Does anyone else have this experience with dogs when taking photos in public places?
When I’m out iNaturalizing, it seems that something about squatting, leaning on trees, or sitting on the ground taking photos makes most dogs frightened or aggressive. I get alarm barked, growled, and hackled-up at on almost every walk. They’re fine if I’m just walking but photographing seems to set off most dogs.
It’s a little scary in off-leash parks but I just look off to the side and stand up slowly while saying “who’s a good doggie?” in a non aggressive tone. Things have turned out OK (so far).
Most owners say, “Oh, he’s a good dog, he won’t bite,” but that’s sometimes hard to believe when a dog is 2 feet away with its hackers raised, growing and snarling at me.
Does this happen to others or is it just me?
Yeah, my experience is pretty much any behavior they’re not specifically socialized to be used to can elicit bad reactions. For me, that has usually been simply being off the trail and somewhat obscured while moving around. A dog who’s gotten used to people sharing the trail often still freaks out and gets aggressive towards unknown persons off in the vegetation.
It is interesting as a lens for the way that social animals (us included) develop and then mutually enforce behavioral norms, something that makes interactions with humans as well difficult for a lot of neurodiverse folks especially (as discussed in the long neurodiversity on inaturalist thread). Humans usually don’t snarl or threaten to bite, but they absolutely will sometimes go out of their way to be aggressive (sometimes even physically) towards strangers exhibiting harmless but unfamiliar behaviors, you know?
It has not really happened to me when iNatting. But, I’m sure it happens. I have a cousin with a highly protective dog. That dog is okay with me, but I’ve seen him trap people in their cars with his lunging and scary barking. And my cousin dismisses his behavior as ‘he’s just excited to see you’ sort of thing, which I think is not right.
A lot of dogs are protective of their person. Perhaps your “unusual” stance (crouching, etc) could put certain dogs on alert.
I would be nervous in such a situation. If the owner was nearby, I think I might say something like, “Oh, I’m sure he’s a good dog, but his behavior is scaring me a bit. Would you kindly call him away from me?”
I get this regularly.
The dog owners often seem equally confused by the reaction.
Nice to hear I’m not alone.
Perhaps related (perhaps not)… I’ve casually noted that, if I’m watching a bird and the bird is remaining still, as soon as I raise my binoculars or camera up in front of me to eye level (no matter how slowly), it flies off. It might be a reflection in the lens that’s startling it, but my soft theory is that it’s the movement.
If I turn to the side (so I’m not facing the bird), raise the camera/binoculars to eye level, then slowly turn back to towards the bird, I’m much less likely to spook it.
I’ve often wondered if there’s something about raising one’s arms up triggers some kind of alarm warning for animals. Certainly if they’re used to hunters, they might associate that with gunfire. But most animals I run across are not exposed to hunting and I don’t know that hunting would cause some kind of evolutionary behavior!
Now, if someone who’s studied this sort of thing thinks it’s hogwash, I’ll accept that. I only have my own observation to guide my musings. But I wonder if that could be related to your experiences. Do the dogs happen upon you with your camera up and react to you? Or is their reaction tied to you raising your camera?
I only met curious dogs and I see a lot of dogs now as I have to visit public parks, only was barked by those defending property if I walk by it.
I have never had a problem with dogs. The only problem I have is keeping an eye on mine while also photographing.
@mmmiller That’s just birds perverse natures. It’s probably movement, but inevitably when I get a shot ready, they fly away. Some of the little jobs never sit still! How they live is beyond me.
This happens to me a lot. Luckily the two worst encounters were with dogs on a leash, but the owners were really struggling to keep the angry dog from attacking me. Once a dog ran right up to me and starting barking and growling a lot, but luckily nothing happened. I wish people would follow trail rules when it says to keep their dogs on a leash.
Welcome to the Forum! I have to confess that I let my dog loose when he should be leashed. However, I know him well, and he has never once growled at or gone after another person. He’s over 9 now, and I’ve had him since he was 8 months. To him, people are irrelevant. I’m sure few dogs are like him, and I don’t know how I would deal with a different dog. So if you are ever in Winnipeg and see a 35 kg blond dog with huge ears, I will be nearby and he is harmless!
Same here, most of the time it is when the dog owners are violating leash/park laws. I just wish people would be respectful of others who are not comfortable or who may be fearful of dogs.
A question I always want to ask dog owners: If I did to you EXACTLY what your dog is doing to me atm, would you feel comfortable? If not, why do you think I should feel comfortable now.
I have encountered dogs that were nervous of me (yet still waging tail), likely because of my gear (pouch, camera and binoculars). I have yet to encounter a dog that is openly aggressive when walking with an owner on a trail. It is when dogs are near their homes when I concerned …
That said dogs are often a nuisance if they are jumpy or barky.
‘perverse nature’ … made me laugh.
It seems unrelated to moving the camera. It happens when I’m taking pictures and when I’m just not moving, usually in an odd position.
I hadn’t thought about the gear. I carry a camera bag that’s shaped like a big purse and it’s often behind my butt. I bet that looks funny to dogs.
I also have the experience of birds etc running off as soon as I’m about to take a photo. My uninformed theory is that many animals are very sensitive to noticing eyes (on the theory that if you’re being stared at something might be about to jump on you). I wonder if a camera lens looks like a big dark eye to some animals and it makes them a bit nervous.
I think the best thing if a dog is doing something you don’t like is to not give it eye contact, physical contact, or verbal contact (don’t talk to it). Any attention will be rewarding to the dog and might encourage it to do the same to you next time.
Laughing is always good. Birds seem to have knack for vanishing just soon as you are ready to take a picture. That’s perverse!
They also like to land just behind that one branch or clump of leaves. I am quite certain they know they are hidden (from me) behind it/them!
Or how about how they call/sing as you’re walking along and as soon as you stop walking to listen or look for them, they stop singing! If you start walking again, they’ll start up the song again.
Funny how the owner and the dog often don’t agree on this point.