Canines

How I got bitten by my dogs today and why it was MY fault. Another intro to Canine Communication with Cameras and Canines

I am going to start by saying that it is my belief that one of the things we have to do as dog owners or dog owner educators, is manage our expectations.  I am an optimist and also a realist.  This is the story of how I got a serious dog bite from my own balanced pack and why it was my fault. Lovely, snowy, Thursday morning. I post a cute animation about waiting until it is socially acceptable to play Christmas music.  I giggle and immediately put some on Google play.

I have A TON to do today but decide to spend an extra hour in bed reading blogs and resting my throbbing tooth abscess. I was given antibiotics not to be taken on an empty stomach so I head to the kitchen to find something quick and easy.  Apples and cheese? Yes please. Perfect.  I cut both up, put them on a plate and head to the downstairs bedroom to chill while I read and snack. The 5 doggos join me and Elsa Mae sits down and relaxes by my side.

Now I KNOW BETTER.  Elsa will ALWAYS have a food guarding or reactivity response somewhere inside her.  It is MILES better and she can now have strange dogs into our space and even eat in the same room as certain dogs.  That is a huge win.  I will write her full story soon and include words from the team of people who collaborated in saving her life and getting her to Canada. That is a whole story in itself. The short form... she was starving.  Like really almost starved to death.  She fought for every scrap of food she managed to get, often taking it to her steep, rocky den on the side of a cliff. She was a baby herself but had puppies after her first heat and would try to bring the still-born pups some of the few bits of food she managed to obtain. IMG_20171101_193809_614.jpg

A realistic training goal for her is to manage and improve her reactivity around food.  It was so severe I would never make it a goal to ELIMINATE it all together.  It won't happen so why set both of us up for failure? It is my job as a dog family member to read their communication signals and protect them from harm.  I know her thresholds and triggers, as I should.

Back to my day. I see Dudley the dane approaching the narrow space between bed and wall and fleetingly think 'is this going to end poorly?'. I feel like shit and am super into this blog I am reading and lose focus.  Bang.

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Elsa does exactly what she does when feeling threatened around food. She always looks and sounds some fierce when protecting her food, but that was her survival tactic.  Fair enough.  Dudley then does what Dudley does when he is threatened or in a confrontation with no exit.  Especially in confined areas where there is no chance for flight.  The other option is fight. Fuck.

Dudley's story will also be written soon. Short version. I did not protect him enough when he was a big, happy gangly pup. He was attacked a few times. Not by my choosing he was not allowed to grow up with his siblings and mama through some very important developmental stages.  He is a sweet softie but has no bite inhibition.  I have told clients over the past decade that I would take a dog with a bite history of 100 other dogs if none dies, gets stitches, or requires veterinarian care.  That vs. a dog who has one or 2 bites only but one or both ended up in a trip to the vet, stitches or worse.  Ian Dunbar is one of the basis and roots of my 'not one size fits all'   beliefs and practices.  He has inspired me for 2 decades.. hmm... maybe longer? I have studied every bit of information, theories and practices there are out there from every source and trainer, educator possible.  Plus more.

Back to the present.  Elsa does what she does, Dudley does what he does and I jump in to break up the fight, worried even if Elsa started it that the damage Dudley is capable of is formidable. #sizematters ?

Right. Getting side tracked again.  So I break it up.  Broken up literally hundreds of dog fights in my life and am known to be quite effective at it. They go back at one another.  I break it up again. Get in between them and Dudley retreats.  I am sick, feverish and not as alert as I typically am.  I go to grab the food, cursing myself whilst turning my back on the usual best of friends. Dang.  Game on again.  This time I do not follow my own rules and again worried about the potential damage, I dive on to them and try to separate their heads from one another.  Does not matter which one got me.  The point is it was my fault.

I finish breaking them up with the help of my super chill, surfer dude dog and calm, fearless leader Radish. Separate them so I can assess the damage and yikes. Pain sets in.  I think I mentioned I have had s few dog bites in my day.  Way larger than this one.  I even had one on my thigh that turned into ...hmm.. cellulitus? (please correct me lol). It took 8 mos and a hospital stay to fully heal as I have a high pain tolerance and ignored it until it was too late. There was no ignoring this one.  Perfect, clean, deep punctures in the muscle, bone and nerves of my RIGHT HAND... I am a leftie but I shoot (photos) with my right.

No way I can drive.  Clean it best I can while choke back tears, cursing my stupidity and try to find someone to take me to emerg.  My awesome neighbor bundles up her 3 kiddos and off we go in the snowstorm.  I arrive apparently pale and dripping cold sweat and shaking.  I am taken right in.  6 needles to freeze it then the lovely staff do their thing.  Now I am back at home after lots of needles, stitches, xray as the puncture hit bone and a prescription for some pain stuff and anti biotics.

