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Education vs Training: Making the Mental Shift

Guest Blog by Jennifer Caves Pendleton, M.Psy, CGC, Canine-Human Educator for REAL Animal Sanctuary and Behavioral Solutions

Dog training has its history. Over the years there have been movements and philosophies varying from punitive in nature to balanced trainers to purely positive. Training has in my opinion, the connotation and implication of working towards a specific goal. Weight training, Olympic training, protection training, and various occupational training typically refer to the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior. It is too simplistic, reductionist, and doesn’t quite cover the interpersonal and depth of what working with a dog for life encompasses.

Life is by far our biggest lesson and we share our lives with our dogs. We should not want to just train our dogs. We should want to teach him, him to teach us, learn from each other and with each other. Listen and be listened to. An intrinsic rhythm that we develop from our time together; a connection that is rooted in respect, choice, communication, love, kindness, reflection, dedication, and consistency. We all have the potential of having this type of relationship with our best friends.

Shifting the words from dog training to canine-human education shifts the mindset and suggests it is a long-term process, as it should be, and that the dog is not the only one to be taught. It is all too easy for people to blame the dog or blame a trainer for behaviors they want changed that go unchanged after paying for training. It is a scary precedent to blame a dog for “bad” behavior because then there is no accountability for the person to also be responsible for learning. But that is exactly why thinking of dog training in the traditional sense sets up dogs to fail and does more harm than good. Because it implies there is only one of us that needs to be helped. That the dog is in the wrong and it is up to someone to “fix” him. Educating both ends of the leash is where long-term behavioral change will happen.

Empowering people through learning how to communicate clearly, understand their dog’s individual needs, setting up joint work, a partnership that supports development, progress, and a foundation in which the human and canine can relate to each other in a profound and rewarding way. Canine-human education builds the relationship and the relationship builds the canine-human learning paradigm.

When you make that mental shift from traditional training to canine-human learning then you realize that within the canine-human relationship we should always be working with our dogs, we should always be investing in their temperament and perceptions, we should always be present and engaging, mindful, and purposeful with our four-legged counterparts; rather than a specific goal or competency achieved resulting in being “done” with training. Making this change in our own mentality of what “training” our dogs means should bring on more responsibility. We are responsible for teaching our dogs; and what a privilege!

When we are open to teaching rather than training we become receptive to also learning. When you work with your dog you can see what motivates him, what challenges him, where his behavior struggles or excels, how to communicate more clearly for better results, what environments change his behavior, and how. Through all of this, you are gathering more information so we can teach more effectively. We must be mindful of our own behavior too so we can notice what we are inadvertently teaching because our behavior has implications for our dog's behavior as well. Reflect on your relationship and choose a purposeful, holistic, choice-centered, heavy reinforcement connection because you are in the teacher-learner relationship whether you realize it or not.

"In learning, you will teach and in teaching, you will learn." - Phil Collins

Meet the Behaviorist, Jennifer Caves, M.Psy, CGC:

"Welcome dog lovers and all dogs! I am the founder and Canine-Human Educator for REAL Animal Sanctuary and Behavioral Solutions. We consider our work to be rooted in science and driven by ethics. Our passion meets purpose mission is unique in that we empower and educate people with a lifelong skill set to help any dog they share their life with currently or in the future. Dogs are incredibly resilient and intelligent and when the humans in their life know the how, why and successful implementation of behavioral principles- our dogs become happy, healthy and healed. I have my Masters in Psychology and Canine Good Citizen Certification through the AKC. I have literally been rescuing animals since I was 16 years old with 15 years of behavioral experience. I consider it a privilege to work with you and your dog!"

Contact Jennifer by visiting

Thank you for supporting Dallas Dog. Our mission is to create a safer place for animals by rescuing and rehabilitating those who are neglected, unwanted and abused across Texas or displaced by natural disasters nearby and finding them a permanent home. You can visit our website at to follow our amazing journey.

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