On a Thursday night last spring, about 15 dogs and their owners made their way to Bevill Dog Behavior’s backyard. “They weren’t just a bunch of good, quiet dogs,” says owner Brad Bevill. They were “gnarled”, with instances of hyperactivity, anxiety and even aggression.
Everyone was there for a meditation class, led by Dallas Meditation Center director Miguel Chen. As Chen led the, ahem, human group through the mindfulness and yoga exercises, the dogs began to calm down. “By the time Miguel finished, most of them were asleep,” Bevill explains.
The class was a test for Bevill and Chen’s new online class, “Sit. Stay. Breathe.” The course, which launched online last month, combines dog training with meditation practices.
Bevill, an Irving native, started his career as a personal trainer and then worked in marketing for 18 years, convincing people to buy vodka and eat hamburgers. Wanting to change, he started dog training in 2013. Bevill had grown up with many pets – dogs, parakeets, hamsters, ducks, a rabbit and even a rooster – and was kind to them. He moved to Bevill Dog Behavior full time in 2017.
Chen, who grew up in Wyoming, started out as a punk rock musician. Chen says his mother had always tried to teach him mindfulness practices, but he only took those lessons seriously about 20 years ago, when he felt “deeply miserable”. Meditation and yoga helped him find a sense of peace. He started teaching officially ten years ago and has since written a few books, started a Yoga For Punks newsletter, and opened Blossom Yoga Dallas. He’s still a punk rocker, playing bass in the band Teenage Bottlerocket.
Chen and Bevill had been friends for years, bonded by their mutual love of baseball and music. About five years ago, Bevill visited Chen in Wyoming. He was about to have his first child and needed help calming down his dogs before the baby arrived. One night, over margaritas, they discussed the similarities in what they were teaching, such as posture, breath, and energies. “A lot of the work I was doing on mindfulness and meditation overlapped with the work that Brad was doing,” Chen says.
“We realized that we literally teach the same thing,” Bevill says.
The couple decided to collaborate. At first they wanted to write a book together. They found an agent and made a proposal. Chen moved to Dallas. However, the book evolved into something they didn’t want, so they decided to create Sit. Stay. To breathe.
Priced at $95, “Sit down. Stay. Breathe is a three-week online video training. There are three sections, “Body”, “Mind” and “Heart”, with five short videos. The longest clocks in just over 15 minutes.” We scale, like, human work, dog work, human work, dog work,” Bevill says.
The lessons themselves are simple, says Bevill. Chen teaches simple yoga and meditation exercises to improve your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Bevill teaches mirror exercises to help improve your dog’s well-being.
For example, the first week, Bevill and Chen focus on “Body”. Chen’s videos look at mindfulness while walking. You can’t talk on the phone while walking your dog, he says. “You have to be really present and connected to what’s right in front of you.” Chen explains how to adjust your spine and posture to improve your energy and regain a calm state of confidence.
Bevill’s videos take Chen’s lessons, like confidence, and apply them to training. If you’re walking your dog, he says, walk ahead of them and lead the way, setting the pace and the path. The leash should be used as a communication tool, and your dog should mimic the energy you exude, Bevill says. “Your dog is your best mirror of who you are.”
The course is relatively superficial compared to what the pair ultimately want to do. But don’t count, says Bevill. This will take you about 80% of the way there. “The biggest change happens with the easiest things.”
The pair has high hopes for the remaining 20%. They want to create more classes, like creating guided meditations on the walks to “bridge the gap between meditation and movement,” Bevill says. They want to lead workshops. They want to bring in a nutritionist and psychologist for a more holistic approach to exploring nutrition, exercise, yoga, mental health, and human and canine psychology.
“I would like to build a team around body, mind and heart that helps humans become better human beings,” Bevill says, “which then translates into a better relationship with their dog.”
Catherine Wendlandt is an associate online editor for Magazine D‘s Living and Home and Garden blogs, where she covers all…