How do I get my dog/cat to do that? Effective Communication During Portrait Sessions

How do I get my dog/cat to do that? Effective Communication During Portrait Sessions

Learning to communicate with our pets – both our own and other’s – is vitally important. There is no way around it: understanding animal-talk requires teaching. Dogs and cats make all sorts of different sounds in different situations – they range from growls, barks, and meows, to whimpers, and whines – and everything in between. And their body language says a lot, too. But it can be challenging for us to understand exactly what our furry family member is telling us.

During my portrait sessions, communication is absolutely vital. We want to ensure that this is a fun experience for everyone…including your dog or cat. We also want to set ourselves up for success when it comes to specific images that you may want. The key to all of this is communication. So, how can work together to make the session success?

dog looking up at parents with smile

1. Know your dog and cat and the unique signs they use.

Dogs and cats are unique individuals. We need to understand the unique or specific gestures your pet uses, what they mean, and what you and I should do (or not) if we see it. It’s why I insist on a pre-session Design Consult for our custom sessions. This is where we discuss the words and cues your pet uses as well as what behaviour and activities makes them happy or, maybe, uncomfortable.

2. Educate everyone on cues.

Everyone in the home should be on the same page when it comes to using verbal and/or visual cues to ask their dog or cat for certain behaviors. If, when your pet jumps up, one person asks for a “down” and another says “no”, confusion is the only result. Understood commands help us develop a healthy bond with our pets and is a foundation for effective communication.

It’s also helpful for me to use the same cues during our session. I’m pretty good at noticing what you use, but if I inadvertently use a cue that is confusing to your dog or cat, please do not hesitate to let me know. Good communication between the humans means a successful session too.

3. Respect the limitations.

Here’s a scenario… During our pre-session Design Consult, you tell me that really want your pet photographed on this beautiful chair, by a window with gorgeous light streaming through. However, when I ask you whether they are generally allowed to be on furniture, you tell me that they have never been allowed on this chair/in this room/on any furniture etc. The problem becomes obvious.

Dogs and cats do not understand that they are in the midst of portrait session and that exceptions can be made for this event. When they are asked to get on said chair – one that they know they are not allowed on and perhaps have been punished for getting up on – it becomes a no-win situation. On one hand, they don’t want to disobey you (or me) in this moment and be chastised for not complying. On the other hand, they don’t want to do something that they know from past experience results in discipline.

On the off chance that we can get them on the chair, we will probably see uncomfortable body language. Which doesn’t make for a happy, beautiful portrait.

So, what can we do? Ask them to go on a chair they are allowed on. Place their bed by the window in the beautiful light. Go hiking in the woods and get them to sit on tree stumps. Or…you can start in the weeks leading up to your session date, allowing them on the chair. Good, positive reinforcement for a new behaviour.

4. Recognize that a portrait session is not a training session.

While we are going to try and reinforce your great training, we also have to be realistic in our expectations. The first thing I tell clients is: Please do not be embarrassed by your dog and/or cat’s behaviour. I mean it. This is a situation that your pet probably has not been in before and they are trying to figure it all out. If they do something that makes you pause, but is not serious or dangerous, try and let it go.

So, when your dog who ‘never jumps up’, jumps up on me, please know that it’s not the first time it has happened. I’m not frightened. My clothes are chosen specifically so that I can withstand muddy paws. It’s no big deal.

In conclusion…

Most dog mums and cat dads are ecstatic at how well a session with me goes. They are even happier when they see the final artwork in their hands. Seeing their beautiful dog or cat with their gorgeous personality on display…well, that’s what it’s all about.

POSH PETS BOUTIQUE™ SESSIONS

Where it all begins

  • Pre-session Design Consult that ensures we create images you will be thrilled with.
  • The result is gorgeous custom artwork the life your pet shares with your family.
  • A personal Ordering Consultation to ensure you select the right images from the gallery.
  • Please note: The Creative Fee covers time and talent to photograph a maximum of four (4) subjects, which can be any combination of people and up to two (2) pets who live within the same household. Additional subjects may be photographed for a small additional fee.
  • Examples of portraits from Posh Pets Boutique™ Sessions can be found here.

The Dog and Cat Geek’s Guide to Interior Design

The Dog and Cat Geek’s Guide to Interior Design

Back when we got our first cat, Ripley, I was so excited to get our home ready! I remember going shopping for the bed, the collars and all of the toys.

Changing up your home is always exciting. And finding ways to make it an even more pet-friendly space is key to keeping you both happy and contented.

So, here’s my personal guide to making your home a stylish and functional space for you and your fur family.

cat lounging on beautifully designed chair

1. Add more washable, soft fabrics to your space.

Some fabrics are harder than others to keep clean. I really like the faux suede on our couch because it’s pretty resistant to scratches, tears, and cat hair. Especially as it has been treated to be stain-resistant.

Other great dog-and-cat-friendly materials include: genuine leather (or pleather), fabrics made from acrylic (great for outdoor furniture),  microfiber (keep a lint roller handy though), and vinyl (so easy to clean). Trust me – steer clear from tweed, chenille, and silk! Our first couch was made of a type of ‘pickable’ fabric and it was destroyed within weeks…

2. Laminate and tile for the win.

I grew up with carpet but it’s notorious for trapping odors and being difficult to clean. So, I vote for some sort of hardwood, laminate or tile whenever possible. They come in all sorts of colours and finishes so you can really create a space you love.

