I just thought I’d share some of my favorite pictures.
How I Integrate New Foster Dogs
You would think it would be difficult, bringing in dog after dog to a household with existing pets. I now live on my own, in my parents guest house. I have dogs, cats, and chickens. So, how do I do it?
It’s easier than you might think. The cat part is the easiest – they don’t live in my house! They live in my parents house. One is “my” cat, the other is my mothers. As much as I love my cat, it’s nice having a cat-free home when it comes to fostering dogs. I don’t have to worry about dogs being good with cats, or bringing home a dog that wants to kill my cat. It was manageable, fostering dogs and having cats, but it’s much easier having them live in my parents house. I still get to see them every day without having to worry about them being injured by a dog. I cat-test new dogs by bringing them to my parents house and letting them see a cat while on leash. If they do well, they’re allowed to get closer to the cat. If they show that they want to chase or injure the cat, they leave and are not allowed to go to a home that has cats.
Introducing new foster dogs to my dogs is harder. Since it’s summer and I am fostering two dogs at a time, there are 2 dogs that my new foster dogs need to meet – my personal dog Nelly, and whatever other foster dog I have at the time. Usually, my foster dogs are pretty good with other dogs so that is not a problem. Nelly, however, is a brat. People don’t believe me when I say it because she looks so sweet and innocent, but don’t let that cute face fool you. She is a possessive jerk. She guards doorways, gates, chickens, cats, food, toys, you name it. However, I can’t complain, because when I got her she wanted to rip the throat out of every single dog she saw. Using positive reinforcement training, I taught her that other dogs are not something to fear(aggression is rooted in fear) and now we are at the point where she can usually meet another dog with just raised hackles, sometimes a little bit of growling is involved but lately there hasn’t been any. I’m very proud of the progress she’s made so I have to say that I’m happy with raised hackles and growling. I continue to work on teaching her that she doesn’t need to be scared of other dogs. It is a never-ending process.
When I introduce new dogs, it always through a crate for everyone’s safety. Usually what happens is this: I bring the new dog home – they ride in a crate in the back of my car. I let Nelly out and she right away jumps into the car and sniffs the new dog through the bars of the crate. She feels safe this way and usually there is no growling or hackles raised. This is the safest way to introduce new dogs, as I don’t always know if the new dog will be good with other dogs or not. If they do try to attack, they won’t be able to hurt my dogs as they’ll be separated by the wire bars of the crate. So far, I’ve never had a dog try to hurt another when introducing this way. This is not how I would recommend someone adopting a new pet introduce them to their existing dog, though. I do it just because it’s easy and safe, but it’s not the best way to go. If you have any concerns about your new family member getting along with the existing one, make sure they meet on neutral territory, then walk them home together.
The chickens can be a bit difficult to do introductions with, as they are scared of new dogs(which is pretty smart of them!). They will all start clucking and run away. What’s really nice is that my chickens now have their own yard, separate from the dog yard. It is separated by 6ft chain link fence, so a dog would have to try VERY hard to get to them. If a dog obsesses over chickens at the fence, they are not allowed to be outside alone as I don’t trust them to not hop the fence to get to them.
When I introduce a dog to my hens, I leash the dog and bring them into the chicken yard. If they try to chase, it’s over and they’re not allowed to be around the hens. It seems there’s two types of dogs: the ones that pretty much ignore the chickens, and the ones that want to tackle and hurt them. In my experience, most dogs want to chase the hens, but I still do get dogs that are okay with chickens.
When I first started fostering dogs, they would be out in the house with me almost all the time. I quickly learned that this was a fast way to cause separation anxiety in a new dog. They go from a scary environment(a shelter) to a new environment(my house), so naturally they are feeling pretty scared. This causes them to cling to their person, and consequently they start to freak out when that person leaves their sight or the house. Now, my dogs do not get much freedom when they first come to me. In the morning when I wake up, they go outside and that is where they stay until it gets hot out. Then, they come inside and go to their crate. They usually get no time out in the house with me on their first day. Their second or third day, they get about an hour, and we work up from there. Since I have started doing this my instances of separation anxiety have dropped tremendously. Separation anxiety is a problem that greatly increases the difficulty of getting that dog adopted. I will soon write up an article on separation anxiety – how to prevent it, and what to do if your dog already has it.
