I have successfully trained my dog to pose in photos and am always being asked on social media how I get him to do it. Yes I know him being a border collie and clever makes it easier, but I have been able to do it with rescues I have fostered in the past etc. It is a trick that helps boost pictures of your four legged friends out on travel adventures or even showing off better where you are.
To be honest it has gone so far now that if Malc, my border collie sees the camera pointing at him, he freezes in position knowing what I want.
What do you need? Basics, patience, calmness, repetitions and patience, did I say patience yet?
A lot of feedback I get is ‘if I tried that my dog would be gone in a second’ or ‘I can’t get my dog to sit still for long enough’.
There is no magic formula, it all has to start with the basics. Before getting onto posing you should really have ‘sit’ perfected and then ‘wait’. Without these it would be very difficult to set up a good portrait of your dog. I will go into more details on basic training in later articles but as an overview:
When he was a tiny young puppy I taught sit using a clicker to start with. Click and reward whenever he sat. Then work patiently onto extending the period of time sat before reward.
For ‘wait’ – Get them sat for a period and then step back, keep rewarding for staying there as you move away and introduce the word ‘wait’ as they get it. Keep extending the distance, patiently over a period of time, 10 to 15 minutes, twice a day, over weeks if needs be.
Introducing The Camera
This is where patience and calm plays an even more important part. You may know or have noticed that not all dogs like a camera pointing at them, or maybe to them it is a big eye looking at them. A lot of dogs have a tendency to turn their heads away as you turn the camera on them.
Again, I start with basics at the beginning. Without the camera I start using the command ‘look at me’, a good one to have even when not taking photos. Maybe on the lead and getting distracted? Always a good command to get in the habit of. Reward when they do look at you with good eye contact.
I would then never just start introducing the camera all of a sudden and in their faces! Try leaving the smartphone or camera on the floor and play other games around it? Let the dog sniff it in its own time or it being another thing that is around. So it gets used to it a lot, not a thing to be wary of.
Also, what I start doing when out and about with the dog is pretend photos! What I mean by this is I am always continuously training sit and wait, so start introducing pointing the phone or camera at him. Just for a few seconds, not to take pictures, just to get them used to a camera being pointed at them on walks is a normal thing.
Reward with excitement every time they do well. Even if they look at camera still for just a second or two to start with. Before long they realise it is a great thing you want them to do.
Putting All Together To set Up A photo
Ok, patience and patience. It may take a long time for you to master sit, wait and look at me, or look at the camera, but with time and patience you can get there.
Never Lose Patience
One thing I must say at this point, is that posing for photos is not the time to tell your dog off if they do it wrong. You can unravel so much hard work if they have to worry or get anxious about the camera coming out and they fear getting it wrong. Not only that you will get the ‘ears back’ and nervous look in all your pics. we want a big doggie smile. You may have the camera settings all wrong and need to sort them, don’t expect the dog to sit there like a well paid model would whilst you mess around. Either shrug off a missed shot or wait till ready before getting dog into position.
Setting Up The Pose
Take this photo for instance:
I had moved on from sit and taught him ‘up’ which for me means I want you to stand up against this with front paws. A tree even? Great for trig points on hills and mountains too.
I then say ‘wait’ so he now knows to wait still. I then point the camera (that he is used to) and say ‘look at me’. All together I am free to take LOTS of pics. Top Tip! Take lots of pics. Dogs move, they get distracted instead of concentrating on a perfect single pic, take loads while you have them there and choose best one afterwards.
Reward! When done, give that dog the best excited good boy or girl you can and make such a happy fuss. You really loved him or her doing that for you and it is an exciting thing for you both! Let them know you really love the way they waited and posed and looked at the camera.
An Ongoing Process
As you can see, getting dogs in different poses is an ongoing process that is forever being bettered and bettered, I love a challenge. I find it is great for extra bonding and control of the dog in the outdoors.
Even I encounter problems I need to resolve in this subject. OK. So Malc got so good at this he has started to not need commands! He sees the camera coming out of my pocket and then either freezes in position ready to pose. Or her sees a tree and gets in position as if telling me to get the camera out.
I don’t need to use commands so much anymore. Camera equals pose. The problem here is I have to now adapt more to get an ‘action’ shot. I have to distract him myself from the camera in other ways to get a natural shot of him moving or running. He is TOO good bless him.
Have fun, have patience, have adventures. And happy dog photo snapping and training. Oh, did I mention patience?