Art in Context – Photographing a black dog

Photographing black dogs is a challenge we are working through. Often a great expression and soulful eyes appear dull and hazy because the black fur soaks up all the light and in compensation the lens overexposes. When this happens it results in a background that becomes an illuminating halo and fur that is muted to gray.

Although the great outdoors provides a favored source for photographing active dogs, in full sun the contrasts are often too stark to give a really good shot as well.   Finding the right background is a remaining hurdle for the ideal picture. Too dark and the dog is lost, white has a “beam me up” quality,  clutter and specific patterns take away from the multi-colored fur.

To add “fig to the newton”, if one has more than one pet, taking a group shot of multiple dogs that have a contrast color of white or red side by side with a black or brindle proves to be even trickier.

Through trial and error though,  the best shots seem to come early or late in the day as the sun is oblique at an angle.  Pictures in pairs with dogs of opposing color seem to turn out the best on an overcast day or at sun set.

In our household sunrise generally does not instill a good picture taking mood, as all dogs have covers over their heads until well after breakfast….We schedule photo ops after dogs have had a chance to stretch and humans have had good cup of tea.  I would have to say the following shot came out pretty well taken mid a.m. as the sun went behind some clouds.






This week we celebrate the 1 year birthday of my girly Kai.    Happy B. day K. Kai, you are coming into your own and a terrific addition to the family. 

We are at Source

Say Alert!










Things that inspire working in scent include good mentors and good deeds.  We look to the past in moving forward toward the future, honoring those who have walked the walk before us.  The following is an excerpt of an article which I  have  re-posted in tribute to team “Tengu”.  Team Tengu is certainly a super example of a positive working relationship worth aspiring to when moving forward in scent work pursuits.

Tengu, The LSD Detector: Article excerpt obtained from Bill Grimmer, Grimmers Canine College.  (Tengu’s photo can be viewed at the bottom of his page)

In 1996, “Tengu was tested along with 12 other police dogs under Texas Police K9 Association and was one of only 5 dogs that certified on all drugs.  At only 7 months old he was by far the youngest “certified” narcotic detector dog in Canada. He also claimed the distinction of being the only LSD detector dog in Canada and perhaps the USA at that time”.

Today newly established programs are working PR in a big way with canines. There are now airport greeter dogs too (LAX airport) to assist with passenger anxiety as well.  As an added benefit,  a well trained scent dog can work on conveyor belts, and containers within the hangers too while at the same time being good diplomats.  As a breed the Shiba should not be underestimated in its capability to work proficiently, particularly if activities are kept fun and motivating for the dog.


Grimmer, B. (2013).  Tengu, The LSD Detector. Retrieved from

Sumers, B. (2013, April 15).  Lax Unveils New Program Using Dogs to Relieve Airport Stress. Daily News, Los Angles.  Retrieved from Lax unveils new-program-using-dogs-relieve-airport stress

Weekending it: Sniff and Go

The legend of Tengu, a seasoned sniffer, had reached our ears long before my Shiba started on odor.  As a brethren Shiba I find Tengu an interesting comparison for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it takes a special canine character and temperament that enjoys working alongside its handler, with the public,  and in novel environments. Secondly, it really is a special bond that makes the “best of the best” in dog handler teams. Trust is a precious thing, handing control over to a dog is the highest honor a human can provide when training is at its peak. It is a prideful day when a team reaches this pinnacle.

In general however,  I wanted to post what I have been doing with my Shiba regarding detection hides.  At this point we are not working on dangerous substances in Mcgruff fashion as Tengu would,  but we are using alternate scents so my Shiba understands how to sniff them out directly and quickly.  This weekend my Shiba cleared all 4 search areas, 22 containers, vented interior, multiple cars, and also open exteriors. Yep, he passed all of them (ignoring distraction) in record time.  Time wise we placed 7th out of 30 in our group.  Not too shabby for a first trial experience!

In any case, I  am sure all dogs went home with tails waging, sleeping deeply at days end.

In retrospect,  I consider this weekend’s activities a worthy accomplishment in our team training continuum.  I mention these brags because I know what we do is under-recognized unless one is part of the scenting or tracking community.

This summer will include additional interesting pursuits.  I will post as I am able, to discuss the activities and workshops.

~ Happy sniffing!






Catching zzzzs after a long weekend of nose work