of my clients have become my friends.”