Dog Psychology 101: Figure Out the Canine Mind-set
Remember that when photographing dogs, they are, in general, social, externally motivated sponges. They want to be part of the group (or pack in dogspeak), follow your lead, and please you. They like to have their minds and bodies challenged, and they have an amazing capacity to learn new skills when given the chance.
All these characteristics make them a good match for photography if you know how to use them!
A smart approach is to turn a photo session into a game that you and your dog play together. Games really appeal to your dog’s natural tendencies, so the first rule of dog photography is always make it fun for your dog to achieve something! Dogs are similar to human children in that they push your limits as they learn what’s okay and what’s not, and a photo session is no exception.
Because dogs respond well to positive reinforcement, be sure you incorporate plenty of it into your photo session, whether it’s treats, hugs, or toys. Keep in mind that this is a very general peek into a dog’s mind, but it comes in handy when you break out the camera.
Dogs want to learn and achieve, so all you have to do is be patient and consistent, kind yet firm. For example, if you want Rudy to sit and look at you so you can snap a photo, hold a treat near your camera until he looks. But don’t give him the treat for free or you’ll lose your leverage.
And on the flip side, reward him as soon as you get the behavior you want; don’t delay it. Say you put Rudy in your favorite leather chair and give him a sit-stay command. He does it like a champ, but you realize you have to fiddle with your camera for a few minutes.
Don’t wait until after you’re done adjusting your camera to treat him. You must reward him right away so he can learn what you want from him. If you don’t, he’ll get confused and frustrated and won’t want to work with you.
Sensitive or fearful dogs may not take to this new activity right away. In fact, the camera can be downright scary to some dogs. With lots of patience on your part, your dog can overcome his fear of the camera. Just remember to keep things fun with lots of rewards! The bottom line is that you are your dog’s companion, and he wants to be with you, feel safe, and be rewarded.