People often think it is a good idea to get two puppies at the same time, usually littermates. The following is usually people’s reasoning for getting two pups at the same time:
-They’ll keep each other company
-Both my kids want their own dog
-Two puppies is double the fun!
They’ll keep each other company
While this may be true some of the time, it is not always the case. An important question to ask yourself is, why do they need to keep each other company? Is it because you’re too busy to pay attention to them during the day? If so, maybe you should consider waiting to get a dog or dogs, until your life has calmed down a bit. Dogs require a lot of time and attention, especially when you first get them.
Both my kids want their own dog
It seems like a truly great idea, doesn’t it? Both your kids walking their dogs down the street, everyone the best of friends. But be honest with yourself – do you really think it will turn out that way? Often times, the kids will get bored with the dogs after a period of time and then the responsibility falls on the parents to take care of both animals. However, will your children be the ones housetraining two puppies, feeding them, bathing them, and most importantly, training them? Unless they’re very responsible teenagers, the answer is most likely “no”. That will be the responsibility of the parents.
Two puppies is double the fun!
That depends on your definition of fun. Cleaning up pee and poop from puppies that are still being housetrained, trying to watch both at the same time so they don’t soil in the house, eat your couch, and cause who knows what other trouble, is not really my definition of “fun”. In fact, to be honest, I don’t usually foster puppies because they are so much work. They stress me out which causes my health problems to get worse. Out of all the dogs I’ve fostered(29 as of 6/18/14) only 5 have been puppies, and every time I foster a puppy it reaffirms what I already know: puppies are a LOT of work. They chew, they gnaw on hands and arms, they pee and poop in the house, and they have an insane amount of energy. Sure, playtime with two puppies can be great, but do you really expect to spend all of your time playing with them? What will you do when you want to have some calm time but your puppies want to chew up the sofa?
The real problems with littermates
The real problems with littermates. It’s not the extra work involved, or the extra cost, it’s the fighting. “The fighting?” you ask? Yes. It is a very common problem in littermates. Two dogs that were best friends in puppyhood often grow up and start to hate each other with a burning passion. It can happen any time after maturity. My parents had two sibling Dachshunds, and they didn’t start fighting until they were 7 years old. It began with just a little scuffle here and there, nothing serious and only when they were inside. For several months this continued, and it seemed to have plateaued. They would fight on occasion, but it was never serious and they always stopped. Then, they started fighting outside. It happened once, then again a couple months later. Then again a month later. Then a few weeks later…until eventually, they were fighting on a weekly basis. It was eventually decided that the best thing to do for these dogs, who spent all their time either outside or crated, and were never paid attention to, was to rehome them.
What would have happened if Oliver and Murphy were not rehomed? Their fighting would have continued to progress to the point where they would eventually try to kill each other every time they were together. This happens so often, and it’s devastating for the families who love their dogs. They’re then faced with a very difficult decision…rehoming one of the dogs, or attempting to keep them separate 24/7 so they do not have access to each other.
But I have littermates and they don’t fight, they love each other!
That’s great! Let’s hope it stays that way! Unfortunately, there’s a good chance it won’t. Fighting can start any time after maturity. Be prepared in case they do start to fight.
Help! I took in littermates not know the potential issues!
If this is the case, you need to immediately take action to give yourself the best possible chance at them getting along for the rest of their lives. One of the most important things to do is keep them separate. Not all the time, but a portion of it. Play with them separately, train them separately, walk them separately, and if you crate train, put their individual crates in separate parts of the house. Do not crate them together.
To learn more about the problems and solutions to raising littermates, check out this link. There are three pages, be sure to read them all.
