Using Social Media to Help Dogs with Jennifer Malawey

Zazie and Kristi are joined by TikTok star Jennifer Malawey (Dizzy Dancing Dog) who shares her secrets about how to use social media to help dogs.


Kristi Benson, Zazie Todd, and Jennifer Malawey chat for The Pawsitive Post in Conversation

By Zazie Todd PhD

Watch episode 14 of The Pawsitive Post in Conversation on Youtube or below, listen via your favourite podcast app (including Apple, Spotify) or below, or scroll down to read the highlights.

About this episode

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In this episode of The Pawsitive Post in Conversation, Zazie and Kristi are joined by dog trainer and influencer Jennifer Malawey. Jennifer has a CTC from the Academy for Dog Trainers and a Certified SA Pro trainer who works on separation anxiety cases, and she puts out fantastic content on dog training on her social media and Youtube. She joined us to share her secrets about how to use social media to help people learn about dogs and dog training.

Jennifer talks about how she comes up with ideas for content creation, and how much work it is to put a video together. We learn what she thinks are the most important things to get across about dog training. And we all know that social media can have its downsides, but we ask Jennifer about what she finds most rewarding about it. We also get her tips for getting more engagement on social media.

Then we chat about the books we're reading. This episode, we recommend:

All the Devils Are Here: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Book 16) by Louise Penny.

Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller.

The Invention of the Modern Dog: Breed and Blood in Victorian Britain by Michael Worboys, Julie-Marie Strange, and Neil Pemberton.

The covers of the books recommended in this episode, as listed above

Jennifer Malawey is a dog-trainer-turned-content-creator. She currently works with Instinct Portland as a behavior consultant and social media manager, as well as partnering with brands in the pet space and doodling on her own TikTok channel. When she’s not working or lovin’ on her dogs (Dizzy, Keely, and Pizza), she can be found in her garden, on the lindy hop dance floor, or in a book.

Follow her on social:

Instagram   TikTok   Youtube 


Highlights of the episode


Z: You're active across very many different [social media] channels, and you have some fantastic content that we've been looking at prior to this interview. And there are so many things you can say. So how do you decide what you think are the most important messages to get across on social media?

J: That's a that's a tricky one, because you're right, as trainers there are a million things that we think are important and we want to get across, and when it comes to any social media channel there's no right answer. I think how you decide is really doing some introspection and deciding, what are the things that get you most fired up? I was asked by a mentor at one point, what are the things that you could just like rant about for days? What are the things that make you angry? Or what are the things that you just can't shut up about within the whole scope of dogs and behavior? And thinking about that was kind of like how I was able to narrow my focus.

So for me, I chose to try and focus on the fact that dog training can and should be fun for you and the dog, just bringing out the fun. Because I think everybody, trainers included, gets kind of bogged down the drudgery of it sometimes or disappointments and things. There's always ways to bring fun back into it, and I think that keeps people going. So that was one of the biggest things for me.

And then if I could choose a second, it's that there are so many different ways to train, and we know there are trade-offs. With everything in life, there are trade-offs. Speed is something that might motivate some people, but there are things that you lose out when you go for the fastest option to your goals. And so there are the things that keep me in the game and keep me having fun and wanting to work with dogs, and wanting to train my own dogs. Those little things, the little sparks in their eyes... My Chihuahua’s doing zoomy circles on the bed right now!

Those little things that sometimes are hard to put into words, the magic of dog training, you don't get that when you opt for the speedy option. And so I just kind of sum it up in the concept of slow magic. Sometimes there are things you only get when you do it the slow way. And so that's another thing that I really try to convey in my content.

"Any question that gets repeated a lot is perfect for making content about. And you can reuse those all the time because you know we all need repetition."

Z: I like that. Slow magic like slow dog training, kind of like the slow food movement where you get more enjoyment from your food if you take your time over it.

J: Exactly.

Z: I like the idea of fun too because what is more fun than having a Chihuahua doing zoomies on your bed basically! That's the lovely thing about dogs isn't it? When they're happy I think it brings us so much joy and so much fun as well.

J: Definitely. Yeah, I mean watching them be happy is like the whole point of having dogs in my opinion.

K: For sure. I think something that Jean [Donaldson] says, that's relevant to essentially all training, is that no one gets dogs to increase the drudgery in their lives. And it's true, and I think it's important as dog trainers that we recognize that having fun is not a minor aspect.

J: Absolutely yeah.

K: One of the things that I loved watching some of your videos before we talked, was that you have so many different types of videos, and it seems to me that you have a lot of really fun ideas. And I wondered ,how did you come up with these ideas? Like putting together a particular sound with a particular type of dog training, or the music, or you'll be doing something silly and you know, I love it. I love that kind of creativity really, I find it really enjoyable to watch. So does this just come to you? Do you search it out? How do you come up with all of these ideas?