However, fair warning: if you choose real hardwood floors, you’ll probably want to pet-proof your floors and keep your dog and cat’s nails trimmed. And dark colours of any sort of flooring definitely show off the hair.

Of course, if you do have carpet, there are some great pet-odor eliminators and cleaners you can use, like Tackle The Tinkle.

3. Keep on top of the dog and cat hair.

While many have come to accept some dog and cat hair on their clothes, take care of pet hair in your home regularly. Trust me about keeping up with this! It makes all the difference. 

Vacuuming every couple of days (with some quick lint rolling in between) is fast and easy, and ensures that clumps of hair like tumbleweeds don’t appear around your home.

An added bonus is that if you have anyone (human) has mild allergies, they will be much happier. And, anyone (pet) who likes to eat everything they come across on the floor, will have less to chow down on and you will avoid finding wet deposits of thrown-up hair.

4. Use their stuff to accessorize your home.

Modern dogs and cats have a lot of stuff. But not all of it needs to be put away. In our home, we have specifically chosen cat trees, beds and furniture that matches our aesthetic and look really good in the living room.

Shop around for food and water bowls, dog beds, and blankets that go with your style and let it be part of the décor. 

5. Match your dog and cat.

Select pieces that match your dog’s fur or hair color. Your bedspread, wall treatments, pet beds, throw pillows can add an interesting element to any room. You can even go with a more permanent move like a matching accent wall or installing flooring that matches.

I had a client whose home perfectly matched the colouring or her cat. As you can imagine, the resulting portraits were absolutely stunning.

Which brings me to the next point…

6. Hang up a beautiful portrait of your dogs and cats.

My absolute favorite pieces of art in our house are the portraits I have of each of our cats. They are large (20×30 inches), properly framed, and they hang proudly in our hallway.

As a pet photographer, I am obviously biased, but ensuring that each client has beautiful portraits hanging in their homes too is what I do. The trick is to have a thorough design consult before any photos are taken. We talk about colours, personal style and yes, the aesthetic of your home. If you are including the artwork with a home renovation, I am happy to speak with your interior designer too.

 

So, there you have it! With a little thought and creativity, you can ensure that you, your cat, your dog and your family love your home.

I’d love to know what other dog and cat lovers are doing in their homes. What’s your favorite pet inspired interior design tip? Please click here to share them and let me know! (Send a pic too, if you can.)

 

Help Your Dog Stay Worry-free During Fireworks

Help Your Dog Stay Worry-free During Fireworks

Loud noises and sounds can really freak dogs and cat out, and a fireworks show is probably the worst noise monster a fearful pet can face. While our kitties seem to be pretty chill to any fireworks in our neighbourhood, I have a friend whose cat did not come out from under the bed for an entire day afterwards. And did you know that more dogs go missing during holidays featuring fireworks than any other day? So…seeing as we know nights of fireworks will be coming up in July, here are some ways to help your dog and cat stay a little more comfortable.

little dog on bed nervous about fireworks

1. Plan ahead.

It’s a good idea to check for the dates of community fireworks displays during celebratory seasons, and make sure your dog’s collar ID and microchip registration are up to date. Big dates like Victoria Day, Canada Day, and New Year’s almost always have some sort of show in the respective cities within the GTA, so mark those down and make a plan.

2. Create distance.

When you know a firework display is scheduled nearby, or you see your neighbors setting up for a display, ask a friend if you can bring your dog over for an evening chat or movie – unless your dog finds trips even more stressful. Simply removing them from the situation may be the best option.

3. Set up a quiet safe space.

If leaving your home is out of the question for you and your dog, set up a safe space in your home. This is ideally a place where your dog is comfortable and the sound of fireworks is muffled, like a finished basement or an internal room like a walk-in closet. In our home, the bathroom seems to be a favourite for our cats when scary noises abount (think: fire alarm!) Spend time with your dog there, with toys and treats, well before fireworks season begins, not just the day of.

4. Go for a long walk well before dark.

A happily tired dog is a more relaxed dog. Exercise your pup with fun play or a long walk so they are ready to nap when night falls. Make sure their collar or harness is slip-proof, because some people celebrate with firecrackers and other noisemakers before darkness falls.

5. Close windows and curtains.

This further muffles the sound and blocks out quick, flashes of light

6. Turn on the TV, music, or white noise.

Sit down to your favourite TV show and watch that together. Or, dance to music. Even things like a fan, can provide a familiar, alternate sound. Just make sure whatever you use is already familiar to your dog – even fans can be anxiety-causing if they are fired up without warning.

7. Try an anxiety wrap.

Soft, stretchy jackets and vests built specifically for a dog’s shape are reported to be effective at reducing anxiety. I suggest you slowly introduce your dog to their coat well before fireworks season descends. My parents’ dog has a Thundershirt that sometimes help – although not always – but they are worth trying.

8. Consult a professional.

Is your dog or cat’s quality of life suffering, or are they so panicked they could injure themselves, or you, while trying to escape? Dog trainers, dog behaviorists, veterinarians, and veterinary behaviorists can offer a range of options from counter-conditioning to medication.

Any other tips that you have found helpful? Please share them with me here.

