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.

 

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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