Say “Treats!” Tips for Taking Great Pet Photos

We’ve all grabbed the camera and taken a quick picture when we see our pets do something cute. But how do you take that special photograph of your dog or cat, one that shows them at their best? We asked professional San Diego pet photographer Allison Shamrell of Allison Shamrell Pet Photography for some advice.

Allison and Bailey

              Allison and Bailey

An experienced pet photographer and student of animal psychology and body language, Allison believes in the importance of highlighting your pet’s unique beauty and personality. Here are Allison’s top pet photography tips, using her work as examples:


  1. Get on their level! Shooting close to the ground from your pet’s perspective makes your pictures more interesting.


  1. Look for the light. The best place to take pictures, especially action shots, is outdoors. If you stay inside, make sure you uncover all windows for the best natural light.


  1. Make it fun for your pet! Your pets will look their best when they are happy, so don’t forget to incorporate play and treats into your photo session.
  2. Tucker him out first! Take your dog for a walk before a session so that he will expend some energy and be more willing to sit for the camera.


  1. Look for the details. Focus on an interesting part of your pet’s body, such as ears, tail and paws, or zoom in for a close shot of your pet’s fur.


  1. Know your camera. Whether you’re using your phone or a high-end camera, get to know your camera’s features and experiment with different settings.


  1. Take plenty of photos. Getting that perfect shot takes work, even for professionals, so don’t be discouraged if your first pictures are disappointing…keep snapping away!
  2. Ask for help. Grab a friend or family member to help out with your photo session. Another person makes it easier to wrangle treats and leashes, and also to help get your pet’s attention.
  3. Keep the background simple. Busy, distracting backgrounds (indoors or outdoors) take the focus away from your pet. Try a session in your backyard instead of a crowded dog park.


10. Take your time. It takes time for all of the elements of a good pet photo to come together.   You can plan on spending at least 10-15 minutes on your photo session, so relax and enjoy spending time with your best friend!

Halloween and Cats

Black Cat

Are cats, especially black cats, in danger of harm at Halloween? There are many opinions about this issue, with some experts stating that Halloween poses no extra risk to cats, and others who argue that people with an anti-cat bias are more likely to abuse cats during Halloween. Some shelters will not adopt out black cats during this time of year, while others use Halloween as an opportunity to promote black cat adoptions.

Whether your cat is black or any other color, there are a few common-sense cat safety guidelines to keep in mind this Halloween. Cats can get upset by ringing doorbells, loud voices, and increased activity in and around the house. Here are some useful tips from to help keep your cat safe and secure:

  • Begin keeping indoor-outdoor cats inside several days before Halloween. (Cats are always safer living indoors.)
  • Secure your cat in a comfortable room away from the front door, and don’t forget to visit between trick or treaters.
  • Keep your cat away from candles and any tempting decorations that could be hazardous if swallowed.
  • Don’t let your cat eat chocolate or any other type of candy, and don’t let him eat those candy wrappers he’s playing with.
  • Resist the urge to dress your cat up in costumes (they really don’t like it!). Cats can also get frightened when their humans look different, so remember that masks and wigs can be scary to them.
  • If your cat does get out on Halloween, keep calm and encourage your cat to come back inside with gentle calls and his favorite treats.

Halloween can be a stressful time for cats…a little planning can ensure that your cat feels safe this Halloween!

Falling Leaves, Healthy Pets

Dog Leaves

Pet health is important all year round, but did you know that your pets have special health concerns in the fall? Here are some autumn pet health tips to keep in mind, courtesy of Pets Best pet insurance:

Parvovirus: Vets see an increase in Parvo infections in unvaccinated puppies in the fall. Make sure your pets are protected!

Allergies: Dust and pollen in the air, triggered by the changing seasons, can bother dogs and cats as well as humans. Keep an eye out for respiratory symptoms, ear infections, and itchy skin.

Arthritis: Similar to humans, older pets can experience an increase in achy joints in colder weather.

Antifreeze: Car antifreeze tastes appealing to dogs and cats. Be sure to keep your pets away from antifreeze, as it can be fatal if ingested.

Hunting Injuries: Do you take your dog hunting in the fall? Dogs can experience limb injuries and lacerations. And be sure to protect your dog against fleas and ticks.

Halloween: Keep your pets away from chocolate, and make sure they don’t ingest loose candy wrappers.

Thanksgiving: Turkey alert! Feeding your pet too much, or inappropriate, human food can lead to pancreatitis and gastrointestinal problems.

Rodenticides: Rats and mice could seek warmth in your house or garage when the weather gets colder. Rat and mouse poison is flavored to entice rodents to eat it. Keep your pets away from rodent bait, as it is highly toxic to dogs and cats.

Cat Winter

For more information on keeping your pets safe this fall, click HERE.


New California Animal Welfare Legislation

Dog face

California Governor Jerry Brown signed two important animal welfare bills into law during the 2014 legislative session! They are Assembly Bills 1809 and 1810.

A.B. 1809 requires that dogs or puppies brought into the state for the purpose of resale or change of ownership must have a health certificate completed by a licensed veterinarian, done within 10 days prior to the date that the dog arrives in the state. This health certificate would be submitted to the appropriate county health department. According to the ASPCA, this legislation is especially important due to the large growth in online puppy sales. With this documentation, local governments will be better able to manage shelter, spay/neuter, and licensing programs.

A.B. 1810 provides more humane options for animals abandoned at veterinary offices, kennels, groomers, animal hospitals, or other animal care facilities. Previous law stated that the animal care facility, if unable to find a new home for the animal, should euthanize the abandoned animal. Under the amended law, an animal care facility can attempt to find a new home for the animal, or turn the animal over to a shelter, rescue group, or other appropriate humane organization, provided the organization first agrees to take the animal. If the shelter is unable to find a new home, the abandoned animal may then be euthanized.

One additional bill, A.B. 2326, is still in committee. If passed, this bill would allow a tax deduction of up to $100 for costs associated with the adoption of a pet from a qualified animal rescue organization.

Please join us in thanking the animal-friendly California legislators who are doing so much to help our pets!


One Smart Dog


Viewers of this week’s 60 Minutes were treated to a profile of an amazing border collie named Chaser and her owner John Pilley, a retired professor of psychology who has taught her the names of over 1,000 toys. Every toy has a unique name, and Chaser can identify each one when asked. Depending on the command, Chaser will bring the toy to John, or put her nose or paw on the toy. Pilley says she has a vocabulary and cognitive abilities on par with a two year old human toddler.

Recent studies of canine intelligence show that dogs are capable of inferential reasoning, illustrated by the example of showing a dog two cups, hiding a toy under one of them, pointing to the cup with the toy, and the dog understanding that the toy will be where you point. Not all animals have this ability.

You knew your dog was smart, but what about a dog’s emotions and feelings?

In other research, scans of dogs’ brains show that the “reward center” of the brain is stimulated by the unique scent of a dog’s owner. This is the same part of the brain that is stimulated in humans by such things as a favorite song, or thinking about someone you care about.

Ever notice that look of love in your dog’s eyes? Studies show that when humans and dogs make eye contact, a dog’s brain releases oxytocin, the same hormone that helps mothers bond with their new babies. This proves that your dog gets the same warm feeling as you when spending time together.

Want to learn more about your dog’s intelligence? Check out the website Dognition, mentioned on the show.

Watch the full 60 Minutes episode about Chaser HERE.