Your Pet’s 360 – The Most Important Relationships in your Dog and Cat’s Life

Your Pet’s 360 – The Most Important Relationships in your Dog and Cat’s Life

dog family photographer

When I worked in Human Resources, we used to conduct what are called 360s for all of our management and high-performers. One reason being, you wanted to see how healthy their relationship was with the people around them and make tweaks as necessary. (I’m purposely being very brief here…ha!)

When it comes to our pets, the relationships our dogs and cats have with the people and animals in their lives also need to be healthy. We need to take stock and see what is working and what might need some changes.

The first step is identifying the people that have the most impact on your pet’s well-being. So, read on to see our list of the people who we feel are important to your pet’s own happy, healthy life. 

1. YOU (of course!)

In this case, you know you are #1. You are the one constant in their life and your pet looks forward to time spent with you, even if it is just in the mundane things of life. Spending time with them is vital.

In our house, Panda, is incredibly bonded to my husband I. Especially as we had to say goodbye to her furry brother, Baxter, last December.

We spend at least 20 minutes a day in active play where she zooms around all of the rooms. And, since the pandemic, she has learned new skills: she now knows that the words “let’s go to work!” mean that she will hop up on her bed beside my desk and has quickly become the best co-worker ever; she recognizes the sound of coffee being made to mean that lactose-free milk will be not too far behind; and she spends the rest of the day either sitting on me or napping beside us. We are her world.

2. Their compassionate veterinarian

Next to you, your pet’s veterinarian and clinic staff may be the most important people in his or her life. So, it’s vital that you cement that relationship with an annual check-up in addition to visiting when your pet doesn’t feel well. Or just drop in to say “hi!” so vet visits aren’t always scary. While the pandemic has made this more of a challenge, speak with your veterinarian to see what can be arranged.

We’ve always chosen our vets on the fact that they are exceptionally compassionate and truly care about our pet’s well-being. That, coupled with no “guilt trip” when discussing expensive medical options when helping us to navigate the unavoidable goodbye, has made us loyal to our clinic for 20 years.

And if you are in a bind and need emergency advice, there are services like Vetster, that are on-call, 24-hour connections to veterinarians.

3. Their reliable pet-sitter

Some pets grow to really love their pet sitter, whether they are a professional or your best human friends. Not only do they go to great lengths to make sure your dog has loving company, food, water, and exercise, they make sure your home is safe and secure, too.

A point about cats: While some feel that they can leave cats for days on end with ‘enough food’, I believe that it is not enough. We have never left our cats overnight without someone staying with them. It started with Ripley, who had terrible fears of being abandoned (he was a rescue who had his family move on him and leave him behind), and it has continued with all 4 of our kitties.

4. Their furry best friend

Humans are great! But when it comes to romping in the yard or curling up for a nap, some pets really enjoy the company of their own fuzzy kind. Baxter was Panda’s very best friend. If your pet craves companionship from a fellow canine or feline, call a fellow pet parent for a hike or a playdate.

Or if there is room in your heart and your home, it may be time to adopt another pet as a full-time best friend. Of course, choose wisely. We are currently in the process of deciding whether Panda needs another friend. Her days and nights were filled with Baxter, so she’s obviously had to adjust. But, I know that if we find the perfect boy companion, we will welcome another furry heart into our family.

5. Their soothing groomer.

A genuine bond between a pet and their groomer often lasts a lifetime. A great groomer can take a stressful bath event and turn it into a feel-good spa day. The fact that your groomer understands your dog’s unique needs and your particular desires when it comes to the final result, makes them invaluable. Your pet’s monthly relationship with their groomer involves trust and respect on both ends of the table.

6. Their good time dog walker.

Cue all the butt wiggles when the dog walker shows up! When you can’t be home, the dog walker is the one you and your dog trust for potty breaks, exercise and just plain good fun. 

How to know if you have found the right dog walker? Check out the 4-step process here.

In conclusion…

Who are the people in your pet’s relationship circle? Friend, family, or professional, be sure to let them know how much you both appreciate their expertise, care, and affection. A card, text, or just a heartfelt “thank you” will say aloud what your pet can only articulate with a happy nudge and welcoming eyes.

4 Steps to Choosing the Right Dog Walker

4 Steps to Choosing the Right Dog Walker

The following is a guest post by Sarah El Sherbini of PetsGo Pet Care, a professional pet sitting and dog walking business serving the downtown West End of Toronto. We, at Posh Pets Photography are thrilled to have her!
Toronto dog walker
Finding the right dog walker is no walk in the park.

If you work long hours, you’re probably used to seeing sad puppy eyes every morning as you get ready to leave. Or maybe you’re forced to say no to after-work events because your dog is crossing her legs waiting to be let out.

If this sounds like you, a dog walker could be the perfect solution to give your pooch a much-needed break in the day.

It can be daunting to choose someone to come into your home to look after your babies. After all, you’re putting a lot of trust in an individual to not only provide loving care to your pets, but also to respect your home, and keep your keys secure.

Did you know that dog walking in Toronto is almost completely unregulated? That’s why it’s so important to choose wisely. From a professional pet sitter to you, here’s my guide to break through the “decision paralysis” and find your perfect dog walker:

dog walker ontario canada

Step 1: Know Your Options

There are two main types of dog walking services. It’s important to know what you need in a dog walker first—it will make your search much easier:

Private Dog Walks

This is what most people imagine when they think of a dog walker: one human, one dog, a quiet stroll around the block. Private walks are great for dogs who love routine and would prefer not share their walker’s attention with other pooches. They are also perfect for senior dogs and those with special needs, who need a more customized approach rather than a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

Group/Pack Walks

I would estimate that about 99% of Toronto dog walkers offer this service, in which 3-6 dogs are picked up in a vehicle and walked together in a public or private park. Depending on the company, dogs may be walked on leash or allowed to run in an off-leash area. There are several reasons that pack walks are so popular: they are cost-effective for both walker and client, and they offer high-energy exercise and socialization rolled into one.