In summary – while it might sound like a good idea to get two puppies at the same time, the potential for problems is overwhelming. If you are set on getting a puppy, it is best to wait at least a few months in between adopting them.
Also, Oliver found a fantastic home & Murphy is in a great foster home that may end up keeping him. Both are now indoor dogs and part of loving families. They’re very happy, that is what is important.
Photographing Dogs – extra!
Extra! Breaking the rules.
I figured I’d add one last post to this short “Photographing Dogs” series. Today what I want to talk about, is breaking the rules! Breaking the rules in photography is fun, and there is definitely a time and a place for it. For example, what’s the fun in always taking pictures at the dog’s level? It gets boring after a while. Sometimes it’s fun to shake it up!
One of my favorite ways to break the rules is to take pictures from above the dog. This can be a bit difficult as dogs don’t seem to like looking up, unless you’re holding a treat. I always forget to bring treats to my photoshoots(forgetful me!) so I have to improvise. I usually just make funny sounds to get their attention, and snap a picture as soon as they look up at me. It usually takes a few tries to get it right, but once I do I love the results. Now, if you’re like me and you always forget to bring treats to your photoshoots, you may have a hard time doing this, especially with untrained dogs! But if you can remember to bring treats, well it should be a fairly easy picture to take.
Another fun way to break the rules is to put your white balance(the overall color of the picture) off a bit. If the picture was taken in a scene where there’s snow on the ground, the picture might actually look better with a very slight blue tint to it, as it gives it a cool feel. If the picture was taken with an orange sunset in the background, try adding a bit of a red tint to the picture and see how it looks. You’d be surprised what a little extra color can do for a picture! It can also be fun to use some filters or presets on your pictures. I have enjoyed many of the free presets that I have found at PresetPond.
Have fun, break the rules. Be a rebel!
Photographing Dogs – pt. 2
If you missed “Part 1”, you can see it HERE.
Part 2 – lighting, background, editing
Maybe just as important as your subject, is your background and lighting. Who wants to see a picture taken in harsh sunlight with trash littered all over the place?
The picture’s lighting is very important. Try to avoid taking pictures in direct sunlight, as this creates harsh shadows, causes the subject to squint, etc. Taking pictures in shade can work, but often your background will be overexposed. If you do take pictures in the shade, make sure it is solid shade and does not have little spots of light shining through. The absolute best times to take pictures are at sunset, and when it is overcast outside. In both of these scenarios, it is plenty light out so your pictures will be well lit, but there are no harsh shadows. The light is usually very soft and even, which makes for great pictures.
Your pictures background is just as important as the lighting. I try to choose a photoshoot area that has a very natural feel to it. The river park by my house is great as there’s a lot of trees, and some dogs like to wade in the river, which makes for adorable pictures! If there is any trash left by other people, I clean it up. It’s not good for the environment and it certainly isn’t going to look good in my pictures! I do sometimes enjoy taking pictures in a city setting, however I don’t get to do this often as I live out in the country. Aim for a background that you find beautiful, and chances are the pictures will have a nice feel to them! Avoid having light poles, cars, etc. in the background of your pictures.
What you do with your pictures after you take them is crucial. In my experience, pictures straight out of the camera often have a blue tint to them, sometimes it’s severe and sometimes it’s just mild. On the left you’ll see a before & after of a picture of Stella. The color of the picture was off, so I corrected it in Lightroom. It only takes a minute or two to get the correct color balanace. I also upped the contrast, vibrance, and clarity. I took down the highlights, and the exposure by 0.5 points.
People often ask me for tips for photographing their dogs and foster dogs, so I thought I would share what I do to get the pictures that I do. This will be a 2-part post. Part two is coming on Sunday!
Part 1 – the dog.
This is, of course, the most important part of your picture. Your subject, the dog.
When I’m taking pictures of foster dogs, my goal is to take pictures that people connect with. I want them to feel drawn towards the dog, I want them to see my pictures and think, “I want this dog.” One of the best ways to do this is to implement a little psychology into the pictures. Studies show that the first thing a person looks at in a picture is the subjects eye. When they see a picture, their brain automatically starts searching for what should be the focal point – the eyes. Because of this, the focal point of my pictures is almost always the eyes.
