licking lips

I always like to see a good balance of color in the photos. In the controlled shots for the cats it can be accomplished by adding a boa or getting the right background color behind the cat. With dogs bandannas, hats, and other accessories can help but mostly I photograph dogs naturally.  Sure we will drag out the props on occasion but usually it is just us and the dogs with the backgrounds doing all the work in the contrast area.

Last week Sparkles was photographed and she is a beautiful big strong girl. Her photos just leaped off the screen during processing. Very photogenic dog. We had her in the play yard, a nice covered high-walled and fence enclosed space. I don’t use this space too much in the winter just because everything is grey and bleak and cold. It is a wonderful spring, summer and fall area. But last week we were hit with a freak snow squall during the dog photos. The winds were whipping and it seemed nice and safe.

We did manage to get her out on the grass patch out back for a quick potty break as the session began, but quickly realized that she was a handful. Like so many of the dogs in the shelter they have been neglected for training. When she finds her forever family and they give her the love and training she needs this will be a different dog. But we deal with the here and the now and this is a strong untrained dog. When the dog is stronger than the handler and is a bit head strong about where they want to be it can be a scary thing. So we retreated to the play yard and they got her to pay attention to treats.

SparklesShe had an intense stare as long as I had a treat in my hand. Just beautiful! They will just ignore everything else around and concentrate hard on that treat. And here is the purpose of this post, she started licking her lips. Not compulsively and I really didn’t even notice it much during the session. But towards the end of her series of photos has this great tongue licking thing going on and there is the color. It is cute and ……. ok I hear the behaviorists of the group gasp…… Let’s break this down to what it really means.

While it is cute and makes a funny picture, it was really Sparkles way of telling me that I needed to back off! She was getting stressed and was giving me dog body language to stop. This is a non-aggressive behavior reaction in dogs. A good sign that she is a good dog. I put her in a stressful situation by pointing a noisy camera at her, making crazy noises myself and looming over her. After all I am just this crazy lady with treats.

The licking shots came at the end of the session and we were done quickly after those. I gave the handler a treat to help return this good girl to her kennel. Sparkles quickly redirected her allegiance to the handler. She will be a wonderful dog once her future people help her understand how to be a well mannered dog. She is just waiting for the rest of her life to begin.

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