If you’re still torn between private or group walks, I wrote an article delving deeper into the pros and cons of each option.

small business photographer Toronto

Step 2: Where to Look

Now that you’ve narrowed down your search to one type of dog walker, where do you find them?

Recommendations

Think about who you already trust to care for your dog, and don’t be afraid to ask! Your veterinarian, groomer and local pet store will most likely have a dog walker to recommend.

Online

The next best source is the internet! Google is a great place to start, but try also searching on Yelp, or on your neighbourhood Facebook groups.

Pet-specific apps

Mobile apps are a lesser-known way to find a great pet care provider. PetVibe is a social network for pet owners, while Bark ‘N Yapp is a reviewing platform—similar to Yelp, but for pet businesses only.

dog leash photographer ontario

Step 3: What to Look for

  • They are a legitimate business
  • They have a great online presence with positive reviews (or they are able to provide references)
  • They are involved with professional associations
  • They respond to your emails and return your calls quickly and professionally
toronto dog walker photographer

Step 4: Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Dog Walker

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Who will be walking my dog?
  • Will you ever let my dog off leash? If yes, where?
  • Are you insured?
  • How often can I expect an update about my dog?
  • What is your backup plan if something happens and you can’t make it to a dog walk?
  • What is your plan in case of a medical emergency with my dog?
  • What measures do you take to keep my dog safe during a walk?
The Toronto dog walking industry is quickly expanding—it seems every day there’s a new dog walker in town. It’s a business that’s relatively easy to start, but I can tell you from experience that it’s a whole other story to properly maintain. 

The right dog walker can make an immensely positive impact on your dog’s life: providing enrichment and exercise during a time that they would normally be sitting bored waiting for you to come home.

Now that I’ve given you the tools, you can go out there and find your dog walker! Your furry friend will thank you for it.

The above was a guest post by Sarah El Sherbini of PetsGo Pet Care, a professional pet sitting and dog walking business serving the downtown West End of Toronto. PetsGo operates under the value of quality over quantity: pet visits and dog walks are 100% private, un-timed, and completely customized to each individual pet. Visit their website to learn more: www.mypetsgo.ca

 

7 Ways to Make Your Dog Happy on a Consistent Basis

7 Ways to Make Your Dog Happy on a Consistent Basis

dog happiness

Here at Posh Pets®, we have always believed this one truth: Dogs are family. As dogs take their rightful place as full-fledged members of the family unit, we are always interested in the source of dog happiness and canine well-being. After all, there is nothing like a content and happy pup – it fills us with happiness just looking at them. Is bringing more happiness and joy into your pup’s life on the list of goals for 2018?  Well, here are 7 ways to keep their tail wagging:

1. Spend time with your dog everyday

It goes without saying: our dogs love hanging out with their humans. They need and thrive in an environment where their people take an interest. So, the simplest way to make your dog happy is to spend some quality time with them. Every. Single. Day. What you do together will depend on your lifestyle and the breed of your pup: for some, simply cuddling them on the couch is enough; while others would love to go on epic adventures with you in the great outdoors. Daily walks are essential as it strengthens your bond and both of you get much needed exercise. If you love early morning walks, get up early and greet the sun together.

2. Keep your dog looking good (and posh)

Don’t you feel better when you know you look good? It’s the same with your dog. A good grooming routine is essential. However, some pups show a little apprehension with the whole grooming thing, so start with short brushing sessions and lots of positive reinforcement – praise, belly rubs and treats should never be in short supply. You can also make the session more relaxing by placing essential oils in the room and let the calming scents do their magic.

3. Make bath time fun

The simple state of being clean contributes much to your dog’s emotional and physical health, so rub-a-dub-dub! But, bath time can be another uneasy moment for some dogs. A main reason for that is the feeling of insecurity from the feel of the porcelain of your tub – when wet, that can be very slippery. So, consider getting a non-slip bath mat for your tub. It’s a simple solution that will help the dog feel more safe when in the bath.

There’s no need to hurry either. Move at a slow place, so your dog is relaxed and comfortable while being bathed. You can even massage their paws, shoulders and spine while in the bath so they can associate bath time with comfort.

4. Never skip meals

No one likes to be hungry, so make sure your pooch eats the recommended amount of food every day. If you’re unsure what is the exact amount they should be eating, ask the advice of a veterinarian or pet nutritionist.

Sticking to a feeding routine may be a challenge for working owners who sometimes come home late in the evening. Thanks to technology, feeding your dog is now a lot easier. If you are a busy owner, invest in automated pet feeders that can dispense food at designated times of the day. Or choose a dog sitter/walker that can come in and do it for you.

5. Make new buddies

It’s healthy for your pooch to play with other people or dogs once in a while. In fact, it should start socializing early on as a pup. Dogs need to be exposed to a variety of environments to develop self-confidence and avoid behaviours that manifest themselves when a dog is scared as a result of being exposed to new situations. A social dog experiences less stress, so be sure to introduce yours to new faces from time to time.

