top of page

Moving Away From Labels

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

Let's talk L-A-B-E-L-S

Labels are understandably one of the ways people categorize information, make sense of what they are seeing and essentially are used often to form a quick reference point for communication.

With that being said, let's look a little closer at why we actually want to move away from labeling dogs.

When we label a dog that label can mistakenly be assigned as a personality trait. Meaning we expect said dog to be "dog friendly" in all situations at all times because after all that is the label they were given based on their behavior. But even though I am a friendly person, I am not friendly when I am scared. Similarly a dog that was labeled as dog friendly could be set up to fail because they were expected to be a certain way & when the environment and associated emotions were different their behavior was different as well. Perhaps we label an undersocialized dog as not good with other dogs, needs to be an only dog. Well, now we have just limited the chances of someone muzzle conditioning, finding a positive reinforcement trainer and doing the work to develop dog social skills, all because a label determined that this dog is incapable of having a dog friend. In either example the dog is failed.

Some great ways to move away from labels is to:

1) Recognize that our need to put a dog in a box of our judgement and preconceived notions does more harm than good

2) Use qualifiers, in this environment the dog is... or at this time in these circumstances we are seeing.

3) Know that behavior is fluid

4) Use antecedent, behavior and consequences as a way to explain the way a dog acted

5) Describe what you experienced- the dog had an erect tail, wide eyes, was very still instead of labeling a dog as aggressive

6) Identify variables that are always at work in behavior such as age, developmental stages, past traumas, learning histories, level of socialization, breed/breed mixes, medical work ups, etc

7) Learn and self educate on dog body language
8) remember behavior has function; behavior is communicative and behavior is information rather than assigning value as good or bad behavior

9) Take the time to assess behavior overtime

10) Behavior is not THE dog, its his actions in a moment of time.

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


DogRRR NEW VENMO: DDRescue2015

Who is Dallas Dog? Our rehabilitation efforts address the physical and emotional needs of rescued animals and prepare them for the second chance they deserve. You can make a difference by fostering, adopting, or making a donation toward these worthy animals.

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.

21 views0 comments


Recent Posts