It’s also important to take the rest of the dog’s body into account. You don’t want a picture where they are standing awkwardly, right? I often have to lure foster dogs into the position I want, then slowly back away and hope they stay in that position. Or, I wait for them to move and hope they move into a good position. A lot of it can be just waiting for the dog to strike a cute pose. In the picture above, I had Riley leashed to a tree on the river bank. He wanted to follow me into the river but hit the end of his leash, so he simply stood there watching me. He put his paw up on the rock which was the perfect touch to this picture.
Leashing your dog can be a good way to get them to stay in the area that you want. You can either take pictures so that the leash isn’t visible, or edit the leash out in Photoshop. I am a big fan of Photoshop Lightroom 5, I use it for editing every picture. You can take leashes out with the “clone” and “heal” tools. It takes a bit of practice but once you’ve got it down, it’s easy and nobody can tell that your dog was leashed.
And, last but not least, is you. How and where you stand&act is going to affect what the dog looks like in the pictures. I almost always try to take pictures from the dogs eye level. Not above, not slightly above, not below, not slightly below, but at their level. It’s also important to get their ears perked forward! I usually do this by embarrassing myself – making funny noises that the dog is interested in. I have found that meowing and whining are what dogs are usually most curious about, and if I’m lucky they’ll do more than just put their ears forward, they’ll tilt their head!
It takes a lot of practice to be able to capture all of this in one picture, but once you’ve got it down it comes naturally.
People? What are those?
I was recently diagnosed with IBS, after having struggled with it for over a year. Unfortunately, there is no cure or approved treatment for IBS. There are things you can do that are supposed to help, but so far, nothing has helped me. I’ve taken supplements, fiber, probiotics, vitamins, etc. I am already on a vegan diet due to other health issues(and to save the animals!) so we know it’s not a dairy allergy. The next step is to try different types of diets – FODMAP, gluten-free, you name it I’m going to try it. Depending on the severity, IBS can make your life a living hell. I know it has for me – I had to leave school and do independent study, I can’t leave the house without first taking medication, and I now have anxiety related to leaving the house. But, I persevere. I don’t get to go out that often, most of my days are spent cooped up in my little house, meaning I don’t get to see people or friends very much.
But when I do, my camera is glued to my face. I LOVE to photograph people when I get the chance, though often my Nelly girl manages to sneak into the pictures. Okay, more than “often”. She ends up in several pictures in every photoshoot. I love taking pictures of her and she loves being in front of the camera, and people usually enjoy having their picture taken with the pretty dog! This, of course, only goes for the close friends and family that are allowed around her. (See the post “A Difficult Decision”) She and my brother both have beautiful eyes, so it’s fun to get the two of them in a picture together. And the way they interact is so sweet – she absolutely adores him and he adores her, too.
One of my favorite things about photographing people is that, unlike dogs, when you tell them to sit still they’re usually going to listen! Photographing dogs can be frustrating at times when you’re working with untrained, hyper ones. People are generally more willing to take instruction…without needing food motivation! Don’t get me wrong, I do love photographing dogs. I love photographing dogs even more than I love photographing people. But sometimes it’s nice to have a change from what I normally do. I don’t photograph people very often, but when I do I’m always really excited to get home and edit the pictures.
Let’s See That Personality!
I’d like to start this post by apologizing for not having posted in a little while, I’ve been overwhelmed with stuff going on at home. I’ll try to find time to write more often. (:
I love the picture-perfect photographs as much as the next guy(gal)…but c’mon, don’t you ever get bored of your subjects looking perfect all the time?
When I’m photographing dogs, I usually shoot for two different types of pictures in the same photoshoot. Since most of my subjects are rescue dogs, of course I want to get the pictures where they look drop dead gorgeous, perfect, and amazing. I’m trying to get people’s attention, I want these photos to say “adopt me!” so I show them in the best possible light.