6. Give your dog gifts

Dogs can be very naughty when they’re bored, so don’t forget to leave out some chew toys and other play things to keep your dog occupied. When it comes to toys, there are so many new ones coming on the market all the time, including environmentally-conscious ones. A new toy is sure to keep your pup’s tail wagging for days, or at least a couple of minutes.

7. Teach and old dog a new trick

Teaching your dog something new makes for a fun bonding moment. Like humans, our four-legged friends are a curious bunch, and learning something new gives them mental stimulation as well as some physical exercise. The trick here is motivation: treats are great ways to reward your pup as they learn new things. If you want to go one step further, Go Fetch recommends seeking assistance from an animal behaviourist or trainer to show you how to properly train your dog. But do your research – you want to ensure that the trainer will use techniques that you are comfortable with – positive reinforcement is to be chosen over anything that frightens your dog. The goal is to make sessions fun for both you and your furry friend. A trained pup is a happy pup.

Have Dog (or Cat), Will Travel | Toronto Luxury Hotel Guide

Have Dog (or Cat), Will Travel | Toronto Luxury Hotel Guide

We, at Posh Pets® Photography, are wanderlust junkies – there’s nothing like exploring a city and discovering its secrets. And we know that the journey can be even more fun if you can bring along your entire family, including Fido or Simba. If you are planning a visit to Toronto, I’ve got great news – there are luxury hotels in Toronto that are cat and dog friendly.

I know that when I travel, I scour the internet looking for tidbits and information on how to get the most out of our trip. Having lived in the Toronto area for most of my life, I can tell you that this is world-class city. It’s also a city of pet-lovers. On any given day, you can see urban dogs going for their daily walks, making quick coffee runs or sitting patiently while their humans enjoy a drink on a patio. So, if you’re planning to travel to Toronto (or who just want to have a quick getaway in your home city), be assured that your Fido does not have to stay in a campground or dingy hotel. There are many options for luxury accommodations, and I’ve rounded up the five that I think you and your dog or cat will just love. (PS: Because you all know how much we love the kitties among us, I’ve indicated which hotels welcome feline guests.)

Four Seasons Toronto Hotel

This hotel is close to my heart because it is sort of the birthplace of Posh Pets Photography. We stayed here celebrating a milestone anniversary for my parents a number of years ago, and, at the time, they were one of the few luxury hotels I could find that would allow us to bring my mom and dad’s two shih tzus. After having photographed MacLeod in one of the suites, I coined the name “posh pet” and the seed was planted in my brain. The hotel has since undergone a major move and is the centre of all of the action during the annual Toronto International Film Festival, where I am sure they welcome their share of celebrity pets. To this day, even those with less star power can have a great night’s rest, so long as Fido doesn’t snore. (Additional $125 charge per stay) Please note: The Four Seasons also accepts feline guests.

main entrance of Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto

toronto pet photographer dog in hotel room

Image provided by the Four Seasons Toronto Hotel.

toronto pet photographer travel guide

Image provided by the Four Seasons Toronto Hotel.

Windsor Arms Hotel

Just down the road from the Four Seasons is another gorgeous boutique hotel. It’s located in the heart of the shopping district, boasts an amazing spa and, if you enjoy a British staple, hosts Afternoon High Tea everyday. My husband treated me to both last year for our anniversary, so I can vouch for the fact that the Windsor Arms takes care of its human guests. They are also very pet-friendly – one of the few that allow you to leave your pet unattended in your room/suite for short periods of time. (Additional $50 charge per stay) Please note: The Windsor Arms also accepts feline guests.

Windsor Arms Hotel at Bloor Street, Toronto

Gaby the hotel dog of the Windsor Arms Hotel

Image provided by the Windsor Arms Hotel.

suite at the Windsor Arms Hotel

Image provided by the Windsor Arms Hotel.

Le Germain Toronto Maple Leaf Square

Located in the downtown core, this is the hotel for you if you are a Toronto sports fan. The local hockey (The Leafs), baseball (The Jays), american football (The Argos) and european football (soccer – TFC) teams all have their home stadiums/arenas close by, as are the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium.  This luxury hotel has an entire page dedicated to #poshpetstravel information. (Additional $30 charge per stay)

Main entrance of St. Germain hotel in Toronto

Lobby of Le Germain Hotel, Toronto.

Image provided by the Le Germain Toronto Maple Leaf Square.

Suite in Le Germain Toronto hotel.

Image provided by the Le Germain Toronto Maple Leaf Square.

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

The Fairmont brand is known worldwide for it’s attention to luxury. The Toronto property was officially opened in 1929 and was originally the tallest building in the British Commonwealth. I loved our stay at the Royal York! If you are looking for a hotel that boasts all of the amenities of the modern world, but the old-world charm of painted ceilings, travertine pillars, crystal chandeliers and wall hangings, the Royal York is for you. You can even try and ride elevator number nine which has carried such guests as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I’m sure your posh pet will find that appropriate when you check-in. (Additional $25 charge per night)

Entrance to Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto

Signature Double Suite at Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

Image provided by the Fairmont Royal York.

Lobby of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

Image provided by the Fairmont Royal York.

