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Frame the Essence of Your Dog

I was sitting on an airplane working on a Power Point presentation for our group obedience classes. I could feel the man sitting next to me eyeing my work. He was trying to respect my space in the close quarters, but when he saw the photos of dogs on the screen, he couldn’t help himself.

Just to be polite, he asked me about my presentation, but what he really wanted was to share photos of his adorable Chiweenie. I could tell from the array of shots that his little peanut dog was feisty: a shot of her dragging a dog bed across the room, leaping to grab a toy, play-bowing with the cat. He had captured the spirit of his pup in frame after frame.

Anyone who has furry-family members knows this feeling. Photos of our most faithful friends fill our smart phones, social media pages, and walls. With modern day options, we can now take hundreds of photos in the hope of getting one we love. To capture that one special photo, you may train your dog to perform sit, down, or stand. You then step away, and to get that special look, you make kissing noises to encourage a head tilt or an ear perk. But alas, that may only encourage your dog to get up and come to you. Instead, I have some suggestions to try.

Frame the essence of who your dog is. For instance, if you have a dog who loves to retrieve, hold your lens at the level of your dog’s head and take photos as your dog runs toward the toy and then returns with it. By holding the camera at the same height as your dog’s head, you are getting the angle that shows the power your dog has as he runs after the ball and the joy he feels upon returning with it. It is the dog’s-eye view.

Use their name to paint a picture of who they are. I had a Labrador Retriever who spent a couple of summers with me doing wildlife conservation searches. My favorite photo of her was taken in Idaho, all curled up at the end of a very long and cold search. Her name was Quill, and she was nestled in a bed of pine needles. My Beauceron is named Graffiti, and I have shots of him in front of graffiti all over North America and a few in France as well.

If you know what breed your dog is, you can capture your dog’s intended purpose. Does your terrier love to hunt for small creatures? Maybe you sneak out to watch while she stalks a lizard, and by holding your camera at her level, your lens will capture the intense look of a dog on the hunt. On a recent hike with my Belgian Malinois, I took a picture of him looking out at the green valley in Briones. The photo shows the back of his head, as a shepherd watching over his domain.

Mirroring behavior is when one animal subconsciously mimics the behavior of someone they are close to. At a presentation in Austin years ago, we put my Labrador on a sit at one end of a small room with a leash at her paws. I walked to the other end of the room, turned, and faced her, and placed a leash at my feet. I waited until she looked at me, and then I reached down and picked up the leash. She mirrored my behavior and picked up her leash. When taking a photo you can play with that concept to help your dog look in a certain direction, by turning your head in the direction you want your dog to turn. We all know many dogs will jump up when we are excited to see them, mirroring our excitement. The best photo of our Dapple Dachshund was taken at the Stinson Beach as she leaped for joy at my husband, who was also leaping on the beach.

Bonnie Brown Cali, CEO of Dog Dynamics Inc., has been training dogs since 1989, and was voted best dog trainer several years in a row. Her company offers private instruction in the East Bay and group classes in Walnut Creek, Orinda, Briones, and Danville. Find out more at

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Main article photo by: Bonnie Brown Cali