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Digital camera Lenses, and Different Threats to a Canine’s Security


I was just going to get some casual shots of the BCs lying in the sun, when I noticed a trend. Here’s the first photo:

Followed by the next two:

Can’t miss it, can you? No matter what I did, clicking or smooching or waving my fingers, Maggie would not look at the camera lens. And no wonder. Here I was, down on my knees at eye level, with this huge, round, black eye staring straight at her. She’s much softer than Willie, and easily intimidated, and that flat, black eye-like shape was just too much for her.

I’ve seen this repeatedly over the years, and always assumed it related to dogs perceiving camera lenses as the black, dilated pupils of another animal.  Dilated pupils are signs of arousal, and we all know that direct stares can be intimidating. Dogs don’t have to believe that a camera lens is really the eye of another dog, any more than we believe that a smiley face is a person–and yet still react to it with a smile of our own.

Responses to “false eyes” have interested ethologists for decades. Eye spots are seen on a large range of animals, from frogs like the one below to butterflies and caterpillars. FYI, you can read more about the function of eye spots here.

Dwarf Frog Eye Spots: Photo Credit Photoshop Holdings, through BBC

Of course, we’ll never really know how dogs perceive the big, black lenses on cameras, but keep in mind that many dogs dislike looking directly into a camera lens. It’s actually not a bad evaluation tool of a dog’s personality. Notice how Willie was perfectly happy to stare straight into the lens in every photo, while Maggie, little Miss OhGodPleaseDon’tRaiseYourVoiceEvenIfYouAreHappy Dog, couldn’t bring herself to look straight ahead. Keep that in mind when you are taking photographs–I’ve found that many owners aren’t aware of how stressful photos can be to dogs, and get more and more frustrated while their dog gets more and more intimidated during a photo shoot.

What about your dog? Oblivious to lenses like Willie, or lens aversive like Maggie?

Update, late August, 2022: Reading the line above about Maggie (“Don’t Raise Your Voice” Maggie) hit home this morning, given that Maggie has, for no discernible reason, decided that the back yard is the home of monsters. Go out the mudroom door to pee in the backyard? “WHAT? WHAT? And take my life in my hands?” That morphed into, last night, her not wanting to come inside through that door. “WHAT? WHAT? Do you NOT KNOW that there are monsters living in the door frame?” I have one wild guess about what started this. It seems unlikely, but it’s all I’ve got: Right before this started, Maggie and Skip encountered a toad on the deck right outside the door. I was thrilled to see this lovely animal, they are so rare now. Skip was enthralled but ready to bolt like a frightened horse. Maggie too looked curious, but more fearful. I told the dogs to “leave it” quietly, and we proceeded to the grass. Maggie began her THAT WAY THERE BE MONSTERS routine the next morning.

How could the toad explain it? Doubtful, but as I said, it’s all I’ve got. Remember, this is the dog who became afraid of Skip for awhile, when his play style caused us to nickname him with a word I’m not sure you all want me to use here. First she was afraid to go up the hill with him, then afraid to go up the hill, at all. It took five months of classical conditioning to get her back up the hill. And, now, as you no doubt know, they are back to being gobsmacked in love, and Maggie can play the pants off of Skip up the hill, and loves doing so. She was somewhat better this morning about the door, so maybe it’ll all just fade away. FYI, I’m not saying anything to her, just talking to Skip and ignoring her. Trying to persuade her or encourage her sweetly is perceived as pressure, so I’m pretending nothing is going on. Seems to help some. I’ll keep you posted next week.

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Just back from a heavenly vacation to Michigan. Oooooo, I love what my sister calls “fat mornings,” in which you lie in bed and read and drink tea to all hours of the morning. And swimming in a silky, silver lake at a friend’s gorgeous home, eating outside, shopping at fun stores (who shops, except for food, ever, at home?), visiting with two sets of great friends, and taking some beautiful walks. Did I mention eating?

Here are good friends Dave and Julie who hosted us on Lake Walloon.

And here we are with Matt and Kelly Elvin of Tiptop Tails Training, two fantastic dog trainers (with a kick ass facility I might add), and wonderful friends we met years ago in Africa.

It was fun and relaxing and heavenly and by the end I missed the dogs like a hole in my heart. Here they are on a walk on Sunday morning.

Did you notice how the countryside around them is basically green and gold? Sunflowers, Black-eyed Susans, Goldenrods . . .  yellow/gold flowers and bright green leaves everywhere. No wonder the Packers use those colors. Below are wild sunflowers and Black-eyed Susans.)

On our drive home from the walk we ran into these lovely creatures, Sandhill Cranes. They are relatively common here, but still so very special.

You gotta love these two going on a Sunday morning stroll together. Note the legs!

I hope there’s been a lot to love in your life this week. Tell us about your dog and camera lenses; I’ve found iPhones have a similar effect on lots of dogs. You?

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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