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Dogs on Things in Pet Photography

Maddie the Coonhound introduced me to the concept of dogs on things… and not just normal things like the couch or your bed. Maddie has been on some strange objects and made many beautiful pictures – like this, this and this.

But because I have a rather anxious dog at times, my first thought looking at Maddie’s pictures was – was she ever scared to be in this position with a camera aiming at her? Or this position, or this.

But see here, I am judging or at least questioning from the perspective of my own dog. And I really shouldn’t do that. I know absolutely nothing about her real life outside of pictures and some write ups online. Maddie appears to be very popular, having been on TV and also published a photo book. So if Maddie was truly unhappy, perhaps somebody would have pointed it out. Like in the case of Grumpy Cat over here.

The thing is when something cute goes viral, it is human to try to mimic. Here’s Niner on things. And Norm Pug, sometimes on things. :P

Donna, as you know, has been on things as part of our urban parkour activities during walks. I try to get Donna to hop on the things herself and she is generally ok with jumping on things she perceives to be stable.

But new things can sometimes appear to threaten her mortality to her. Like these stack of canned food that was recently delivered to our flat. She was not entirely relaxed because this is something new to her, but not overly terrified either. She was of course treated for standing and staying there.

black and white mobile app sketch of a dog on cans

But pretty soon she grows less happy or comfortable with the whole situation. You can see the signs. The head looking away, the little frown of her eye brows and the tail has shifted inward a little.

black and white mobile app sketch of a dog on cans

So it’s time to let her off before she starts feeling even more negative. Happiness restores when she is allowed off the stack.

black and white mobile app sketch of a dog on cans

Knowing what signs to look out for makes me look at dog photographs differently nowadays. A photo that may have looked cute before would not now if I thought the dog was displaying signs of trying to cope with stress in the picture – licking, yawning, pinned ears, tucked tail, etc.

I have to say, it is easy to miss the signs when you’re looking through a tiny view finder. It is only when one looks back on the photos, magnified, and really have the time to peruse them do I find the finer details that indicate some level of stress or not.

So many pet owners are sharing their pet pictures on Instagram and Facebook nowadays. It makes sense for us to know what to look out for when taking photos of our own dogs. And at the same, know that we do not know the context the dog was in when looking at pictures of other people’s dogs online. A dog could be licking out of stress or he could be licking off peanut butter from his nose!

So relax, go forth and enjoy more photos of happy, well-loved dogs. :)

Perching pooch Maddie shows off skills on Today’s set
Meet Maggie the acrobatic dog who launched a dream
This wild idea
Maddie on Things


Snappy H’appy – about running the photo challenge


Top 10 Online Pet Shops in Singapore


  1. Interesting point… you humans don’t always notice through the viewfinder. There have also been some high profile versions of “not comfortable” dogs (Lupo and Prince George in the window shot).
    What mum often finds interesting is watching our agility runs back. The ability to slow down and see where she was and her body language to gauge why I did what I did…. I’m unforgiving… If mum mistimes I drop bars or go off-course.
    Being able to look back… either photos or videos is great for learning :o)

    • That’s very true and one of the reasons why I like to take pictures of Donna, especially when she is interacting with other dogs (once I made sure she is comfortable with them). Sometimes, things happen so fast when dogs play. :)

      And that picture of Lupo, amazing how it now looks so obvious the dog is uncomfortable and yet the news writer can say he is gazing at the boy in adoration…

  2. You’re so spot on with this. A lot of times when I see photos of dogs on Social Media, I see things that the photographer missed. Like the whale eyes, the licking etc. When my Sampson is uncomfortable, he yawns. Delilah’s usual M.O. is to walk away if she can. I think it’s so important to know the signs, so we can help our dogs.

    Thank you for joining the blog hop, as usual you have a wonderful contribution!!

  3. I have trouble getting pictures of them in normal places. They aren’t crazy about that snappy thing taking pictures of them.

  4. Those are some pretty awesome pictures of the coonhound!
    We occassionally take photos of Moses and Alma up on things, but given their size, it’s mostly just next to things. lol
    My favourite to date (this one: http://backalleysoapbox.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/wordless-wednesday-3/) is from way, way back. The photo quality and composition leave things to be desired, but it’s so wonderfully bizarre.

    And you’re absolutely right about the body language. I usually wait until the dogs are comfortable to start snapping photos – that way I can help out if they need it (reposition, let them down, etc.).

    • That is quite bizzare! And looks quite tall and rounded for Moses to scale and land on in a stable manner. He must be more number than I thought under all that hair! :P Thanks for sharing!

