With new products in the works, we're getting ready for our next photo shoot in the Bay Area and are currently searching for models (both dogs and cats) and homes*! Check out the casting call from our friends at Photo Lab Pet Photography for more info. (Click on each image to enlarge.)



*Due to travel limitations, this casting call is open to Bay Area families only. Thanks for your interest!

By Play admin on Mar 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm 0 Comments

The following is a repost from Tails From the Lab - a blog written by our friends over at Photo Lab Pet Photography. This is the fourth out of five posts from their "Learning to Speak Dog" series.

Part One can be read here: Learning to Speak Dog Part One.
Part Two can be read here: Learning to Speak Dog Part Two.
Part Three can be read here: Learning to Speak Dog Part Three.

Written by Natalia Martinez

The topic of whether dogs have feelings has been a hot one for years. To some (like myself) it is a no-brainer, of course they do! There is a great selection of books and videos that explore this fascinating topic.

"...it's time to stop apologizing for the belief that animals, like our dogs, have emotions. Of course, our dogs can experience emotions like fear, anger, happiness and jealousy. And yes, as far as we can tell, their experience of those emotions is comparable in many ways to ours. People who argue otherwise might as well argue that the earth is flat."
~Patricia McConnell in For the Love of a Dog

A dog, above all else, is an individual. Therefore take what you read here and everywhere else as a guideline, not a law. Just like we humans can misread each other, so can dogs. Always remember to err on the side of caution. A photograph, an illustration, maybe even a video can aid a lot in recognizing a dog's body language, but if you want the best experience possible, observe your dogs. Observe dogs at a dog park. Behavior is fluid and constantly (and rapidly) changing.

Human Communication vs Canine Communication
People, especially in our culture, tend to communicate in a linear way. We approach someone directly, we extend a hand to shake the other, we hug, we engage in direct eye contact and we move in a straightforward manner. All these things are considered positive in our culture, a sign of respect or giving someone your undivided attention.

Canines on the other hand have a non-linear form of communication. They often move around in a circle or arch. Eye contact is indirect and you can often get a good idea of a dog's personality and confidence level through her body language; confident dogs move swiftly and more directly while less confident ones are less direct, and move slower in a more calculated way.

First Impressions and Greetings
The number one mistake we all make upon meeting a dog is to approach them the way we would a person: directly (in a straight line), cooing "ooooh puppy!!" and reaching our hand out to pet them on the head while gazing lovingly into those big eyes... well, there are three main mistakes here: 1) direct approach, 2) reaching over the dog's head and 3) direct eye contact.

Most dogs dislike being patted on the head; didn't you hate your aunt pinching your cheeks as a kid? Same thing, so don't do it. And unless you know the dog well and know he is comfortable with it, do not grab the dog's face and kiss it! It is an invasion of space (and one I am guilty of with my own dogs, but I've raised them and have a relationship with them, they are ok with me doing it, but not a total stranger).

Pay close attention to Lili Chin's acclaimed illustration on How NOT To Greet a DogThis is an extremely valuable lesson you can learn and teach others, especially kids.

The Big Picture
Observing the "whole dog" at a distance can give you a quick and general idea of the dog's mood. How does she hold her body? Is she wiggly, moving loosely? Or is she standing tall, stiff and still with her mouth shut tight? A dog with a loose, soft and wiggly body is one that is comfortable. Any stiffness, freezing on the other hand will tell you the dog is anxious, uncomfortable or on guard. Rolling over can very well mean "gimme belly rubs" but be careful to check for a relaxed mouth and tail. If the mouth is shut tight and the tail is curled up in between the dog's legs, she is trying to diffuse a stressful encounter and could actually be saying "I don't want trouble". People often mistake the rollover for an automatic belly rub request, will get too close only to find that the dog snaps or submissively urinates in response. See  video and illustrations below for some general things to look for on the whole.

The Details
Once you have a general idea after observing the dog as a whole, you can zoom in on individual body parts that will often give you key clues on the dog's emotional state. Check out Tails from the Lab for the full post and illustrations on cues from a dog's ears, eyes, mouth, fur and tail.

Communication is a Two-Way Street
Taking your own body language into account is hugely important. This does not mean mimicking dog behavior, we are not dogs and dogs are not human. The trick is to handle ourselves in a mindful manner that will make it possible for the dog to interpret what we are trying to communicate. Moving at a fast pace, slamming doors and cabinets like you do when you are running late for work can be scary for a dog that is a little more fearful. Or if you are animated in conversation, squealing and flailing your arms all over the place in jerky movements could seem a little threatening to a dog. Be mindful. It won't just be good for the dogs you encounter, it is good for you too. To seem less threatening to a dog, take account of your energy and your pace. Act naturally and calmly, and turn your body sideways (instead of straightforward) to let the dog know you mean no harm. Be aware of the dog at all times but don't stare, or the dog will feel challenged.

The 3 Second Rule
One of the greatest lessons I learned in Trish King's Canine Behavior Academy and working as a volunteer for both the Sonoma and Marin Humane Societies is the 3 Second Rule, which Trish learned about at Wolf Park, a renowned wolf sanctuary, and later recommended shelter volunteers to put it in practice while working with shelter dogs. Upon meeting a new dog, don't reach for the dog or try to pet him right away, it is better if the dog approaches you and wait him out. Until the dog feels comfortable (and you feel comfortable doing it), gently stroke the dog on the side for no more than three seconds (1 stroke, 2 stroke, 3 stroke...remove hand). If the dog leans against you or nudges you for more pets, then resume petting, if they don't that's ok, just be respectful of their space.