Shangri-La Hotel

I walked past this hotel almost every day during its construction (it’s one of Toronto’s more recent additions) and it’s modern all-glass exterior is simply striking. It’s great for art lovers, as this hotel is situated within walking distance of the home of the Canadian Opera Company as well as Roy Thomson Hall where the Toronto Symphony Orchestra plays. The Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario are just a quick cab ride away. And you can do all of this without worrying about your ‘small to medium size’ pet. They allow pets to remain in the room unattended (as long as they are crated), and the concierge is more than happy to assist you with pet-sitting needs if Fido one needs more individual attention. (Additional $125 charge per stay) Please note: The Shangri-La also accepts feline guests.

Shangri-La Hotel on Avenue Road, Toronto

Lobby at Shangri-La Hotel Toronto.

Image provided by the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto.

Moongate Suite at Shangri-La Hotel Toronto

Image provided by the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto.

 

So, with that, welcome to Toronto! While you’re here, you might even want to consider a custom portrait session for the one that makes you smile every single day. For the dog guests, a Posh Pups in the City™ Session would be the perfect place to start. For the well-travelled cats, we could arrange something inside. Either way, make memories of your visit to Toronto last a lifetime!

POSH PETS BOUTIQUE™ SESSIONS

Where it all begins

  • Pre-session Design Consult that ensures we create images you will be thrilled with.
  • The result is gorgeous custom artwork the life your pet shares with your family.
  • A personal Ordering Consultation to ensure you select the right images from the gallery.
  • Please note: The Creative Fee covers time and talent to photograph a maximum of four (4) subjects, which can be any combination of people and up to two (2) pets who live within the same household. Additional subjects may be photographed for a small additional fee.
  • Examples of portraits from Posh Pets Boutique™ Sessions can be found here.

And They Call it Puppy Love | Three Ways to Capture Puppyhood

And They Call it Puppy Love | Three Ways to Capture Puppyhood

Puppies are amazing. Those beautiful eyes. The big paws. The sweet new puppy breath. The way they wiggle. And now, you have just welcomed one into your home! Take a moment to savour this big event for this is the very beginning of your adventure together.

brown, black and yellow lab on porch

We can wish with everything we have that our puppy could remain a puppy forever, but it’s simply not possible. In fact, it is amazing how quickly puppies physically change during the first few weeks and months of their lives. However, there is a way to ‘bottle’ all of that new puppy goodness, so to speak, and that is by photographing him or her. But, think of puppy photography as comparable to newborn photography – if you want images that will forever preserve those first few weeks of ‘newness’, be sure to photograph them early and often, because that stage will be gone before you know it. So, how do you make sure you don’t miss anything important? Here are 3 ways…

1. Photograph your new puppy in their new home

When your puppy first arrives home, photograph their first moments in your home, now their home. These images do not have to be technically perfect (this image has a pile of towels in the background), but they will be so precious when you look back at them and think that this was the day when <insert name> joined our family.

puppy laying on floor at home

Photography is all about light. Believe me, you will feel better about your images if you can coax your new little bundle of fur into good light. Try images by windows that will give you gorgeous diffused light. Even when your puppy is naughty (notice that this little guy has obviously gotten into something), ensure they are safe, and then take a photograph. Getting in close will allow you to document their wrinkles, their furrowed eyesbrows and those big paws.

puppy home portrait

No doubt, as your puppy ventures outside for their first steps on the property, you will be right there with them. You can watch them from a bit of a distance and, with a zoom lens, capture their natural inclination to explore their environment.

yellow lab puppy walking on path

black lab puppy running

Know that new puppies will tire easily and will often take naps wherever and whenever they feel like it, giving you wonderful opportunities to photograph peaceful moments.
yellow lab puppy sleeping in grass

2. Be sure to continue photographing them as they grow

As puppies get older, they will begin to explore their environment and test their boundaries. This will give you lots of opportunities to capture those puppy antics. Here, this little girl purposely climbed into her mum’s garden and lay on the flowers to pose for me. There wasn’t any danger (except to the bent flowers), so I didn’t stop her. The result is a natural portrait that brings a smile to your face.

chocolate lab puppy posing with flowers

Don’t forget to take some headshots by getting up close and personal with your puppy. Photographing them from just under their eye-line as I have here makes them appear larger.

smiling puppy headshot

I have found that, as a puppy moves around, they often just stop to look at the world around them. If you can command their attention, you will be able to create a very beautiful portrait. As always, try and be conscious of how the light is falling on your subject (your little guy or girl) and you will be much happier with what you produce.posing puppy in garden bed

formal puppy portrait in Toronto

And, honestly, sometimes puppies will just ignore you and really test their boundaries. These two were on the edge of the property, and had they ventured any further, we would have physically picked them up to bring them back. I’m not sure what caught their attention, but this portrait gives the idea of having the whole world ahead of you. Which is, when you think about it, very true of puppyhood.

puppies gazing into the distance

3. Arrange for a studio portrait session

Sometimes you are looking for classic, studio portraits of your puppy and this is where it is wise to book with a professional. Puppies often do very well in the studio. It’s a safe, closed off environment where they can explore, but all the while under your watchful eye. They also often enjoy all of the cuddles and attention they get during the session from their new friend, the photographer. With the non-distracting background, you will have timeless portraits that show your puppy’s personality and sweetness.

black lab puppy with red polka dot tie

yellow lab with plaid bowtie

chocolate brown puppy with blue bowtie

chocolate lab puppy with pink bow

black lab puppy on blue

So, there you have it – 3 ways to forever remember your puppy in photographs and art. Be sure to look through your images and choose some to print and display. Images, while they are fun for sharing, are not really appreciated with everyone huddled around a computer of some other device. Your puppy is a member of your family now so ensure you display some of those up on your walls.

