Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lucky Gets His Picture Taken

In order to find a home for a foster dog, you need a good picture of the dog. Many times people will be looking on websites when they’re thinking about adopting, and when someone is faced with pictures of several hundred dogs looking for homes, they will usually skip over the pictures that are blurry, too far away, or otherwise unattractive. I’m not a good photographer by any means, so I usually have to take dozens of pictures just to get a usable one. In Lucky’s case, his online listing still has pictures taken at the shelter he was in before I got him, even though they were taken when he was much younger, just because I have yet to get any good pictures of him. It’s not due to a lack of trying. It’s not even due to camera shyness on his part. I believe it’s due to his idea of a great big joke.

Deaf dogs can be a challenge to take pictures of sometimes, because you can’t make noises to get them to look at the camera. But after taking a few dozen pictures of Lucky while waving at him to get his attention, I finally realized he was only looking intently at the ground whenever I held up the camera and waved.

Lucky sniffs the ground
"I'll just pretend to be sniffing this blade of grass."

Another picture of Lucky sniffing the ground
"Here she comes with that camera again.  Time for more sniffing."
 Some dogs will sniff the ground as a distraction when they are nervous.  This is called "displacement behavior" and basically they ignore whatever is happening that is making them nervous and focus on sniffing the ground, or another behavior instead.  But I didn't think that's what Lucky was doing.  He showed no other signs of being nervous or unsure, and seemed to think it was a game to look down whenever I tried to get his attention. 

I decided perhaps an action shot would be a better choice. But somehow he managed to run around the yard, playing with Sophie the St. Bernard, without ever once showing his face to the camera.
Sophie the St. Bernard and Lucky running together
"Let's run THIS direction!"

In fact, he’d turn practically in mid-air, just to run the opposite direction when he saw me with the camera.

Sophie and Lucky turning sharply as they run
"Here she comes!  Reverse!  Reverse!"
 Finally I realized what was going on.  Like many deaf dogs, Lucky had learned that looking away from a person was a great way to be able to do whatever he wanted without getting in trouble.  After all, he couldn't "hear" me if he didn't see me giving him a hand sign to stop playing, so as long as he didn't look at me, he could keep playing!

I generally don't have this problem with deaf dogs, because I teach them to look at me often - basically to "check in" with me so we don't have this problem.  Usually a dog that is acting this way is one who has been made to do things he didn't want too often, and didn't get enough rewards for doing good things.  So I teach them by giving them big rewards when they do look at me.  Treats, attention, petting, whatever they enjoy, and then I send them right back to what they were enjoying doing in the first place.  This way they learn to look for me on a regular basis when playing with another dog, or before digging in the garden, or whatever else they might be doing.  And mostly they get rewarded and get sent back to continue, but those times when play time is over, or the digging is starting, it's easy to get their attention and redirect them to something else.  Lucky probably didn't know this in his first home, and it may have contributed to why his original owner gave him up - because they got tired of constantly trying to get Lucky's attention and make him do things.  So I'm going to be teaching Lucky that being obedient and "checking in" pays off, but in the meantime, he may not want to look at me when he's doing something fun and fears he'll be forced to stop. 

WARNING: The following photos may be offensive to some. View at your own risk.

So at this point I just waited for him to get tired.  When he was standing in the middle of the yard, alone, with nowhere to hide, I tried again to take his picture. As I waited for the camera to auto-focus, then snapped the picture, this is what I ended up with:
Lucky squatting to defecate
"Excuse me, a little privacy here please?"
Hey, at least he’s finally looking at the camera. I waited a few minutes and decided to try again. Once again, I caught him looking at the camera, but once again it was not quite a pose I could send in to the pet adoption websites.

Lucky lifting his leg to urinate on a Jolly Ball toy
"That's right, this is MY ball!"
 At this point I gave up and decided that perhaps a video would be a better choice. At first Lucky did his best to run out of the camera range, but then Sophie told him to stop running and start behaving. He tried to convince her that running would be more fun, but eventually he realized she would not change her mind, so he gave up and walked away.

I may never get a good picture of Lucky, but I will keep trying!


bbes tribe said...

Yes, getting good pics of fosters to post on PetFinder etc is hard and sometimes it takes a LOT of trying. I found that a video also can be a great help in helping to get them adopted. Videos have helped many of our fosters to find homes faster. Good luck and isn't it a good thing for the digital cameras now. So much easier. Lucky looks like a sweet and happy dog. Wishing he finds a forever home soon.
Barb for the Clampet pack

Frankie Furter and Ernie said...

Sorry... butt I just HAD to laff at the last two pics.. Kinda TYPICAL of what WE all do... hearing or deaf doesn't matter. WE do LOVE to mess with the minds of our peeps.

Cupcake said...

I laughed so much reading this post and seeing the pictures. Lucky cracks me up!

Blueberry's human said...

Lucky is so funny! I know what you mean about taking multiple pics before finding one that is good enough to post. I can't imagine the challenges of having a deaf dog and trying to do that. I am sure before long he'll learn to check in with you. You're an expert!

PCPP Kim said...

Lucky looks so happy and healthy. What a treat to see the pics and the video! He is a real joker!!