We love our dogs. We think they’re the cutest, most adorable beings on the planet. And we’re correct, of course. It’s only natural that we would want to plaster our Facebook and Instagram with photographs of our gorgeous pooch, right? So why is it that whenever many of us try and capture the perfect snap of our fur babies that, no matter what we do, we cannot get them to maintain eye contact with the lens? You only have to look at social media to know that some dogs just love a selfie! So, why is it that so many dogs see a camera and become horribly stressed or, worse still, run for the hills the moment they hear us rummaging, before they even know what we’re looking for?
The Root of the Behavior
If your dog yawns, licks their lips, begins to scratch, turns away, or simply walks off when you point a camera at them, the likelihood is that they’re not at all comfortable with the situation. This isn’t because they’re worried that you won’t get their best side. It’s more to do with how they feel about the actual device itself—the camera. High-end cameras tend to make lots of funny sounds and may have parts that whirr and move. We’ve all seen dogs become utterly perplexed by anything that seems to move by itself, as if by magic. They just don’t understand how it’s happening and it can cause them to become greatly unsettled. However, it’s not just fancy cameras that our pets don’t like; many will flee even at the sight of a simple smartphone. A lot of dogs can also be bothered by extended periods of eye contact, regardless of whether you happen to be holding a camera at the time. And what’s worse than two eyes staring at you? Two eyes, plus a big, scary, mechanical eye that beeps and flashes! Speaking of which, the sole reason your dog dislikes your camera may be the flash itself; it could actually be the anticipation of the bright light going off that is driving all the other stress behaviors. Many dog owners also make the mistake of trying to force their pets into posing for photographs, by trapping them in a room or holding them in place. This is the absolute worst thing we can do and will only turn our dogs off the idea of having their photo taken even more. When all is said and done, the only real way to rid a dog of camera shyness is the reduction of stress and good old positive reinforcement—otherwise known as bribery! Our dogs are simply too gorgeous to be limited to our eyes only. Look at your dog—a face like that deserves to be seen on the world stage! So, what can we do?
Encouraging the Behavior
The only way around this is to find a way to make your dog totally comfortable in the presence of the camera. Your pet’s dislike of having objects brandished at them isn’t limited to cameras, but also includes other things like smartphones—so there’s very little chance of you managing to get a cheeky snap of your pooch on something that has a camera but doesn’t look like a camera. Trust me, your dog has you all figured out! Start slowly and work your way up. Perhaps, rather than reaching for your absolute beast of a camera with all the bells and whistles—and all the disconcerting sound and movement that comes with it—begin with a smaller, digital camera, turn off the flash and the sounds, and don’t use the noisy zoom function right away. Sit with your dog and hold the camera; show it to them, let them check it out, give it a sniff and figure out for themselves that it’s not all that scary. Remember to speak to your dog in a calm, soothing tone and don’t try and make picture time an overly exciting activity. There’s a very fine line between an excited pooch and a stressed one, and it’s all too easy to cross.
Other Solutions and Considerations
And of course, like any other attempt at positive reinforcement, bring treats and anything else of comfort like a special toy or blanket. Don’t shut any doors to try and pen your dog in; if they are so stressed out that they want to physically remove themselves from the situation, you absolutely must let them. Trying to force them to stay involved will upset them and set the whole thing back. Just let them go for now and try again later. A great method is to set the offending device down for a moment and give your fur baby some gentle fuss; then pick up the camera and give your dog a treat. Doing this will hopefully create a positive link between you holding the camera and your pooch getting something yummy. Just don’t go too mad, or you’ll end up needing a wide-angle lens!
So, next time you see a dog with its own Twitter account, once you’ve recovered from all the cuteness, think of the possible struggles their human may have gone through with them to get them into such a happy relationship with the camera. It can be done, but patience and persistence are key. Stay calm, keep up the positive reinforcement and pretty soon, your dog will have more followers than you!
By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/30/2020