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Going to the dogs helps former vet 'train' people

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

It seems that man's best friend might teach him a thing or two about behaviour.

Dr. Doug Jernigan, a retired veterinarian from Kansas who now calls Innisfil home, has spent 35 years looking after animals of every shape and size.

It wasn't until he retired, however, that he took what he learned from his clients - dogs, that is - and used it to help people better communicate with other people.

"When a dog walks into the room, he walks around sniffing and determining who's friendly and unfriendly and determines how to approach each person," Jernigan explained.

"Dogs do it naturally, but we have to train ourselves to do it."

Jernigan speaks of how, as humans, we expect others to modify their behaviour to get along with us, when actually, it's a heck of a lot easier the other way around.

Based on his work with the Dominant, Inspirational, Supporting and Creative (DISC) program in the U.S., Jernigan has literally trained thousands of people how to think like dogs.

"A retriever retrieves, a pointer points, and a border collie herds. It's instinctual - it's in their nature."

He says when someone determines the nature of the people they're dealing with, they're able to modify their own behaviour to better communicate with managers, strangers, new bosses and well, everyone else.

The DISC program, based on fitting people into the four categories - Dominant, Inspirational, Supporting and Creative (critical thinkers) - and responding to how they think, has been copied and reformatted into a variety of different personality programs during the last 20 years.

Jernigan said it wasn't until his psychologist wife, Dr. Sondra Jernigan, researched and delved deeper into the fundamentals of the system, that the two became hooked on teaching it to others.

With a client list as long as a dog's tail, the Jernigans brought their practices up from Kansas to consult in Ontario to be closer to her mother in Innisfil.

Jernigan goes on to explain that the two parts of the brain, the low road, our baser instincts (or id) affects our higher-road or conscious thinking.

He says that when we communicate through our low-road (emotions) we may be reacting from fears we've had in the past.

He compares it to his border collie, Joss, who was surprised by a child hiding behind a tree when she was only a puppy.

"She never got over her fear of little kids," he said of his dog who died after 13 years.

Humans, however, have the ability to re-wire their emotion-based communication skills, once they realize why they've been reacting in certain situations.

Jernigan spends his days between his consulting business and teaching pharmacology to first and second year students at Georgian College's Orillia campus.

Oh, and by the way, he said cats don't have the same abilities to recognize and change their emotions as dogs do.

For more information, visit www.bordercolliebrain.com.

cbrowne@thebarrieexaminer.com



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