But what’s the fun in only having pictures like that? It gets old after a while. I also love to take pictures where the dog’s personality shines through. Some of my favorite pictures are the ones where the dog looks like it’s having a great time. A big smile, a head tilt, or maybe just a funny face. Anything besides the cut-and-paste, generic looking pictures.
My current foster boy, Tweed, is a great model for the camera. He gets this big goofy grin when the camera comes out; it never fails to make me laugh.
My personal dog, Nelly, is a bit more serious. She has always been an extremely driven working dog, and I swear when the camera comes out she just thinks that it’s another job for her to do. “Okay, there’s the camera. I know momma likes to take pictures of me, so I need to make sure I do my best modeling. Time to get serious about this.”
That oh-so-serious look often comes across as very beautiful, though, so it works well. If I want those pictures where she looks like a goof ball, it’s a bit of a challenge…but I guess that when it comes to photography, being challenged is a good thing!
Because I started off photographing dogs and because I work with them so often, they are generally the only thing I take pictures of. I am starting to branch out, though, and experiment with other types of photography. Landscape photos are something I’m interested in, but haven’t gotten around to learning about yet. Besides dogs, I’m also now doing a little work with people. It’s been all friends and family while I was learning.
I have found that dogs are a lot easier to photograph than people, in some ways. On one hand, dogs don’t always want to listen or have their picture taken. Some dogs are afraid of the camera; I don’t know why, but I would assume it’s because the lens looks a bit like a giant eye staring them down. In my experience, a dog will either not want to look at or near the camera, or it simply won’t care either way. With dogs, you don’t have to worry about them doing some kind of horrible, cheesy-looking fake smile, you don’t need to worry about them being self-conscious in front of a camera, and best of all, you don’t need to worry about them not liking the pictures you take! All things that I, as a beginner people-photographer, worry about.
As you can tell, I worry. A lot. Probably too much.
Now, the bad part about photographing dogs. They don’t always like to listen very well. You can tell a person, “Okay, now let’s have you sit right over here…” and the person will go sit over there. You try to make a dog sit somewhere that it doesn’t want to and you’ll have about 5 seconds, at the very most, to snap that picture. If you’re working with a dog that doesn’t care about treats or toys then good luck trying to get it to cooperate at all! Last but not least, dogs can be really easily distracted. Sometimes the best places to do photoshoots are also the most interesting for the dog. So many trees! And grasses! And rocks! And smells! AND WAS THAT A SQUIRREL? Let’s look at everything except the camera!
Now, maybe it’s just because I’m not very good with people, but I definitely prefer working with dogs. It just feels right for me.
I think this post got a bit off topic, but oh well! My point is that while I do like the pictures where the subject looks perfect, like a model, I don’t think anything can top a picture where the subjects personality is showing through. It just seems to give the photos something special.
A Difficult Decision
Today, I have made the decision to stop allowing my personal dog, Nelly, around anyone but my immediate family.
Nelly has always wanted her personal space from both people and dogs, and has always been great about giving warning signals such as growling and teeth showing. Warning signals such as these are a GOOD thing, but that is something I will dedicate a post to in the very near future, maybe even my next one.
Nelly has always communicated very well with people and dogs, letting them know when she was uncomfortable with the situation she is in. She has never liked people getting in her face, hugging her, or making her feel trapped in any way; it is considered rude to do this to a dog and she has very little tolerance for it. She also has an especially low tolerance for people doing this when she’s herding something. However, she has always given warning signals, so I am able to immediately remove her from a situation that she is uncomfortable with.
Lately, though, we’ve been having problems. She has been biting without giving any warning – or if there is a warning, it is way too fast for me to notice. I don’t know why she suddenly stopped, I have never corrected warning signals. As I said before, warning signals are a good thing!
