Matt Folsom lay with his back flat against the grass in his yard outside his house in Nashville, Tenn. He lifted his arm to toss a ball. It flew, and Kaladin — a German Shepherd — ran to retrieve it.
It was April 2019. A herniated disc had left 34-year-old Folsom in extreme pain. It hurt to lift his head. He couldn’t eat sitting up. For nearly 40 days, he rolled himself out of bed and lay on the ground outside in his yard, throwing a ball from the supine position to exercise Kaladin.
With an audience of 1.2 million followers as of September 2020, Folsom, Kaladin, now 3, and 1-year-old Aldrich — a Belgian Malinois — are often recognized in public. The names come from the fantasy novels he devours on a regular basis.
His biggest fear is failing his dogs or squandering their potential.
Capping their energy is one of the most important skills for a K9. #k9 ￼
Folsom met his first working dog 15 years ago, after home invaders attacked a close friend. To get her life back on track, she got a German Shepherd from Germany. “The difference between… a working dog and a pet, just in the intensity and the intelligence and the drive that they had… I just kind of fell in love with it.” he said.
“I found myself more and more waking up thinking about dog training [and] going to sleep thinking about dog training.”
Folsom originally joined TikTok to promote his breeding program for Malinois, but when COVID hit, he delayed launching that program. Folsom says social media star Gary Vaynerchuk convinced him to get on TikTok. “I posted on Instagram for a year and I had 95 followers. And then I decided to try TikTok and it just exploded.”
Folsom’s breeding program will not only develop police dogs but will also deliver one or two puppies from every litter who to people who have suffered home invasions.
Originally a jazz performance major, Folsom decided he didn’t want to work on a cruise ship or in a lounge for the rest of his life, so switched his major to mathematics, specializing in statistics. But after graduating he returned to his first passion: dogs.
“I didn’t even graduate high school. I only have a GED… once you have college credit, nobody cares if you have a high school diploma or what you did… I went from getting a GED to doing a summer math program at an Ivy League school.”
He is one of a few TikTokers that goes live on a set schedule. He goes live at 8 p.m. CST every day. A team of moderators from around the globe keeps his audience of teens safe from inappropriate content. Minutes after starting his broadcasts, more than 200 out of his 1.2 million followers had joined to watch his live.
Folsom’s first family dogs were two German Shepherds named Ali and Heidi. They came into his life when he was 14 years old. “Even then I knew I loved dogs. And I knew I loved working with them… they weren’t working dogs, I didn’t really know very much about training.” he said. “They were still better trained than anyone’s dogs in the neighborhood. And they were they were both super sweet and it still makes me sad to think about their passing to this day.”
Folsom plays disc golf and lifts weights. His favorite musical artist is Ella Fitzgerald. He does not watch TV, but does watch anime. The lowest battery percentage he will let his phone get is 7 percent.