April 21, 2022

One of the things that dog pawrents really want to capture is those shots where it’s all about the dog as a member of your family - the group shots!

The natural instinct tends to be that you put your arms around your dog and hug them - partly to keep them in position and partly because for us humans cuddling is a natural way to show affection.

But here’s the thing - dogs typically don’t like being hugged!

Contrary to popular opinion, hugging isn’t a dog thing. They may snuggle up to you, or choose your lap as their favourite nap spot, they may love physical contact - but that doesn’t mean they want a full on hug.

Our old boy Charlie craved contact - he was never happier than when he was touching one of his humans - but for him that was his nose resting against your hand, or lying next to you on the sofa, or on your lap (and he WASN’T a small dog!). But hugs made him uncomfortable and he wouldn’t really tolerate them.

Even though dogs are domesticated, they are not humans. Where we speak, they use body language to communicate - and often the signs we think of as ‘happy’ are actually signs of stress.

When we hug a dog, firstly we’re blocking their own use of body language. They can’t communicate when we’re restricting how they move, and this can be stressful for them.

Secondly, while we consider a hug as affectionate, a similar contact for dogs means something quite different. When one dog puts part of their body (be it their head, a leg or their torso) over the top of another dog, this is a sign of dominance or assertive behaviour, which could be seen as a potential threat.

In fact, with the wrong dog, hugging could very well end up as a trip to A&E with a bite injury, if the dog can’t escape and reacts with a snap.

FACT: If a dog snaps or bites, it means you’ve already missed an entire ladder of other signs and signals telling you that your dog is unhappy or uncomfortable.

I’m a huge advocate of encouraging others learning more about Canine Body Language, and recommend that all dog owners should find out more about this. Briefly, the signs of stress are grouped onto a Ladder of Communication which shows all the different body language signs that lead to the bite at the very top. Some of the signs will probably surprise you (yes that’s right, a waggy tail doesn’t always mean a dog is happy!)

It’s our responsibility to advocate for our dogs and to ensure they are treated ethically and respectfully with regard to their welfare. That could be when you prevent another dog from approaching yours while out on a walk, or asking another human not to touch them if they don’t like strangers.

And it also applies to your photo shoot.

The images you want to take home - those ones that capture your most precious memories - will be the ones where your dog looks relaxed, happy and loving life. So it’s really important not to put them in a position where they’ll be uncomfortable, because nobody wants photos of their dog looking unhappy or stressed.

But what does that mean for your family photos?

Don’t worry! There are heaps of different shots we can capture in your Me & My Dog Limited Edition Session or Bespoke Experience that will show that beautiful bond between you and your four-legged best friend, without compromising on their welfare.

Here are just a few ideas of the types of shot you can capture WITHOUT hugging your dog:

CROUCHING SHOT

This is a lovely way to get those ‘grouped together’ shots and include some of the environment as well!

TWO BEST FRIENDS
This is one of my favourite shots, and is just two best friends sitting & watching the world go by. You can really feel the bond between Beethoven and his human - and they aren’t even touching!

GOING FOR A WALK

A great option for a natural shot, this image of Honey & her human during their walk through the woodland. It’s an equally lovely shot whether they’re walking towards or away from the camera.

PLAYTIME

Another idea for natural shots is to capture some moments during the ‘letting off steam’ playtime part of your photo shoot. After all, it’s how you and your dog love to spend time together!

SIT ON SOMETHING

Let’s use the natural features of our photo shoot location for a lovely family shot sitting together - either on a log or a bench, or whatever else happens to be around. Your dog can either sit on the floor or alongside you depending on their physical capabilities

ALL LEGS TOGETHER

I do love a good leg shot! This is something a little different that is a nice way to show all the members of the family along with your dog.

PUPPY OVER SHOULDER SHOT

This is the exception to the rule! At puppy’s first shoot, I can include a puppy over the shoulder shot if puppy is relaxed and comfortable enough to do it. At this age puppy is often used to being handled, so it can complement that process.

The important thing is that we are mindful of puppy’s body language and how he reacts, and if anything looks wrong, we stop and try something else.


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