Asking a dog's person first if it's ok to say hello is ALWAYS a good idea. It is respectful to the person and kind to the dog. However, I like to add that the same question should be asked in some form to the dog himself! Mom might say it's ok to pet him but who asked the dog if HE wanted to be petted by this individual? And if I haven't drilled this point enough, please remember dogs are individuals. Just because your own dog LOVES a hefty scratch at the base of his tail or a deep and lengthy ear massage, DOES NOT mean EVERY other dog will enjoy that.

Lost in Translation
Canine body language interpretation is not an exact science, and just like any form of communication, misunderstandings can happen. While it is important to be as objective as possible, it is hard to not want to throw our own emotional subjectivity in there. If you've ever been bitten, try and think about what was going on before the bite, where were you, what were you doing, how many people/animals were there, did you see any warning signs in the dog's body language (some dogs, like Rotties will give you only a brief signal beforehand) etc. Analyzing this will give you an idea of what went wrong and what can be done to prevent a situation like this in the future.

Proper management and setting the dog up for success is key here. It is my personal belief that a dog will not bite without provocation (regardless of how slight and whether we know we are the ones provoking them) and 9 out of 10 times it can be the person's fault due to ignorance, fast movements, moving without thinking, carelessness, not knowing the dog, not having enough time to read the body before the bite or not paying attention etc. It could happen to any of us. Some of the best and most knowledgeable behaviorists and trainers have a collection of stories of bites they've received. We are human, we can make mistakes. If we figure out what we could have done differently to avoid that bite, we do so in the future being careful not to generalize what happened with that individual dog that bit us; you learn and you move on.

Read the full post from Tails From the Lab to get more tips on learning how to read a dog's body language (there's a great section for photographers, and book recommendations!).

By Play Admin on Oct 05, 2012 at 10:09 am 0 Comments

The following is a repost from Tails From the Lab - a blog written by our friends over at Photo Lab Pet Photography. This is the third of five posts from their "Learning to Speak Dog" series.

Part One can be read here: Learning to Speak Dog Part One.
Part Two can be read here: Learning to Speak Dog Part Two.

Contributed by Natalia Martinez

Special guest post by Trish King

Trust: Developing a relationship with your new dog…

You just acquired a new dog – maybe a youngster, perhaps a bit older – and you’re in love. Let’s call your dog Dolly. You were drawn to her in the shelter or rescue, and now you have her home.  She is wonderful, with just a few tiny exceptions.

For instance, when you pet her, she leans into you, putting her head on your knees. This feels great to you, but other people aren’t getting the same response. Sometimes she shies away or won’t come close to them, and occasionally you’ve heard a barely audible growl, almost under her breath. If she is lying on her bed or in her crate, she freezes when people come over to pet her. Sometimes she stares at them suspiciously. This worries you.

This is actually not that unusual – the dog you meet when you adopt is often not the dog you see weeks or months later. Like humans, dogs don’t display all their behaviors upon first meeting. In addition, they change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not, depending on the environment they find themselves in.

The first thing you loved about Dolly is that she seemed to bond to you instantaneously. The desire to bond is strong within dogs – they need a family (pack) to survive, and they know it. Most are above all things, social. Even dogs that are not particularly sociable will bond strongly to one or two people, and the speed with which they do it can be amazing. 

Unlike bonding, trust is earned, and cannot be rushed. Training of course will help immeasurably, but it is secondary to trust.

What is trust?
For your dog, it is the belief that you will keep her safe. But how do you convince an animal who must learn through experience, particularly when her previous life was either unknown or not happy? You cannot tell her, since she won’t understand. Petting shows affection, but nothing more than that. And training obedience will tell her what you expect but not what she can.

I think it is shown by consistency and predictability. If a dog can reliably predict the outcome of a certain set of circumstances, she will learn to trust that the next time that circumstance occurs, the same outcome will too.

First, make sure that you are reliable and predictable, to the best of your ability. There may well come a time when you will need to be unpredictable, but that time is not now. Make sure you set rules of the house, so that she knows what is expected of her.

Secondly, try to insure that all of her first experiences are calm, slow and friendly. If she has shown a tendency to be shy with new people, have all new people behave slightly aloof at first. It’s generally best to have guests come in, ignore the dog, sit down, and then wait for the dog to approach.

Introductions to dogs should also be done carefully, if your dog appears to be nervous. Parallel walks generally work well, with the more fearful dog initiating any interaction. Anxious or fearful dogs generally do not like to be followed by other dogs, and usually want to sniff the rear end of the new dog first to get a quick introduction without the intimidation of eye contact.

Allow time for latent learning – don’t have new experiences follow one another too quickly. She will become overwhelmed, and the learning will stop. Patience is key.

As your dog learns that you are trustworthy, experiences that would have frightened her previously will stop. She will look to you for guidance…and of course, that’s what true leadership is.

~Trish King

To read Trish's full post, visit the Tails From the Lab blog.

Trish is a nationally known  speaker, behavior consultant, trainer and teacher whose versatility, expertise  and empathy make her unique in her field.  What sets Trish apart is her  ability to relate to and enjoy both dogs and humans.  Trish has taught the Canine Behavior Academy for dog  professionals and dog lovers for over 10 years.  In addition to continuing  at the Marin Humane Society, this school - now named Courses in Canine  Behavior - will be located at several different venues, including  The Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, California, and the Sacramento SPCA  in Sacramento.  Over her long career, Trish has seen thousands of dogs of  every breed, shape and size.  She understands that your dog is different  from every other dog, just as you are, and will need a personalized plan for  improvement. Trish will work with you to help you decide the best course for  your dog.  She will offer a variety of realistic options that will provide  you with maximum benefits for your situation.  Her clients have found her  to be very easy to work with, flexible and understanding of their  needs. Trish was the Director of Behavior & Training at the Marin  Humane Society for 23 years.  Her department set the standard for shelters  and training facilities across the country.

By Play Admin on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:12 am 0 Comments