Littermates

Oliver, sibling to Murphy(below)

Oliver, sibling to Murphy(below)

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.

Murphy, sibling to Oliver(pictured above)

Murphy, sibling to Oliver(pictured above)

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?

Aggression is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly.

Aggression is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly.

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.

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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!

Tucker

Tucker

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.

Nelly in Wildflowers

Nelly in Wildflowers

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?

A picture of Tucker taken at sunset. If you look closely you can see that there is a leaf on his head.

Tucker at sunset. If you look closely you can see that there is a leaf on his head!

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.

Molly, a Great Pyrenees puppy, wades in the river.

Molly, a Great Pyrenees puppy, wades in the river.

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.

Stella - Before&After

Stella – Before&After

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.

Photographing Dogs

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.

Stella

Stella

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.

DSC_0013

Riley strikes a pose

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.

 

Clint, a very terrified dog, was leashed to the tree in this picture. He was later adopted by one of my Instagram followers.

Clint, a very terrified dog, was leashed to the tree in this picture. He was later adopted by one of my Instagram followers.

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.

A little bit of a head tilt from Tucker.

A little bit of a head tilt from Tucker.

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?

My friend Jazzy being “attacked” by Nelly.

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.

My brother and my wet dog at the lake on a colder winter day.

My brother and my wet dog at the lake on a colder winter day.

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.

DSC_0925One 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.

Can I Foster & be a Student?

I started having health problems in the 8th grade. First, it started with a bad back. Then, the chronic nausea hit. Then, I was diagnosed with IBS-D. To put it frankly, my life has been a living hell, especially since I started having problems with IBS. But I carry on.

Roxy, a former foster dog.

Roxy, a former foster dog.

In my junior year of high school, I was failing everything. Straight D’s and F’s. It’s not because I wasn’t smart, and it’s not because I didn’t care about my grades, and it’s not because my parents didn’t try to get me to get good grades. It’s because I was depressed. I was depressed because I was dealing with health problems that made my life horrible. I would go to school, get home and then sleep all day. I’d wake up for dinner, then go to bed for the night. I almost never did homework because I was just too mentally and physically exhausted. I finally convinced my parents to let me leave regular high school and go to an alternative high school. It was 4 hours a day, all on a computer in a classroom, with no homework. I was finally getting good grades for the first time in years.

Loretta, a former foster dog.

Loretta, a former foster dog.

After we moved from Sacramento, CA to Redding, CA we decided to enroll me in independent study high school. I would meet with a teacher once a month and he would give me homework to do, and it would be due at the next meeting. This was the best type of schooling for me, as I could work on my own schedule. If I didn’t feel well, I didn’t have to do work right then. I could do it later when I felt better. I wasn’t pressured to do a load of homework every single night. I worked at my own pace. As long as everything got done on time, there was no issue. With independent study, I did my work, I got it all turned in on time, and I got straight A’s for the entire year I was in independent study. (note: parents, let this be a lesson to you. Don’t be afraid to try a new type of schooling if your child isn’t doing well in traditional school! It just might turn things around for them!)

Riley, a former foster dog.

Riley, a former foster dog.

Now, I’ve graduated high school. My transcripts don’t look great because of the first 2.5 years where I failed everything, but the last 1.5 years look darn near perfect. I just went to my new student orientation on Friday at the local community college, and will be setting up an appointment soon to meet with a councilor to create a preliminary education plan. I already know what I want to do after school – I want to run my own business. I think it’s something I would really enjoy doing. I could run a pet supply store and bring my dog, who is my unofficial service dog, with me to work every day. Life would be good.

Archie, a former foster dog.

Archie, a former foster dog.

My concern now, is actually going to college. I’m going back to a type of schooling that was very hard for me, and this time there will be even more work. I no longer have chronic nausea, that went away after I went vegan, however I still suffer from back pain and pretty severe IBS. I worry that I will fail classes again. I also worry that I won’t be able to continue fostering dogs because I’ll not be able to spend enough time taking care of them. On one hand, foster dogs need more time and attention than my Nelly does. They need training. They need to be taught how to be good family members. Will I still be able to do this while I’m in college? On the other hand…even if I can’t work with them very much, should I still foster? It’s still saving lives, even if they do end up having to go to their new homes without much training. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to continue fostering dogs throughout college, because fostering is something I really enjoy doing. I’ve been doing it since I was 15, and I don’t plan on stopping unless I really have to.

I love fostering dogs.

The Rantings of a Poor Photographer

I know I promised some of you guys a post regarding the “it’s all about how you raise the dog” subject, but I’ve had to push that back, it will probably be the post after this.

A possibly stray cat at my aunt's house, it's trying to adopt itself. Poor baby was so hungry that when a single piece of food fell down a crack in the deck, he was trying to paw and bite at it to get it out. My aunt gave him more food, we'll see if he sticks around.

A possibly stray cat that was hanging out at my aunt’s house, he was extremely happy and didn’t stop purring the entire time he was there. Poor baby was so hungry that when a single piece of food fell down a crack in the deck, he was trying to paw and bite at it to get it out. My aunt gave him more food, we’ll see if he sticks around. I wish I could have taken him home!

As many of you know from my first post, I started out in photography by using the Nikon D50 that my mother owned but never used. After the kit lens broke, I got the Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-s VR…I can’t remember if it’s version 1 or 2. I love this lens, it’s damn near perfect for what I usually do – photographing dogs, other animals, and sometimes people.
The D50 has been a great camera for me to learn with, but I am so beyond ready to upgrade. I feel so limited with this camera, especially considering the fact that I often work with moving subjects and need to use an ISO higher than 200. I won’t go too much into the technical crap, I don’t want to bore you guys! But I will say the D50 does a horrible job of handling high ISOs. Pictures taken at 400 are pretty noisy, anything above that is very rarely useable. I hate noisy pictures – I know it doesn’t bother some people so much, but it drives me CRAZY!

I’m currently in Utah to visit family. My aunt here is also a hobby photographer, and she’s very good. From what I’ve seen on Facebook, she mostly takes pictures of bugs. I never thought bugs could be so interesting until I saw her pictures!

While I was at her house, she let me use her camera and macro lens with extension tubes. I don’t remember what camera/lens/tubes I was using, but I do know that it was awesome. I was out in her garden for hours just taking pictures of different kinds of bugs. Some of the pictures are included in this post. I’d like to think I did at least an okay job, considering this was my first time ever photographing bugs!

The camera is just so amazing in comparison to what I use. It has many AF points(mine only has 5), the autofocus is extremely fast, and it very quickly shoots burst shots – not sure how many FPS. It’s easy to use and I love that the pictures are much bigger than the 6MP ones my camera takes.

And now I’m sad, because after using her camera, I feel like mine sucks. I mean, my camera is ten years old. It will be a long time before I can afford a new camera, and now that I’m in love with bug photography, I also have to face the fact that I won’t be able to get a good macro lens until after I get a new camera. My current camera just will not work well for it.

I’m a student that can’t get a job due to chronic illness, which is why it’s going to take me so long to be able to afford a new camera (then macro lens). I’ve lost so many things that I care about lately, photography is one of the few things that really keeps me going. But right now I’m just feeling extremely limited and discouraged in the photography department. I want to continue to improve and expand what I can do, but I feel so stuck with this camera.

I hate waiting & not having money!

Sigh. /end rant.