Updated: Dec 21, 2018
I get asked this, a lot! The truth is, I have some pretty nifty tricks up my paw that whether you're a seasoned photographer hoping to add more slobber to your lens or you're going for pet instagram fame, these tips are bound to get your pup to lock eyes.
Most dogs are super food driven. I don't know about you, but when my dog just hears a wrapper she's at my feet before I can blink. You have a dog, so you know that when it's something they really want, they don't take their eyes off of it. Now, imagine that treat is dangling in front of a camera lens! Keep it as close to the lens as you can and you can create the illusion of eye contact! Use super high value treats like cold cuts, or even pieces of hot dog! Do the photo before meal time, and they'll be extra eager to earn that treat.
Using essentially the same technique with toys can get you great results as well. There are some dogs who are less interested in food, but are totally toy obsessed. I'm talking to the Jack Russell's of the world.
Noise can be used in conjunction with toys and treats. It can be as simple as something you do with your mouth, like a whistle, clicking, or saying triggers words or phrases such as "do you want to go for a walk?". My dog only needs to hear the words "wanna go.." and her ears are up and her eyes are on me. You can also use noise makers. Every dog is unique and each reacts differently to sounds. You know your dog best, so use that to your advantage. I like to use squeak toys, whistles and all sorts of noises I make with my mouth to get my pup to look. They can become repetitive and lose their effectiveness, so have a few you can rotate through.
Dogs, like children, are easily distracted by things going on around them. You could be holding the worlds largest rawhide bone in your hand and if there is a group of rambunctious pups playing nearby, it's going to be pretty close to impossible to get your dog's attention. Don't worry, there are a few solutions! One, you can use that distraction to your advantage by repositioning yourself to stand in line with your dog's gaze, or you can remove the distractions, altogether! That means, go to the park during off hours, an overcast day, or stay away from the high traffic areas. The goal is for the treats, toys and noises you're using to be the most attention grabbing thing around!
Have a Helper
I love when I have a helper. With tons and tons of practice it is possible to do this all on your own, but when starting off or even when you're a pro, it is always super helpful to have an extra pair of hands during a photo shoot. This is particularly true for maintaining doggie eye contact and helping your dog stay still for the picture! Usually, in my photo shoots, my helper is you, the pup's pawrent! It's great to have someone that the dog knows well to give you an extra hand while getting a picture.
Remember all the treats and toys I suggested you dangle in front of the camera? I don't know about you, but when I am taking photographs and holding my camera in one hand, squatting on the floor, treats in the other hand and my mouth blowing into a whistle, I feel like a one woman band! What is nice about having help is, they can be holding the treat or squeaking the toy while you can use all your energy to focus on the camera settings, image composition and getting the shot!
Now go grab a friend and try these tips out with your dog! Let me know if they helped in the comments below!