      I too will treat and get Donna into a more comfortable state of mind before I get the camera. The same when in dog runs, etc. I want to make sure my dog is safe before I think about photos! ;)

  5. Wow, those pics of Maddie are really impressive. My dog will basically try to jump up on anything if I encourage it. I should try to get more pics of that. However, he does get a bit nervous with the camera. It’s not like he’s scared, but I notice he does look away and he does yawn a lot like he’s a little stressed. Not sure why, as I’ve taken thousands of pictures of him over the years. Poor guy. I’ll start giving him more treats and praise so it’s more of a positive experience for him.

    • It seems some dogs get so used to being treated for the photo that they unerringly look straight at you when you get the camera out ; ) I suppose the problem will be, what happens if you want to take a photo of the dog not looking at you :P Haha!

      Donna doesn’t get treated for every photo I take simply because I don’t want her to develop a expression that she gives solely to the camera. I wanted to catch her in all her different moods and expressions. The downside is I can’t take photos for long since I don’t want it to be a bad experience for her. She does look away from the camera ALOT! doesn’t like it. :P

  6. Good post and I too have become much more aware of my owns dogs reactions to photo taking as well as reading dogs emotions in pictures I see on the web. Jack LOVES having his picture taken and will look directly at the camera with a big smile. Maggie hates it and usually has ears back, eyes averted. Needless to say, I have many more pics of Jack then Maggie.

  7. FleaByte

    :) I just take photos of my dogs doing what they love. Or being horribly abused (taking a bath).

    • I love seeing your angry affenpinsher on Instagram :P … and Jimmy the Duck… camera doesn’t seem to affect him at all… does it?

  8. I am lucky that Mr. N is extremely tolerant of photos and of being in weird situations for photos (in a tree, on a hydrant etc.). He will even tolerate strange people holding him for photos if I hand him off vs them picking him up. Although I feel like it would be really cruel to make him take a photo with a squirrel or hamster or something. He “might” do it but it wouldn’t be fair to him or the squirrel!

    • I wonder if that’s the trait with small dogs? That they are just more comfortable with the shenanigans the humans are up to! :P

  9. My GBGV’s don’t mind photos anywhere, the Kuvasz is a bit more picky and doesn’t really like photos much at all. I never have them do things they are not comfortable with.

  10. Thanks so much for joining the hop! I usually see videos where I feel sorry for the dog. Photos are a snap in time and it is hard to judge too much from them, but videos tell a more complete story. That said, I would not wrap my dog up in lights and plug the lights in. I really wonder about people.

    • I meant to add that I bet Donna is thinking, “Why are they making me stand on their food cans?” lol

      • I don’t see as much videos as photos since I am active on Instagram and thumbing through the feeds. I see more pictures of dogs tense and cringing like Donna does when her thunder phobia strikes badly. More than I like. And because the poor thing doesn’t walk away like Jodi’s Delilah does, the humans thought he is ok with it and there are some who actually think the dog is smiling. – – Makes me sad.

        Have to say the food cans are hers and not mine :P I think she does recognise they are food cans meant for her though :P LOL Amazing how she comes running when she hears her kibble bag or the food can being opened.

      • I bet you standing on the cans is preferable to having to balance food on the nose and not eat it!!!

  11. I love this article. And I love the coonhound “Maddie on Things”! There are some really amazing photos with her on bizarre things. And I love the photo of Donna on the food cans. Gracie is a little dog, so of course would never, ever try placing her up to high on anything. The cats, though…now where did my camera kitty Lucy go to??? Here kitty, kitty, kitty…

    • I actually thought it would be easier for people to place a small dog on something high since it’s easy to carry them up. With a big dog, you have to train them to get up on it themselves. Of course, easy doesn’t mean safer. Now cats, hahahaha…

  12. You’ve hit the nail on the head. I can’t count how many photos I’ve taken of Eko where he looks “angry” or “upset” when he was doing something he enjoyed like munching on an antler. Sometimes the camera lies, so like you I think it’s best to give people the benefit of the doubt while also encouraging everyone to be cognizant of their pet while snapping away.

    • Very true! Doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the photos of happy looking pets more, and that I try to avoid those that look uncomfortable to me LOL, regardless of the real circumstance :P But I love your Eko photos. He’s just a big bag of joy bringing ridgeback. :)

  13. I adore these images. Well done.

  14. Great article! Some brilliant points. I’d like to think that we all recognise the signs of stress in our own pups while snapping away… but you’re right, I am sure there are some out there that don’t and maybe sometimes we can get mixed up. I really hope I haven’t put the pups in any situations like that since mine have always been happy to let me do a few crazy things… definitely food for thought this one!
    Hugs, Carrie and Pups x

  15. Donna is so patient with you. Being aware of stress factors is so very important, when it isn’t fun anymore, it is time to stop. :-)

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