J: This is kind of a hard question. I have an idea of how to come up with ideas answer. But for me personally it's also been the journey of kind of starting out as just a dog trainer, to being a trainer and a content creator was… I have kind of my whole life, my backstory, I've suppressed my creative side. And I have theories, after learning about learning theory or behavior science, that growing up with a lot of punishment suppresses behavior and suppresses creativity, and so I think that. And my family is very creative, they're all artists, and me, I'm like, nope don't have any of it.

And so it was only within the last few years that I was like, creativity is a skill. And I'm not going to get to express it if I don't start exploring it. So for me this has also been a journey of self-exploration, of letting go and just having fun. We're going to come back to fun! You know, it's kind of like letting yourself behave and just do stuff, try stuff. So that's the personal story answer.

But in terms of how to keep coming up with ideas, because that's the thing about social media, you have to keep showing up. When you don't, like I've gone through periods where I just stop posting for a while, then you know your audience stops showing up. So it's important that you keep those creative juices flowing. So I have a kind of a list for when I'm not feeling that creative inspiration, where can I go to come up with ideas.

"That's part of this creativity learning process that I'm on, learning how to tell better stories." 

Sometimes it is just the random viral sounds that you'll see as you're scrolling through, and you'll just be like oh, there's a way I can apply this to my content. But ideas can come from anywhere, and so part of it is just mindset and remembering to keep your eyes open. Inspiration literally can be any anywhere. If you look around the room, something will pop out. You can get ideas sparked in conversation whether that's with clients or with family or friends or complete strangers on the street, you know just something that people say, well it's like something happens in your brain, like oh okay that could be something. And sometimes you don't know where it's gonna go, you just know that maybe if I go down this road it'll turn out to be an idea.

But then you can go and scour your comment section for things that your audience has said, or go to other trainers' comment sections and find out what are people asking a lot of times, like when you see repeat questions. Or from your own clients, any question that gets repeated a lot is perfect for making content about. And you can reuse those all the time because we all need repetition, right?

And sometimes we follow creators that are in completely different fields and they'll have great ideas. That's a great place to go for inspiration as well. Or just reading a book, watching a movie, like it's literally anywhere. Ideas can come from wherever.

K: One of my favorite types of blogs that I write is what I secretly call a revenge blog. So if I see an idea or see somebody saying something--and people will be very strident when they're talking about dogs--and they can just be saying something that's absolutely false. And so instead of arguing on social media, what I like to do is I like to write a blog that's very positive and chirpy and happy and just completely slays the argument. It makes me feel really good in kind of like a background evil way. Do you ever do that? Is there ever like, I'm doing a revenge blog?

J: 100 per cent. I think that's such a great way to go about it, because you know there's always the toxicity that can come in when you're on social media. So finding ways to avoid it but meet that need of sharing what is the accurate information, just getting it out there, because sometimes it's like a numbers game right? And if you go and you search any random dog topic, it still feels like today that there's so much more misinformation than accurate information. So just putting out the information that you want out there, just to stack the deck, is a great way to go about it.

K: For sure.

Z: Yeah. I think that's a great way to put it. And I like that you said that you also get ideas from following content creators in other fields too, because for myself as well as obviously following lots of dog and cat accounts, you won't be surprised at all to learn that I follow a lot of writing accounts and book accounts, and I get inspiration from those that are relevant to the pet field and writing my blog and so on as well. So apart from the dog training stuff what other kinds of accounts do you like to follow to get ideas from?

J: Well I don't follow accounts specifically for ideas, it's like what I'm interested in that pops up from the algorithm. And a lot of the things that tend to be really relevant in like a deep wound sort of way are, like I get a lot of romantic relationship type content, communication among humans, a lot of like ADHD and autism kind of content pops up for me. That that sort of thing tends to be psychology basically.

Z: Yeah, and I think a lot of that human relationship stuff is also so relevant to our relationship with dogs, because a lot of the ways that we treat dogs seem to have to do with the ways that we have been treated as kids perhaps or have seen other people treat kids, and I think that influences people quite a lot. Okay so you've talked about where you get your ideas from. When you have an idea I can see that you produce some really fantastic content, so there must be a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in order to put those together. How much time do you spend editing or doing training setups to make videos for your for your content?

J: So much time!! Like it is its own full-time job. And it kind of depends if you're making like really short form content or using a viral sound just to do like a silly video. Sometimes it can go super quick, but honestly most of the time… And of course there's a learning curve, and for me I'm still on that journey of learning how to do my own editing. But I clocked it at one point and I was like, Wow, it took me a full hour to completely finish up what ended up being one minute of video content. And it's an insane amount of time, at least early on.

So if doing the actual editing isn't your interest or your forte, it's definitely one of those things to hire, delegate, because it is its own job truly. And I mean as far as like for me, it kind of has become my own job. The ratio of how much training I do versus how much time I spend creating content has completely flipped the scales. I spend way more time doing that content now than working one-on-one with clients. So you know, everybody can choose how much of each they want to do I suppose, if they're getting into that. But yeah, it's a lot of time.

