During my recent WINE and PAWs event at the studio, I had a number of people come with 2 dogs. Being a ‘2 dog home’ myself, I realize that each dog has their own personality and behaviors that allow it to ‘fit in’ and survive. So watching other people’s dogs work their owner over is always an interesting thing to watch. Like wolves in a pack, dogs will challenge you every once in a while to make sure you’re strong enough to be their leader. I usually need to ‘channel’ Cesar Millan (the Dog Whisperer) and get to work.
A deep breath and a large dose of calm/assertive behavior by photographer and owner, and soon the dogs are ready, calm and balanced for the photo session. Besides tasty treats and a quick review of the ‘stay’ command, what really works for me are the noises I make with my mouth. They are unusual and not in the dog’s auditory repertoire. Head tilts – no problem. Alert ears – piece of cake. Smiles on the owner’s faces and laughter in the studio – priceless!
What I’ve learned to do is read the dog’s body language. If they’re real relaxed I might need to make ‘energetic’ noises with a higher pitch to my voice. With an anxious dog, I keep my voice/noises soft and at a lower pitch. It helps to keep their energy calm. If I’ve got a small dog who needs a little reassurance that flashing lights or a strange, new, place is OK, just put them into the owner’s arms. Add some calmer noises and you’ll have a winner all the time. Be sure to treat good behavior and yes, you will have them eating out of your hands! And oh, by the way, calm assertiveness and treats works with kids too!