Twice in the past few months she nipped someone who got into her personal space while she was herding – the solution to that was easy enough, I simply stopped letting people be around her while she was herding. Problem solved, no more nipping. But then the a couple weeks ago she nipped a person that was in my house. He was simply walking by her and she turned and nipped. And today she was having her belly rubbed by someone I know well(this was after she begged to be pet, she was very happy about getting her belly rubbed), he went to gently push her just a little bit, to scoot her away, and she immediately turned and nipped his arm.
None of these nips have drawn blood or left a puncture mark, but that does not make it okay. It is extremely concerning to me – not only that she’s nipping, but that she’s not giving noticeable warnings. Warnings are such an important part of canine communication and if she’s not giving me any chance to remove her from a situation she doesn’t like, what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to prevent bites when they’re so sudden and unpredictable?
I don’t know.
And that is why I have decided that I will no longer allow anyone except immediate family to touch or be near her. I am not going to risk having her bite someone that will then sue to have her euthanized for it.
I feel like a failure, as her owner, handler and trainer. So, until I work with a professional trainer, there will be no more contact with people for Nelly.
It saddens me to have to do this, because Nelly loves people so much. Every time we’re with a group of people, she goes from person to person with a happy smile on her face, begging to be pet. Sometimes when we’re in public, if there’s a person she can reach while on her leash, she’ll scoot up to them, sit, and give them her best “pet me?” face. Being around people makes her so happy!
I just can’t believe it’s come to this. Of all the dogs I’ve fostered(22 at this point) I have never had a dog with as many problems as Nelly did the day that I adopted her. I’ve been able to fix most of her issues, but it seems like it’s just one thing after another. There’s no end to her problems. I don’t what could have caused her to be so neurotic and crazy that nobody but me wanted to keep her.
When I imagined my first dog, it was one that liked kids and other dogs, one that would play fetch with me, one that I didn’t have to worry about biting. But of all the dogs in the world, I fell in love with this one. And all I want to do now is cry, because I can’t even trust my best friend to be around people.
I Play Favorites
After fostering dogs for a long time, you learn to pick out which dogs are extraordinary. I believe all dogs are special, but sometimes you meet a dog that just stands out from the rest. And this post is about those extra-special dogs, my “top two”.
My number one favorite dog is named Levi. I had him the longest of any of my foster dogs – 4 months. He had good pictures, he was an awesome dog, but nobody wanted him. He received very few applications in his time with me, and none of them worked out. His only problem was separation anxiety, which can be fixed.
He is such a relaxed, happy dog. While he loved to go out and play and run and wrestle with Nelly, he was also perfectly content to spend an entire day lounging around the house with me. He was constantly trying to convince my cats to be his friends, but the cats didn’t think so much of that idea. He did manage to make friends with the younger cat, but my Buddy remained wary of him.
My Nelly is very picky about what dogs she will play with, but Levi was also one of her favorites. I have a “no playing in the house” rule, but Levi was constantly trying to get her to play inside. It’s all he wanted to do, play! He would grab her neck scruff and gently pull on it, or paw at her, or nudge her with his nose until she gave in and played with him.
After those 4 months with no luck finding him a home, he went to another foster home further south in my state. There he was adopted by a lady who has added me on Facebook and says I can visit him if I am ever near. She posts a lot of pictures of him, and I can tell he is very happy there!
Another favorite of mine is a recent dog, adopted in May, named Riley. Riley was found wandering in a wildlife refuge, where dogs will often get shot if they are caught harassing wildlife. He got lucky – he simply jumped into a person’s truck when they came through, then came to rescue. Riley had a bad leg, it appeared to have been broken and healed crooked some time in the past. He didn’t let it slow him down!
Riley was a near perfect dog, his only real behavior problem being that he was obsessive about herding people by nipping at them. I worked with him on it, and waited patiently for the right adopter to come along – someone with Border Collie experience. Eventually I got an application that was up to my expectations, and they adopted him. They loved him and continued to work with him, and tell me that his nipping is now a rare occurrence. His adoptive mom says he’s “the best dog in the world”.
We rejected about 20 applications for Riley before finding his perfect home.
Few things make me happier than knowing a dog I’ve fostered is in a loving, happy home.