I decided to have another pop at The Kennel Club's annual photography competition again. I missed out last year and the competition is getting tougher each year. I wasn't even sure I was going to enter this year, but I found with the deadline just a month away I wanted to give it another shot. There's no harm in entering. I have seen other professional photographers entering and not getting placed, so it really is a tough one as a lot of the choices are subjective to the judges personal opinions.
On Friday I decided to put a call out on my local village's facebook page requesting doggy models and the response was fantastic. I've just had a fully booked weekend and I have another coming this week. I've spent time with two puppies and three 3yr old dogs. This weekend I have an 8 month old Vizsla and a family of three labradors. It is always lots of fun, especially when the dogs seem to freeze up in front of the camera. I think yesterday was lazy Sunday syndrome, I am sure dog's suffer with it too as our lot always seem to be less energetic over the weekend.
Yesterdays shoot was spent in back gardens, and this weekend we will be out trudging through the muddy countryside to get our shots. I got soaked legs the last two days from kneeling down on the grass. I'm sure I must look funny almost laying on the floor to get my photos, but hopefully I will get a few worthy of entry into one of the most famous dog photography competitions, and I can hope that everyone who has helped me will be crossing their fingers that I will get a win. At least they have all had the joy of getting some free photos, which I think is a fair enough way to say thank you for their time in helping me :)
My models so far
Some people are lucky, they manage to find dogs whose personalities suit each other really well and they seem to just form a nice happy relaxed little family. For others it is not always that easy. People of the former group don't always understand if you have multiple dogs who clash at times because they have clashing personalities, and it can sometimes make you feel like you are doing a bad job. But the simple fact is, not all dogs get on well, even if they live in the same household. So what can you do to make it easier?
First thing to bear in mind is that all dogs are different, some have a tendency to be possessive over things, others require more exercise, some may be over confident, some shy, some need a firmer approach, others more gentle. When you have a group of dogs it is often a good idea to have a routine with them. This makes their day more predictable meaning there is less chance for anxiety to build which can be a pre-cursor to an altercation. Right from the beginning decide which dog will get the training first, or if you will train them together, who will be given the reward first and stay in that order. That way each dog knows where it stands and when it will get its reward.
When out walking, if you have an anxious dog, walk it with the more confident dog and use lots of encouragement. Sometimes you will get a confident dog who may take on the behaviours of the less confident dog, in which case it would be easier to walk the less confident on its own allowing for full commitment from you. Ensure that the dog which requires more exercise, gets it, even if that means 10 minutes longer off the lead, or an extra run around or training when you get home from your walks.
When you go out be sure each dog has its own treats and they have their own safe space to go to with them to avoid another dog stealing said treat. If you feel this could happen, invest in crates and crate train, or use room dividers so the dogs can see each other and be relaxed whilst not risking the chance of altercations happening. Ensure you have regular feeding times give or take an hour each way to allow for times when you can't always feed them at that time. This again reduces anxiety.
The biggest thing to remember is that an exercised dog (physically and mentally) is a happy dog which means there is a much reduced risk of any inter-dog aggression. As the owner it is also your job to ensure that you recognise signs of anxiety or tension within the group and react accordingly, such as temporarily separating which ever dogs seem tense, taking them for a short walk together or sending them to their safe spaces with something to occupy them. Always ensure that tension and arousal are kept to a minimum and be aware of situations as they progress.
Dog Trainer, animal lover, artist and photographer