A day in the life

As a dog trainer and dog photographer I've had some memorable days. They often pop back into my head having been tweaked by a certain event. I was just thinking about one of those memories yesterday. I'd been working with a woman and her German Shepherd; everything was going great when we discussed a dog from her past. It seemed that her past dog had had hugging issues. The dog was fine when people visited but if they hugged the owner the dog kicked into guarding mode. "Ok; let's hug," thinking that it was indeed a good thing to check out. And sure enough this gal had hug issues as well; not huge but they were there. So from that point on hugging was implemented at each training session where a guarding issue might arise.

I like to cover as much ground as possible when training. In another one of my in-home sessions the dog was coming along amazingly so it was time to put all the work to the test. I hopped into the Jaguar with the guardian and student and we were off, making our way to the dog bakery; we worked outside the store and inside the store. Next destination was the beach where there were lots of people and lots of dogs; plus she'd never been to the beach so this was a great place to work. I know what you're thinking; yep rough.

But there are plenty of times when it is not wonderful; there is stress, and a lot of it. I clearly remember one day while trying to work with two recently rescued girls. The first thing I tried to convey was how important it was to spend alone time with each dog; they were sisters so they'd already been together for their whole life. If dogs become to attached to one another it can be very difficult to do anything with them while separated. This was the case here; they were not being taken out separately so it was a case of unrelenting whining, pawing and general stress. As the sessions went on it got no better; the girls were together 100% of the time which made training a huge challenge. Not only could we not separate them on training day but they had to be continually touching or connecting in some way; we were definitely the outsiders. In the end they received enough training to get by in the life they would lead; a frustrating case indeed.

There was another case where I visited owners and their brand new adopted puppy. I was told on the phone that they had an Akita mix; which are very large dogs. As soon as I arrived I realized that not only was it clearly not an Akita; it was an ACD or Australian Cattle dog. The new owners were skeptical when I told them what they had; and I'm not sure that they believed me until of course they would have seen as the dog grew to maturity. The little puppy was not only a completely different breed from what they had thought they had; it was in fact deaf. After several attempts to get the puppies attention; I decided to test this theory. There was nothing; not one response; not an ear turn, nothing. I dropped things, slammed doors, screamed, still nothing. This was a lot for the new owners; one that they seemed willing to tackle.

Photography can bring out some different behaviors as well. Even the friendliest of dogs can be spooked by "the camera." It is after all a giant eye starring at the dog; pretty unnerving. I often resort to the "big" lens; my savior when it comes to working with dogs who are not keen on the starring eye. I've gotten some of my best images crawling around the ground to create a much less threatening presence; it works well. And while I was down there on the ground being less threatening I realized that you can get some very cool images from down there. I can often be seen laying on my stomach on the ground; simply to get the shot.

Never a dull moment. ;)

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