Getting Your Dog to Pose for a Photo

DogsMarch2011 647
Getting your dog to pose for a photo is basically teaching a stay with distance, duration, and distraction. First, create a training plan. What position do you want your dog to be in? Where do you want to take the photo? Dogs do what they are trained where they are trained……..think that over for a minute. What that means is that dogs need to be trained (yes practice and practice some more!) in the very spot where you want them to do the behavior. Once the dog has practiced enough in a lot of places he can generalize, meaning apply the behavior in different locations.
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In these photos my dogs (Mako-top photo, Ally and Ryka in the lower photo) are doing a basic sit stay and a down stay. I started off asking for the position, the sit or down, marking correct behavior(click or marker word), then rewarding. As they began to understand I gradually lengthened the time before the click. Remember the click tells them they are correct. It also says you are getting rewarded and ends the behavior.

So it looks like this:
“Sit” the dog sits. I wait a second and if he is still, I click. I then give him a treat and tell him he can get up. Its a really short stay.
Next add time. If you waited one second before clicking last time then this time wait two seconds. You will slowly build time. Don’t get in a hurry. Practice as much as your dog needs. Only click if your dog is still. If you click on movement that’s what you will get, a moving dog. This is called duration.

Now that your dog will be still in the desired position you add distance. Only a little at a time! It’s so tempting to say stay then take off but hold your excitement back. I always start with just a little movement. Maybe move one of your feet back. If your dog remains in the stay click, reward, release. Next take one step back. If your dog remains still click, reward, and release. Got it? Sometimes your dog will jump up after the click. No problem. The click does end the stay. As your dog “gets it” you can slowly add more distance. When I do this I do a yo-yo type movement. Dog sits, I move away, dog is staying, I click, I walk back to my dog to reward. Yo-Yo. This can be good exercise as you really add some distance.

Distractions are the last thing to add. At this point my dog can hold a stay in the desired position at the desired location with me moving away. I then add in distractions like the camera. A camera can be scary for a dog. The lens looks like a huge black eyeball. Large round eyes are threatening in DBL (dog body language). The shutter sound is also a distraction. Set your dog up for success. On the day you get the camera out stay close (no distance work) and keep the stay short. As your dog gets used to the distractions add the distance and duration back in.

Teaching your dog to stay while you dance around and talk to them might take a few weeks but you will be rewarded with great photos!
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