If you are looking to capture your puppy’s first moments and their first year, a great option is the Year in the Life Luxury Series. Find more details below.

YEAR IN THE LIFE LUXURY SERIES

A series of Boutique™ Sessions to capture the first year or the seasons.

  • series of three (3) Posh Pets Boutique™ Sessions throughout the year. Perfect for capturing puppy or kitty’s first year. Or, to document the life your pet leads with the different beautiful seasons we enjoy in Southern Ontario as your backdrop.
  • The result of this series will be a gorgeous life story that you will treasure forever.
  • A Posh Pets Studio™ Session can be substituted for one of your session for a small fee.
  • Please note: The Creative Fee covers time and talent to photograph a maximum of four (4) subjects, which can be any combination of people and up to two (2) pets who live within the same household. Additional subjects may be photographed at a cost of $50 per subject.
  • More information on A Year in the Life Sessions can be found here.
Five Business (and Life) Lessons from Lil BUB

Five Business (and Life) Lessons from Lil BUB

Last week, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Lil BUB as part of the CFHS Just for Cats Video Festival. She is just shy of 5 years old and weighs a mere 4.5 lbs. In other words, she is tiny. But, the little dynamo has a loyal following of millions of fans across the globe, including Posh Pets® Photography.

As part of the event, I got to sit down at Toronto’s Chelsea Hotel (who are totally pet-friendly, by the way!) with her human, Mike Bridavsky, and speak with him about the phenomenon that is Lil BUB. I really expected to write a nice post about a cute cat with a perpetual smile on her face. (I’m sure I said, “she’s adorable”, twenty times during the interview.) Instead, I came away with five lessons I think we can all apply to our personal and professional lives. So, sit back and learn something from Lil BUB…

Lil BUB smiling

 

1. Do what you do. Know why you do it. And don’t compromise. Especially for ‘success’ or fame.

I asked Mike how much of the public persona BUB now has was originally planned out. His answer? Nothing. “This is who she is”, he said, “we never set out to be famous.” It seems that BUB has always just been herself, spreading her positive energy with everyone she meets. If the comments on her various social media outlets are any indication, she has helped people who have faced tragedy, sickness or other challenges to have a positive attitude and face those challenges with dignity. The fact that she has now become a brand is just a bonus.

For those who would like to have the goal of making their pet famous, Mike’s advice is simple: get a better goal. “BUB is a one in a billion cat. I have five other cats who never became famous. I have a recording studio and the music is not as famous. You can’t force stuff. It just comes to you. Or not.”

These days, BUB receives many requests and opportunities from various organizations. It can be anything from endorsing a product, to appearing with a local politician at an event. But BUB and her people take her influence very seriously and have great respect for her following. She knows her mission – it is to spread positivity, to encourage empathy for others, to be proud of what makes us unique, and to throw a light on animal welfare as well as the challenges of caring for a pet with special needs. If an opportunity falls outside of that, it is turned down.

2. Know what you can’t do and surround yourself with people who can.

I was touched by how much Mike loves and cares for Lil BUB. “Her health and safety come first,” explains Mike. Obviously, BUB cannot always communicate her needs to everyone, so Mike advocates for her. Prior to our interview, I was told that any photography would need to be taken without flash because flash bothers her. During her interviews on the evening’s red carpet, I watched as Mike asked camera operators to dim their lights so as to reduce the effect it would have on BUB. Mike views his role as simply interpreting for BUB and translating it for the public. But, it’s a vital role and pivotal to her health, happiness, and success.

Mike is not the only one who takes care of Lil BUB’s growing empire. There are now three full-time employees, including Mike. They are all family and friends who care for her and ensure her business stays true to its mission.

Even in the little things, BUB has people to do what she cannot do. I discovered that she loves unsweetened yogourt. But not just any kind of yogourt. “The good stuff”, Mike quips. BUB obviously will not be heading to the store to purchase her favourite type of yogourt anytime soon. But that’s alright. She has people who can.

Lil BUB on the red carpet in Toronto

3. Be willing to be different. In fact, embrace it.

BUB is a traveller. She’s flown over 100,000 miles at this point. (“Always in the cabin. It’s an extra expense, but it is worth it.”) Considering that most people find that their cats can barely tolerate the drive to the local vet clinic once a year, she is remarkable. Mike assures me that she loves to travel and does not find it a stress at all. Interestingly, it’s been discovered that the vibrations from moving vehicles actually help her with her bone condition and makes her feel better. Her ability and ease with which she travels has opened up opportunities not normally available to her fellow felines. BUB is different and it has allowed her to do what she does.

4. Give back to something you care about.

Success opens up opportunities to give back to something you care about. BUB is using her influence to throw a light on animal welfare, especially for those with special needs like herself.  BUB’s BIG Fund in partnership with the ASPCA was started in 2014 and has, to date, raised over $125,000 for animals who need extra help. And it is not just lending her name to a cause so that funds can be raised. BUB spends her time and energy traveling to appear at events like the one in Toronto to spread awareness of animals in need. It’s her way helping those less fortunate than herself. No wonder she oozes happiness and positivity!