K: It seems to me like it's really a process of telling stories. I think when we're watching videos online, we're watching little tiny pieces of stories, and stories are such a human way of navigating and learning and sort of relaxing. So I think there's something very cool to me about watching little tiny pieces of stories, but that you've created so carefully, you know. It's not like, you know there are some great videos that you can watch about dogs that are just like, I videoed this and it was  30 seconds, but that's not necessarily what we're talking about. We're talking about these really carefully edited videos that just kind of draw you in, like they're telling this little tiny story.

J: Yeah. I mean I have some very undigested thoughts that have been coming up for me lately that relate back to the idea that for humans, anything that's important comes back to a story,  stories are kind of the end-all be-all. Like nothing gets to us unless it is in some way a story. And that's again part of this creativity learning process that I'm on, learning how to tell better stories. Yeah so it's a very acute observation from you that like that's really the essence of what it is and what makes a video good.

K: And I think the editing thing matters way more than people realize if they haven't done any video editing.

J: Yeah, yeah. I mean gosh, I still feel like I am still such a beginner, there's so much still that I have to learn about how to edit, but for me it's been super fun.

K: How much training do you do beforehand? For some of them I think it's just a client that you're working with, but some of them it seems much more like you've maybe written storyboards and you have ideas, you know how it's gonna go.

J: Yeah, yeah. I've had several different types of formats and for sure, some of them I'm like I have to train a new task for my dog beforehand. What I'd really like to start doing more of is getting video clips of the training process to make tutorials and things like that. And that's funny with dog training, because a lot of times a really important part of it is I want people to be able to see the dog's body language. Like what do they look like when they have no idea what you're asking of them, you know? And sometimes if you pre-train a task and then you want to go back, and like okay we're gonna do step one and two now, but they really already know it, then it looks different on camera. And so it's tricky sometimes. You end up having to just repeat a bunch of stuff, and sometimes you're like, okay well we're just gonna get a few second clip because all I need is this step two right now, and we'll throw it together in a video later.

But it's funny. I mean as a content creator and especially if you want to do like kind of vlogging type stories, you do kind of have to end up repeating a lot of stuff. You're like, oh that was a great moment, I didn't get it on camera so we're just gonna pretend and do it again. It's a weird, weird life right?

"I chose to try and focus on the fact that dog training can and should be fun for you and the dog."

K: Right. So what do you love training the most with your dog? In your videos are we seeing mostly your dogs, or are we seeing a lot of your client dogs as well?

J: It's mostly my dogs these days. When I was going through the Academy [for Dog Trainers] I didn't have a dog, and I felt like I was the only weirdo who was becoming a dog trainer and I didn't have my own dog. And then I adopted my first dog Dizzy in 2019. I'd had him for six months before the pandemic hit, and then just within a span of three years I went from having zero dogs to having three dogs. So there's lots to train with the three of them. The thing I love most is working on cooperative care. I love grooming my dogs. I mean it's fun for me, but I also think it's great bonding time because sometimes you know life gets really busy and sometimes our dogs can feel neglected or whatever. And having that as just an important time that we get to spend together where they're getting my full and undivided attention. They love it and on top of that I get the satisfaction of knowing that I'm setting them up for a lifetime of being less stressed when stuff has to be done to them. So hands-down cooperative care is my favorite. 

And then after that, tricks. Tricks are just super fun and I've been working on parkour, like dog parkour titles, with them kind of passively. Dizzy's got his novice title. And oh my God it was so cute, too—Pizza the Chihuahua would just be along as we're on a walk and I'm  asking Dizzy to do some parkour things that we've been working on. And she would just, without me being aware that she was about to do this, she would just do the thing he did. And I hadn't done any training with her and I'm just like oh my gosh, you just jumped on this really high post. Like I have some videos where I'm just like what?!! This dog is hilarious, and she's gonna have so much fun when I get to actively working on that with her too.

About the co-hosts

Kristi Benson is an honours graduate of the prestigious Academy for Dog Trainers, where she earned her Certificate in Training and Counseling (CTC). She also has gained her PCBC-A credential from the Pet Professional Accreditation Board. She has recently moved to beautiful northern British Columbia, where she will continue to help dog guardians through online teaching and consultations. Kristi is on staff at the Academy for Dog Trainers, helping to shape the next generation of canine professionals. Kristi’s dogs are rescue sled dogs, mostly retired and thoroughly enjoying a good snooze in front of the woodstove. 

Kristi Benson's website  Facebook  Twitter  

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the award-winning author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy and Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy. She is the creator of the popular blog, Companion Animal Psychology, and also has a column at Psychology Today. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats. 

Facebook  Instagram  BlueSky 

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