Introduce Yourself to the Dog You're Photographing

If you’re photographing a dog you’ve never met before, introducing yourself is the very first thing you should do. Just like with humans, first impressions are everything, so you must get this pivotal moment right. The act of introducing yourself isn’t necessarily about having fun in that moment but rather about setting the stage for you to have fun with the dog later.

The main goal of introducing yourself to the dog is to build trust. Here are some tips for a good introduction:

  • Ask the human ahead of time about any quirks the dog has so you know not to do anything that may frighten him (for example, “Honey Doo doesn’t like when people whistle”).

  • When you first meet the dog, stay calm and quiet. Many people’s first inclination is to use loud, high-pitched baby talk with dogs. Some dogs may like this, but for most, it just gets them into an over-excited state. If you want to greet the dog verbally, use soft, soothing tones.

  • If the dog is very excited when you first meet, ignore him until he calms down. Concentrate on touring the location or setting up your camera and equipment. After he is calm, you can say hello verbally or by letting him sniff you.

  • Never approach the dog; let the dog approach you — but don’t force it.

  • If the dog is small, getting down on his level can help remove the threat of your physical presence. Never tower over or reach down to pet a small dog. It’s much too scary for most of them.

  • Avoid eye contact until you’ve spent a few minutes together. Dogs can perceive eye contact as a threat. Let him know you are not challenging him by avoiding looking him in the eye right away. After you’ve built up trust, you can try it later.

  • Once you’ve gotten through the first few minutes, pet the dog if he seems comfortable with it. If there is any doubt, don’t touch him.

  • All dogs are different. Some are more outgoing and plop in your lap to lick your face the second they meet you. Others forget they know you if you leave the room and come back. Observe the dog for clues about his personality, go with the flow, and use your common sense.

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