5. When you are true to yourself, you attract the right people and opportunities.

Mike is adamant that they have never chased opportunities, and that they never will. Everything has happened organically as BUB’s sphere of influence has increased. “I have a pretty good gut instinct,” says Mike, “and can quickly decide if something is going to fit or not.” It’s not always right, but when it is, they seize it and BUB heads off to share her message again.

Mike never even set out to find Lil BUB. He already had other pets, but a friend texted him urging him to come and see a cat that “he knew was just the type I would fall in love with”. That chance meeting, along with the determined spirit of a little cat has changed Mike’s life completely. One that he could not possibly have imagined.

Lil BUB at the Toronto Chelsea Hotel

So there you have it! Our interview wrapped up with me taking a couple of images of Lil BUB and giving her a gentle scratch between her ears.  I absolutely loved meeting her and listening to her little mews and could have stayed there all morning. But she’s a busy girl and had more people to meet. So, I said good-bye and was on my way. As I left, all I could think was: she’s adorable.

 

 

Finding Pigs who Swim in Exuma, The Bahamas.

Finding Pigs who Swim in Exuma, The Bahamas.

Ever wondered what makes a Posh Pets® girl smile? Well, in terms of dream experiences, I have, for quite a while had one involving pigs. Ever since I read an article last year about these delightful, wild, swimming pigs who live on an island in The Bahamas, I’ve wanted to go there. Well, this week, I finally had the chance!

The swimming pigs live on a couple of islands in The Exumas, a region of the Bahamas. The Exumas are a chain of 365 islands – the locals say, one for each day of the year – with the most incredible clear, turquoise waters and a soft, sandy bottom. The clarity is stunning, but it does mean that it is very hard to judge depth which can be a real issue for boaters not familiar with the area. The particular beach we visited was called Big Major Cay. It’s now known as “Pig Beach” after its adorable residents. Isn’t this water gorgeous?

clear turquoise waters of The Exumas

The pigs freely approach boats as they come towards the beach which is why Big Major Cay is the most popular. The Cay is completely protected, resulting in very calm waters in which the pigs feel comfortable swimming. That is why, while a couple of other islands have wild pigs, they do not necessarily swim – their waters are too rough. Most tourists bring veggies or water, so the pigs have learned to look upon us gangly bi-peds as great sources of food. This was the first guy to approach our boat with a big smile!

swimming pig in water, Bahamas

Of course, their real intentions quickly became clear – they were looking for food! Seeing their opened mouths and knowing that they are not domesticated (always respect wildlife!), made me a little nervous to get off the boat. So, I did the wise thing. I let someone else go first. 🙂 But, once I saw that he survived, I was in! I found the piggies to be curious and friendly, so I got to pet a few heads and place a few carrots into eager mouths.

swimming pig with mouth wide open for carrots

These next few images were the ones I really wanted to get. The pigs swim like dogs, doing a little doggie-paddle. So, I wanted to be able to catch the pig with his head out of the water and the sight of his fat little body in the clear water. To do so, I had lure them out to deeper water with the promise of treats. They were funny little guys – they would come out so far, but if they saw someone else closer to land with food, they would give me this look as to say, Nope. Too much trouble., and turn around!

pig photography bahamas

pig swimming in The Bahamas

swimming pig in exam, bahamas

With about 20 adult pigs on the beach, it’s no surprise that there are also little piglets on the island. They don’t venture into the water too much, but they are happy to receive fresh water and apples (softer than carrots) from anyone willing to provide them.

3 little piglets on pig beach, bahamas

And because I am a pet photographer, I had to pose a pig and take a portrait. Well, truth is, there was no posing these guys…I just waited them out. This one was sizing me up. Was the carrot I was holding enough of a temptation to make the effort to swim?

pig portrait on pig beach the bahamas

You can watch a video of the pigs in action here. It was my husband’s first time using a GoPro and he did a great job of catching the underwater action along with what was going on above. Hope you enjoy it!

Getting There: There are various ways from the do-it-yourself to fully guided tours. (1) If you are fortunate enough to own a boat or know someone who does, you could chart a course for Big Major Cay and spend as much time as you like with the swimming swine. (2) You can fly to Exuma and charter a boat. (3) You can book with a tour operator. We were staying in Nassau, so we went with Harbour Safaris who did an amazing job. Our day included transportation on a speed boat, swimming with the pigs, a lovely lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club (I hear the parties are legendary), and feeding grapes to a group of wild iguanas on yet another island of The Exumas.

Technical Info: I have never photographed underwater before, so there have understandably been some questions about my camera. These were not taken with my usual workhorse – the Canon 5DMIII – a DSLR I use for client sessions. The simple reason is because I was not ready to invest in the required underwater housing to keep it dry and safe. This is a little point-and-shoot which came with great reviews. It’s the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-4 and it is definitely waterproof and boasts that it can be dropped from a height of 6ft. and still keep ticking. Well, it wasn’t dropped at any time, but it was in and out of salt water, sand, thrown in a bag and it has held up. I rinsed it in clean, fresh water each night and dried it off, but that is just because I am used to showing a certain amount of respect for my equipment. This is a point-and-shoot camera which does not allow you to go into full manual, so as a hardened manual shooter on my DSLR, there was an adjustment period. However, it is truly amazing what can be accomplished by reading the manual and a little practice 🙂

Hope you have enjoyed coming on this little trip! Maybe now you will add seeing the swimming pigs to your travel list too…