Awesome Primitive Dog Photos! - Tricks for Photography

We’ve all been there – searching for the perfect Facebook profile or cover photo that showcases our dogs in all their gorgeous, talented glory…  No matter how many nice pictures we have of them sitting nicely, or maybe running around with their friends, sometimes we just want something more fun that demonstrates our dog’s true personality.  This is where tricks come in!  There are a few specific tricks that I think lend themselves well to photography.  

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The first go-to for that perfect photo op is a classic hold.  Though some dogs might have a natural aptitude for this trick, with others it may take a little longer to understand what you are wanting.  I generally teach this using shaping, but of course for those dogs who seem to just “get it,” capturing would work well.  Another aspect to using hold in pictures might have to do with release, and reward timing and placement.  If your dog does not have much impulse control work/practice around their chosen reward, it might prove difficult to have them get much duration for the hold in the presence of said reward.  For that reason, I love reverse luring (it’s super cool – look it up!), to help with your duration building.  Plus, then you can also get those cool shots of your dog holding, say, a cheese stick, or whole hot dog!

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Wave is another one that I just love for pictures.  You might need a decent camera if your dog  does not offer much in terms of duration for this one, but since this is typically reinforced a lot after it is learned (who doesn’t love a good wave from a dog?), many really enjoy performing it.  I personally love the expressions my dogs have during this trick!  Along those lines, for a dog/owner picture, nothing is cuter than a shake, high five, or high ten if you’ve taught that one. 

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Teaching your dog to hold stays on objects can be very useful for photography.  While not always thought of as a trick (many people use this type of behavior as a “go to place” extended stay), your dog might need to develop a certain amount of body awareness to get on some things.  And even larger “props” like picnic tables may require that your dog jumps on safely, which means that they have to use their bodies appropriately to avoid potential injury.  Smaller objects like posts, fire hydrants, and rocks can also really push the bounds of rear end awareness!  Once your dog is comfortable getting on to whatever object you choose, then you can think about what positions (sit, down, stand, etc.) you would like them to be in.

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Going along with the idea of tricks that might not actually be considered tricks is getting your dog used to “wearing” things.  Headbands, hats, glasses, and yes, even just clothing, can make adorable props and really add something to a trick photo shoot.  You can even teach dogs who don’t even like wearing harnesses, for example, to tolerate such things relatively easily (trust me, I’ve done it!).  Duration for this may only be a few seconds in a simple sit, stand, or down, so a lot of dogs who might not be practiced in the more physically demanding tricks can take to it pretty well.  

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The last trick that I want to mention is hug.  Once my dogs have demonstrated that they have the core strength for a somewhat long sit pretty, I may decide to teach this one.  I teach hug using shaping, and I may use a PVC pole or something similar at the beginning to help so that I can focus on my timing during the shaping process.  Gradually I will fade that out and add whatever I want them to hug, which is generally a toy.  Depending on the dog, I might also extend this trick and add in a bit of a retrieve at the beginning.  With the retrieve, rather than my handing the dog the toy, they will go get the toy, and then hold it while getting in to their hug position.  

No matter which tricks you decide to use for the purposes of photography, remember to keep the rewards plentiful and have fun!  When you take the time to build those trusting bonds with your dog, and maybe help them develop some confidence along the way, you can be certain that the joy they share with you will come through in your pictures.  

What is your favorite trick to perform with your dog?  Share a picture with our Facebook Community!