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?
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.
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.