Teach your dog to pose for pictures

Teach your dog to pose for pictures for National Train Your Dog Month

March 14, 2022 0 Comments

National Train Your Dog Month and the monthly Positive Pet Training Blog Hop happen to coincide with our first real glimpse of winter. Just a couple weekends ago, we were out throwing a tennis ball for Cooper in shorts. Today? Icy, snowy, gray, the kind of weather where you have to bundle above your eyeballs for a walk around the block.

So, I started thinking about training, most of which we do outside just to have more space, and how to keep focused even during the coldest months. And then a lightbulb went off! Okay, actually, a couple people asked the same question on Facebook and sparked my idea. When I posted our Christmas pic and our New Year’s pic, the same question kept coming up: How do you teach your dog to pose for pictures? So, for this month’s hop and for National Train Your Dog Month, I challenge YOU to train your pup for the perfect pic. {Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with the photography aspect of taking a good pic. I honestly know nothing about that. I need to learn. I currently use my phone and have no idea how to edit a photo. This is simply about posing your dog!}

Teach your dog to pose for pictures

Here’s how:

First up, you need a solid stay. I firmly believe the position doesn’t matter. Figure out what your dog is most comfortable holding for a couple minutes. I know formal obedience trainers might not agree, but for me, a comfortable dog is most important. As long as they stay in the same spot, I don’t care what position or even if they shift. For Emmett, it’s definitely a sit. For Cooper, it’s usually a down, but he has wonky back hips, so I let him alternate as long as he stays in the same spot. I actually did a post for The Honest Kitchen’s blog about teaching your dog to stay, which you can check out here as step one.

Then, you need to proof that stay to photo “stuff.” This is, I think, where people end up throwing up their hands. You will likely be placing your dog somewhere specific, then stepping back, then aiming your camera, then focusing your camera, then adjusting a light here or there or closing a blind or moving the pile of unfolded laundry out of the frame, then trying to get your dog’s attention (or dogs’ and, perhaps, cat’s!). None of those are typical proofing activities when teaching stay. Add them in as you work on adding distractions and duration to your stay. Distractions include costumes, btw! If you don’t normally put your dog in fancy bandannas, like above, or elaborate Halloween costumes, that stay may not hold once you do. Work on it in a low-pressure situation with tons and tons of treats and praise.

Finally, you must have a “watch me” down pat! Your room is well-lit. Your dog is a ninja stayer. You line up the shot, and… he’s looking at your shoulder or your shoes or the loaf of bread on the counter. This is something we have taught and reinforced like maniacs because, well, Lucas was a maniac! And Cooper is a maniac! We needed a solid “watch me” as part of reactive dog training. For them and for Emmet, we taught it in the most simple way possible: Hold up a treat between your eyes. When your dog looks, click and treat. Add the “watch me” verbal cue when he’s getting it right away most of the time, then start to phase out holding the actual treat. We added in a hand signal–finger pointing toward the nose–because sometimes that’s just easier. {Bonus: Emmett’s losing his hearing. More on that another day. But I am so grateful we’ve taught hand signals with everything!!}

That’s it! HA! 😀

Those are three very long steps that require time and patience. And gobs of treats! The thing is, it’s FUN. And now that it’s winter, you have all the time in the world to work on tedious things like stay proofing. With the end goal of a fabulous picture, though, it’ll be totally worthwhile.




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