I’m sure you’ve heard some version of “There are no bad dogs, just bad owners.” That’s NOT what I’m here to talk about, even though I agree. I’m here to break this misconception that our dog is either bad or good. Or if they don’t love everyone and everything, something is wrong with them.
More specifically, I want to discuss this concerning a fear that my dog isn’t “good enough” for photos. As a Spokane family photographer, when I ask if a dog will be joining us, I often hear the following:
- “I’d love to, but they are not one of those good dogs.”
- “I wish. But my dog is too crazy.”
- “It would be a disaster because my dog doesn’t really like other people or other dogs.”
- “Nope. My dog is a bad dog. I love him, but he’s a handful.”
Dogs, Like People, Have Diverse Personalities
Can you imagine if the world was filled with happy-go-lucky people that cheerfully greeted everyone? Or that the word introvert wasn’t in our vocabulary and past trauma didn’t exist?
It isn’t a reality for people and doesn’t exist for dogs. I’m not sure when we put these unrealistic expectations on dogs to be “Good,” and if they weren’t perfect, they were bad.
But it happened.
Some dogs don’t love people outside of their family, much like some people are introverts. The flip side might be a dog that is so excited they can’t be within 20′ of a person without trying to jump out of its skin.
The first step in attacking this idea is to reframe “bad or good” into “dogs have diverse personalities.”
There are no bad dogs, but as a community, we can create bad situations
Most of the time, if we’d give dogs we encounter space, many uncomfortable situations wouldn’t occur.
- Going Off-leash. Keep your dog on a leash unless you’re in an off-leash area. I can’t tell you the number of times an off-leash dog has run-up to my dog, and the owner yells, “It’s OK. He’s nice.” Just because your dog likes the encounter doesn’t mean mine will as well.
- When your dog is on a leash, DON’T let them smell dogs without the other owner’s permission.
- People shouldn’t enter a dog’s space without checking with the owner. Just like the point about other dogs, people should also respect a dog’s space.
- Advocate for your dog. It’s OK to say, “No, he doesn’t like to be pet,” or “recall your dog.”
How I accommodate all dogs in a photoshoot
Accommodating dogs with diverse personalities in a photo session is something I’m passionate about. I’m super committed to creating a space for that.
- I always start by shooting far away. First, I pull out my lens, which lets me get a very comfortable distance from your family and dog. I will only come closer if I can see your pup is OK with this change.
- I rely more on genuine interaction between you and your dog and less on poses. Dogs don’t pose well. It’s just the way it is.
- So instead, I have prompts that let you engage with your dog while I take photos of what’s happening.
- My locations are all scouted with the dog in mind. I can tell you which spots might encounter more distractions and which are ideal for reactive canines.
- When in doubt, I can shoot at your home.
A few final thoughts on being inclusive with all dogs
First off, as a reminder, I’m not a dog trainer. I’m coming at this as a photographer who has met MANY pups and families.
I believe some dogs need training work or perhaps are dangerous when put in a situation they can’t handle. 100% this is a thing, and If you’re struggling, you should seek out help. If you’re local to Spokane, check out Lisa Lucas at Northern Tails Dog Training.
I believe dogs are dogs, and I haven’t ever encountered a situation where we couldn’t find a way to safely include them in photos.
I really hope that if you’re on the fence about including your furry family members in photos, this gives you the confidence needed to have them join you.
For more on having dogs join you in photos, check out this post. Join your dog in a photo session.
MB – A Spokane-based photographer serving dogs and their families.