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Know What Motivates Your Subjects during Dog Photo Sessions

Knowing what keeps your dog wanting to listen and perform is what you should use as a reward during your photo sessions. Lots of fun and rewards ensure success.

Does Chauncey come running every time he hears the crinkle of his treat bag? Is a ball the best thing in the world to Gryffin? Maybe all Zuma needs is a pat on the head and a “good girl” to keep doing tricks.

Here’s a rundown of how to use different motivators:

  • Treats: If your dog goes gaga over treats, cut, break, or tear up a bunch of them into little pieces before your photo session because you’ll go through them fast. If you have one of those pouches made especially for treats during dog training, use it.

    If you don’t, think about getting one. They’re durable, they have a drawstring to protect against sneak attacks, and they clip easily onto your belt, waistband, or pocket. They’re easier to access than your pockets or a plastic baggie.

    Brooke, a normally shy dog, came out of her shell for some treats.
    Brooke, a normally shy dog, came out of her shell for some treats.

    24mm, 1/500 sec., f/2.8, 160

    Be careful though: If you reward your dog too much, he may end up with that treat-crazed look in his eyes. Find a balance that’s right for your dog. Treats are a great way to get your dog’s attention, but if you go overboard, he may become fixated on the food and unreachable for the rest of the session.

  • Squeakers/noisemakers: If a squeaker is what sets your dog’s heart aflutter, have one or two in your pocket. It’s best to use only the squeakers instead of the whole toy it comes with. You can purchase replacement squeakers at your local pet supply store that are perfect for the task.

  • Toys and play: A favorite toy can be a perfect reward. Make sure to hide it until you need to use it; otherwise, you may have a hard time getting your dog’s attention! After he’s done what you’ve asked, hand over the toy as a reward and have a mini play session if he likes that (just don’t get him too riled up) before moving on to the next shot.

  • Praise: Some dogs don’t even need an object; all they need is your approval. Make sure to heap on the praise if that’s what motivates your dog. After he does what you want him to, take a few seconds to tell him what a good boy he is and scratch his tummy or give a good scritch of the ears.

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