I am supposed to be packing, purging and orchestrating the move for our house, Aaron, myself, 5 dogs and 6 parrots.  We are going to be on the acreage in one WEEK. I am not sure if I should share videos and photos here or save them to show while I help you understand canine communication etc.  I will post a few images and a video then explain them at a later date.  I am still in a ton of pain after painkillers and I anticipate a long night of discomfort and regret.

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How many stress and  communication signals do you see in this video?! I will post a verbal play by play of what is happening and what they are saying soon!

Adorable dogs in costumes and how to keep them safe this Halloween

WARNING... photos of dogs in adorable costumes to make your sweet tooth ache Happy Halloween friends! What is your favourite part of this howliday?

Wickett. Um. I am speechless about this dog.  He is about to have a human sibling in the house!

These costumed cuties make me melt every time. As much fun as this time of year is, it can be dangerous not to mention terrifying for your canine companion.

Here are a few tips too keep your four legged furramily safe this Halloween

Nixie the Staffy rocks costumes.  No stress for her!

1. Chocolate. If you have kids bringing home their haul of Halloween treats. Or maybe you do not have kids but you stock up on tiny morsels of delicious delights for the neighborhood trick or treaters (I get maybe a dozen kids but feel the need to stock for hundreds just in case. Like just in case I get HUNGRY). Remember that chocolate is toxic to your dog. It is dark chocolate or cacao that is the culprit, or rather theobrimine. We metabolize it with ease but dogs process it much more slowly allowing a cumulative build up to toxic levels. How much is too much? There are lots of guides on the internet but better be safe and contact your veterinarian if you suspect accidental chocolate eating

Look in to my eyes.... now give me all your treats

2. Candy. Xylitol is extremely toxic to pets and is often found in gum. Candy wrappers and lollipop sticks are choking hazards so keep candy and canines seperate! Talk to children in the house about the importance of this.

3. Lost pets. With the door opening and closing there is a chance for a sneaky pup to get outside. With all the strange people wearing strange things your dog could get spooked and take off. Even if they normally stick around your yard.

4. Costumes. As much as I adore seeing dogs adorned in adorable costumes they can cause undue stress for scruffy or fluffy. If they seem stressed or uncomfortable consider a less involved costume like a cute bandana, or let them try their birthday suit. If your dog does not mind indulging remember to watch for tight bits or chocking hazards. Make sure it does not limit movement, site or ability to breathe normally. Never leave a pet in costume u unattended for any period of time

5. Stress. Doorbell ringing. More people coming to the house than usual. Masks so they can't read people's faces. Costumes. Excited children running and screaming with sugar high delight. All of these things can be extremely stressful for pets. While I have used the constantly ringing doorbell as an opportunity for some classical conditioning and desensitizing it is likely best if you can keep Fido's fear at bay. Try putting them in a different spot on the house so they can by seperate from the action. With 5 dogs, especially Elsa who can be anxious, I now go the route of lights off and a bowl of candy by the sidewalk. We all pile into my king size bed and delight in some scary movies and safe, healthy treats

All these cuties were photographed by me at a fundraiser we did with a local pet boutique last year. Happy Halloween and I would love to hear your fav scary movie to ad to my list!!

1 Photographer. 5 Dogs. 6 Parrots ........An illustrated day in the life of

Things I could have called this post. 'How the heck do moms get anything done' 'Add is my super power' 'Vomit, laundry and why I love what I do'

  • 4am up Because I don't know why. May as well get some work done !
  • 645am sleep fall upon me again
  • 8am alarm..Google you always take care of me and wake me gently then tell me the news I don't take the time to learn otherwise
  • 810am feed impatient dogs
  • 830am out the door w Elvis/ Elsa to run around the botanical gardens while I wait for a client. The last team member to do headshot for from two awesome physio/ wellnessclinics in Calgary
  • 9am waiting for client
  • 915am client arrives. Yay she is beautiful. I think everyone is beautiful

Here are 4 of the awesome team of about 20 or so

  • 10am Home. Time to feed birds clean cages
  • 1020am boot up computerS (all 3 available devices so I can do as many things as I can at once to get these tasks finished )
  • 1020am to 220 pm This 4 hour time slot was an Adhd whirlwind of trying to get stuff I don't  always like to do FINISHED. It went something like this.

Upload and edit head shots for the final gallery. Send gallery.  Make a requested change

Try to learn WordPress. I do minimum one hour a day of learning something new or figuring out something my brain does not have the bandwidth to process. I try hard to stick to this!

