If your dog doesn’t cooperate when you try to take good photos of him, you’re not alone. These 5 tips will soon have you photographing your canine companion like a pro!
If you take photos of your dog, you know that getting the perfect shot can be a challenge. It seems as soon as you get your camera out, that ideal pose is lost as your dog slumps, turns his head, runs up to meet you, or walks away. These six suggestions will help you train your dog to stay put, and even strike a fun pose, so you can capture some wonderful portraits!
6 tips for taking better photos of your dog
1. Train your dog to do a reliable stay
For the best photos, you’ll want your dog to stay in place without wiggling around.
- Start with him in a sitting position and give him a treat every second for five seconds. Then tell him “okay” and encourage him to get up. “Okay” will teach him he’s to stay put until he hears you say it.
- Next, ask your dog to sit again and increase the time before giving him a treat. Instead of a treat every second, give him one every two seconds. Again, after five treats, tell him “okay” to release him from his stay. Continue this process until your dog has a nice reliable five-second stay.
- Now, it’s time to add your stay cue. Ask him to “stay” and go through your training process as before. If he’s having trouble staying in place, decrease the treating time again to find his success point, and rebuild from there.
- After your dog has mastered a one-minute sit stay, it’s time to teach him to stay even when you move away. This can be very difficult for most dogs in the beginning, so baby steps are important. Start with your dog in a sitting position. Give him his stay cue, take one small step back, then return to your dog and give him a treat. Repeat this five times, giving your dog a treat after every step away and return. After your five sets, say “okay” to release him.
- Continue your distance training by adding one step at a time and doing five reps. For example, take two steps back, return to your dog, treat and repeat. Do five sets at each level before adding an additional step. Remember, if at any time your dog is not successful, go back to taking fewer steps.
2. Teach him a “look” behavior
In the canine world, direct eye contact can be a threat. To help your dog enjoy eye contact, keep your face relaxed, casual and happy. No stern looks here.
Place a treat to your dog’s nose, and slowly move the treat to between your eyes. As soon as he looks at the treat and your eyes, say “yes” and give him the treat. The “yes” tells your dog he did the correct thing and his reward is coming. Repeat this split second eye contact lesson five times for five treats.
To help your dog enjoy eye contact, keep your face relaxed, casual and happy.
If your dog is successful and doesn’t look away, increase the time by one second by placing a treat to your dog’s nose, slowly moving it from his nose to yours, count to two, say “yes” and treat. Repeat this two-second process for five more sets. If he’s successful, continue to add one second and do five reps each time.
When your dog achieves a nice five-second look, it’s time to name the behavior. Say “look” and repeat the five-second training process. Continue to build on this behavior until your dog can look without turning away for 15 seconds.
3. Teach your dog “two paws up”
One way to capture cute photos is to teach your dog to place his front feet on a slightly raised object. Combine this with his stay, and you can stage amazing photos.
- Find a secure and low object such as a large book, and grab a few treats. Set the book in front of you and call your dog over.
- Place the treat to your dog’s nose and start to lure his head over the book as you slightly move backwards. As your dog moves his front feet towards or onto the book, say “yes” and treat.
- Continue this process until he is easily placing his front feet on the book. When he gets to this point, say “up”, right before you lure him onto the book.
- Continue this process with other objects such as a flat pillow, box, step, etc. Just ensure the object is sturdy.
- Once he’s happily stepping up on objects, practice his stay on them. You are so close to some stunning photos of your dog!
One way to capture cute photos is to teach your dog to place his front feet on a slightly raised object.
4. Target your dog’s eyes
When positioning yourself, your dog, the background and camera, think of your dog’s eyes. You want your camera to be at his eye level. To help encourage him to look at the camera, look over the camera instead of through the lens. This will be comforting to your dog, and you can practice his “look” behavior at the same time. You can also hold a treat just below the camera lens to get his eyes right on target. Just be careful not to get the treat in the lens!
5. Keep photo sessions short
The best way to get the right photo is to keep your photo sessions short and sweet. Maybe five to ten minutes. Take your dog’s cue. If he seems to be getting restless, stop and play a game of ball. Like children, dogs get tired of posing, sitting still, and being asked to do “silly” things. Take your time and be patient. Remember, the photos you take will become treasured keepsakes, so enjoy!
Tonya Wilhelm is a dog training and cat care specialist who has traveled the US promoting positive ways of preventing and managing behavior issues with a holistic approach. Named one of the top ten dog trainers in the US, she has helped thousands build happy relationships with their dogs with humane, positive training methods. She wrote Proactive Puppy Care, and other books. Tonya offers group and private dog training classes, provides training and behavior services via phone and online, and does workshops at pet expos (raisingyourpetsnaturally.com).