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Say (or Squawk) Cheese

Author: Chris Long | Date: November 26, 2012

In addition to dog training, I also work as an animal handler for commercial photographers. This means that I provide animals for different photography projects and work with the animals to get the desired shot.

I work with all types of animals, from dogs and cats to farm animals to exotics.

I love this type of work, and it’s easy to understand why it ties in so naturally with dog training.

On one of my more recent shoots, I worked with some birds and reptiles. Two of the birds were parrots, and they had never been used for this type of project before. Fortunately, the shot was pretty easy, and the parrot simply had to sit on a perch in front of some props.

When the owner set the parrot down, it was clear she was uneasy. She kept scooting over to the owner and she’d reach up, grab his shirt zipper, and gently hold it in her mouth for reassurance. We gave her space, and let her settle in- as important as a shot is, the main priority is always making sure the animals are comfortable and happy.

Gradually, the parrot realized that she was safe on the perch, and after gently reaching out to check out the props, she figured out that they weren’t bird eating monsters. Not only did we get great pictures, but we did it with a confident, happy parrot who will most likely rock her next photo shoot.

In animal handling and in training, I think knowing when to hold back and give an animal time to absorb things can be just as critical as teaching them.

Knowing your pet’s limits is key to a successful training program.

Whether on set or in a group class, pushing an animal and asking too much of him or her will only make the animal shut down. Not only is the session unproductive, but it’s stressful and confusing for the pet as well.

I’m curious, have you ever had a time when you’ve had to take a time out and just let your pet have a quiet moment to figure things out? Share your story here.


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