Then.....seo, site design, coding, Google analytics, take 4 phone calls, follow up w said phone call tasks, finish editing one of 3 family galleries on the go, schedule viewing/ reveal for said galleries. Print 6 prints (I do all my own printing as I am hyper fussy about quality and colour) while listening to tutorials

Oh fun! Go to quickly pee and clean up a dog crime spree which must have occurred while I was hyper focussed on my tasks. Comfort Dudley and clean some vomit (did I give him antibiotics without enough food?! 🤔)

Try to reply to a third of my messages, jot down 4 blog ideas, another load of laundry

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Random Gif from the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk I led a couple of weeks ago.

220pm omg I haven't eaten.

225pm stagger downstairs in a haze. Damn. Dog Hair everywhere so I sweep, vacuum and move laundry along

235pm  pull leftovers out of the fridge and heat up while checking eagerly checking email for bookings. So far its a 10 hour day and I have no actual money generating work

245pm take a piteous Dudley for a leash walk in the rain and high wind. Wind is my least fav weather.  It sucks.

315pm Elsa is anxious to eat but first I take Chika out and give her boxes, toys and change to re-destroy the house with.

Feed dogs.

Move laundry along again and change the sheets we use to cover the off white couch as its too hairy to sit on. Reply to a few emails from the couch as my back is sore from my desk ( by the way, wtf were we thinking with a white couch )

4pm clean diarrhea likely caused by the previous mentioned crime spree. Feed birds and have a quick dance party to amuse the flock who are screaming for attention. Sit down with them to write this. Will take a break to get back to work. True story these birdies will NOT tolerate missing a dance party. I have stood with them all over me while exhausted, drunk, late, even crying so they can rest having had their daily dance party fix.

4:30pm Storm is really brewing and even blew my back door open. Now I have the pleasure of having the outdoors  INDOORS. Yay.  Good thing I already swept hehe

4:40pm Finish cleaning the leaves and debris.  Take a call about complications with our upcoming move to the acreage.  Make 5 calls and connect necessary people to one another.  Phew.  Back on track.

5:00pm-645pm Finish editing a second gallery and send to lovely client.  She LOVES it ... Yay.  My greatest pleasure is trying to create the most beautiful images someone has ever seen of themselves.  This reveal did NOT dissapoint.  I cry and gush with the dogs and birds on how happy that made me.

Accidentally posted this prematurely when I added this last part. I think it showed up on Facebook all unedited and spell checked.  Awkward.

Posting this now and heading upstairs to tackle the poor carpet and then begin editing the next gallery and start vision boards for the 2 sessions this week. Dogs are sleeping.  Birds are happily flying around and I am listening to the rolling thunderstorm as I prepare to head up for hour 15 of non stop action.  To be repeated. xoxox

Why does your dog look away from the camera when you try to take a photo 🙈📸

Photo of my dog tied to a tree with out fav leash Notice how just as you go to capture a captivating image of your canine companion (I love alliteration )they

  • Look away
  • Give derp face
  • Suddenly have an itch
  • Tongue out w squinty eyes

How annoying is THAT! Next time that happens THANK your dog for giving you polite communication signals.  When we stick a camera, or a cell phone in front of fido's face they feel fear or discomfort as to them it looks like a giant dilated pupil. Dogs constantly read each others and our eyes to see what is going on. So when we hold it up and then ...GASP... put it in front of our own faces. This is uncomfortable and they are not able to read it's 'intention'.

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How cute is Elsa Mae above?! She makes my heart hurt.  Anyhow...those last second look aways or irresistable itches are actually very clear communication signals that they are uncomfortable and stressed. So what can you do? How have I photographed literally HUNDREDS of strange dogs and not had image after image filled with stress signals? What if I told you it is easy to condition your canine to crave camera attention? In fact, for those of you that follow the naughty sock bandit misadventures of @elvis_the_pomsky may know he is trained to give an adorable head tilt when I hold up my camera and say "say cheese.  By the way don't ever say cheese for photos or ask others to. I will tackle that in a future post. Stay on topic Sandy! What? Squirrel?

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In order to respect them and create the canine connection we crave (I know..groan) you must create a reason for them to overcome that instinct.

Those that have taken my workshops or had a session with me know I call it PAYING YOUR MODEL. I begin every single session by holding up my camera and a high reward treat (my go to is always Ziwipeak) and the very second they look towards my camera I mark it by saying "yes" and then I pay them! You have to have the timing perfect so they catch on quickly.  Secondly, do NOT over do it.  I am maybe 3 frames or shots and I back off the camera, pay my model and let them have a break. VOILA!

I would love to hear about your fur babies and see your snaps! If you have any questions or want to just say hi please comment below.  Have a happy day and make a stranger smile today.  You never know who really needed it.

Sandy and the pack

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