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anxious tan and white dog

Capturing Calm: A photographer’s perspective on easing dog anxiety

As a pet photographer a documenting the human and animal connection as well as photographing shelter animals, I have the fun of witnessing joy, love and laughter, but at times there is a small furry animal that may be struggling with anxiety. 

Our dogs, like us, experience a range of emotions, from happiness to fear and everything in between.  My dog Declan is a rescue and has been an anxious and reactive dog from the beginning.  Anxiety in dogs can manifest in various ways, whether it’s trembling during thunderstorms, pacing when left alone, or cowering in new environments.  Declan is anxious when he sees other dogs, particularly small dogs, which makes me wonder what his experiences were prior to his coming to my household.  As pet parents, it’s our responsibility to recognize these signs and take steps to alleviate our furry friends’ distress.

anxious tan and white dog
anxious tan and white dog

In my journey as a pet photographer, I’ve encountered anxious dogs in various settings, from shelters to clients’ homes. Each encounter has reinforced the importance of understanding and addressing canine anxiety with compassion and patience.

Create a Routine

Routine is essential for dogs, especially those prone to anxiety. Establishing a consistent schedule for meals, walks, and playtime can provide a sense of stability and security for our furry friends. Predictability helps reduce anxiety by creating a safe and familiar environment they can rely on.

Daily Exercise

Regular exercise is not only essential for a dog’s physical health but also their mental well-being. Engaging in activities like walks, fetch, or agility training helps burn off excess energy and reduces stress and anxiety. Plus, it strengthens the bond between pet and parent, fostering a sense of trust and companionship.

Quiet Space

Creating a designated quiet space can give anxious dogs a safe retreat when they’re feeling overwhelmed. This could be a cozy corner with their favorite bed and toys, away from noise and distractions. Encourage them to retreat to this space whenever they need a moment to decompress.

My experience with anxious dogs and photo sessions

I have learned when I bring out the camera at the shelter to photograph animals, that many of these dogs become very nervous when they see this big black box pointing at them.  Some dogs will bark, some will tuck their ears back or start licking their lips.  They aren’t hungry- they are nervous and don’t understand what is going to happen.   This happens with client dogs as well.  When this happens, I walk away and give them time to calm, then I choose a place that is further away and use my long lens.  Taking photos from further is less intimidating. 

My current experience with my own anxious dog

Recently, I’ve embarked on a journey to learn Jin Shin Jyutsu, an ancient Japanese healing art that focuses on harmonizing the body’s energy flow. Through gentle touch and mindful breathing, I am learning how to support Declans during moments of anxiety, helping him find peace and serenity. I can’t wait to be able to show my clients some ways to soothe their anxious dogs during the photo session.

Conclusion

As a pet photographer I capture moments of our animals and humans showcasing their bond and resilience.  Showing compassion and understanding to our anxious furry friends during the session leads to magical results.

By implementing training techniques, building routines, and exploring alternative therapies like Jin Shin Jyutsu, we can help alleviate our dogs’ anxiety and create a harmonious environment where they can thrive. Together, let’s embark on this journey towards capturing calm, one photograph at a time.

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