Crazy dogs and crazy kids can be one of the most challenging of all photo sessions. Getting them to remain calm (or even get calm in Tess’ case!) and yet keep them interested and co-operative can sometimes be a big ask. Yesterday I went to Adam’s house to photograph him and their 2 year old Cocker Spaniel, Tess. Adam is now at an age where he has become quite self-conscious when having his photo taken, so keeping him interested enough to play along as well as show some of his personality proved to be quite difficult. The plan had been to play in the garden where they could run and let off steam as well as relax and hopefully beat some of that self-consciousness! However, as with all great plans, it sometimes doesn’t work out as well as you might hope, especially when it rains and rains and rains!
Probably my favorite portrait from the session is quite a serious image of Adam and Tess together at the window. The fact is, that he is self conscious and tended to either screw his face up to “smile” or just one big pouty lip! While not necessarily happy, this image is a testament to his age right now. One day, Adam’s parents will miss how vulnerable and emotionally open he is at nine but they will have the portrait to look back on with the strange fondness only parents can really appreciate.
As the house interior is quite dark, we had to set up a mini studio which offers its’ own set of problems (cables for naughty, waggy dogs to get tied up in etc.!) and although we did finally get some more formal images of the two of them together, (as this is what Adams’ Mum wanted), I think the photos we took at the window are probably the best. This is one of my favourite images and the one Adams’ Mum chose for her main portrait. So, the next question is.. how to get the dog and the child’s attention at the same time as well as get a laugh/ smile and keep the momentum and energy going.
Most dogs can be bribed with a small snack (as long as they understand the “sit” or “lie down” commands,) and realise if they perform, will get rewarded. I photographed the most beautiful black and white Great Dane, Lola in the woods a while back and she gave a sterling performance because she knew she would get a piece of cheese!
My best tip for calming a really mad dog, sounds a bit drastic, but usually works!! I got it from watching that miracle man Cesar Millan,…. Ignore them! So, if they are jumping around and barking or at worst nipping, the secret is no contact at all…from anyone! No eye contact, no talking, no stroking..nothing! nada! niet! nothing! It really does work, and remarkably quickly too! If you are intrested in reading his professional piece about it, here’s the link http://www.cesarsway.com/tips/problembehaviors/5-tips-for-calming-a-hyperactive-dog.
This is Poppy….butter wouldnt’ melt in her naughty mouth! Haha!! But she responded very quickly to the silent treatment. Gorgeous isn’t she?
Next, what to do to make the dog look and prick his ears! Some families have a word that will engage the dog like “cats” or “rabbit” or “walk”, so that might get the response you’re after, but when that gets worn out (you will only get a great look from the dog once or twice and then he’ll realise you’re tricking!) So my other thing, is to keep a toy squeaker in my pocket! Little children quite often like that too, but Adam is too old and sophisticated for that old trick! Dogs are never too old or sophisticated! I have yet to meet a dog that doesn’t love a squeaker!! Over the years I have spent pounds on them! You’ve just got to remember not to let the dog chew it when your back is turned! – Does that sound like the voice of experience! Enjoy making your dog pics!!
If you’re interested in having a fun session to include your favourite canine, please give me a ring or send me a message and I will call you to arrange something.