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Tips for Having the Most Adorabull Holiday Photo

The holidays are upon us!  The decorations have been put up both inside and out, the presents have been bought and wrapped (although not put under the tree since Rosee happens to like ribbon and tissue paper), and the tamales and other sweet treats have been happily eaten.  Lastly and certainly not least however, the holiday cards have been mailed.

Truth be told I have never been great with sending holiday cards out every year. Don’t get me wrong, I always make plans to send out cards. I even buy them early, and tell myself that I’m not going to forget. Yet, when the time finally comes…I forget.

Although, since Simon and Rosee have come along holiday cards have become a must when the holidays come around. It’s pretty much due to the fact that I enjoy sending out holiday cards with a family photo that includes both dogs.

I love including the dogs in our annual family photo for our holiday card, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to actually take the photo. With people it’s easy to take a picture (or perhaps just easier since my stepdad always manages to have a weird look on his face). Yet, with dogs the picture taking process can much more challenging. It can be somewhat of a chore to position them, it can be difficult to get them to stay for long periods of time, and it is definitely not easy to get them to actually look at the direction of the camera.

So, here are a few tips I’ve learned that can be helpful when it comes to taking an adorabull holiday photo.

Sit, Stay, Focus!—In order to have a fabulous photo it helps if your dog has a strong understanding of these three commands, but “lay down” can also be substituted for “sit.” “Sit”/ “lay down” are helpful to use when you first position your dog. Some people may try more interesting poses. For instance, this year I tried to get Simon to stand up with his front paws on a hay bale, which did work, but took a little more time and patience to get him to do it and hold it for the picture. If your dog has a good grasp of “sit” or “lay down” though, then it is much easier to direct them to stay while you wait for the camera to snap a picture. My family uses a timer on the camera to take the picture so it’s a must for Rosee and Simon to know “stay.” Furthermore, “focus” is a good command to have knowledge of since it helps you direct your dog’s attention to where you want them to look. Typically, this command is used to help your dog learn how to maintain eye contact with their person. Fortunately though, I have found that it can come in handy when trying to get both dogs to look in the direction of the camera for a festive photo.  Usually we leave a treat next to the camera and tell Simon and Rosee to “focus” then simply wait for the flash.

Lighting—The lighting of your photo is one of the most important things to consider. No, really, I mean it. Really. I would recommend using natural light. That can mean either taking a photo outside, such as in your backyard, front yard, or perhaps another outdoor space, or just taking a photo during the day as opposed to at night. I would caution, however, not taking a picture right in front of an open window during the day because usually the window will cause a glare. Similarly, try to avoid having direct lighting in the photo such as a lamp because you’ll have the same issue.

Keep Things Simple—Holiday photos are pretty fun to take, at least in my opinion. I enjoy setting the scene, coordinating outfits, and generally putting things together. After much practice I have come to the realization that simpler is best. Sure, it’s fun to dress up your dog in a pawsitively adorabull outfit that will have others oohing and aahing. However, if your dog’s not used to wearing those pawsitively adorabull outfits or just plain doesn’t tolerate them, which (much to my dismay) Rosee and Simon enjoy ripping off of each other, then it’s probably best to forego the outfits. Instead, simply dress your dog is a holiday themed bandana, bowtie, tie, or headpiece. Also, it can be helpful to let your dog get used to wearing whatever you plan on them wearing ahead of time. Even if it’s just for a few minutes a couple times a day. Next, keep the poses natural. For instance, if your dog is used to sitting in your lap, then let them. If they’re more comfortable sitting, then have them sit. Finally, don’t have an overly complicated background. It’s probably easiest to keep the setting in a comfortable and familiar space. That way it can be easier for them to stay focused, rather than trying to smell or watch everything going on around them. Of course, simple doesn’t mean it can’t be holiday inspired. In fact, my family’s own holiday card was fall inspired and everyone wore either a black or orange shirt to go with the pumpkins we had gathered in one corner.

Treats, Treats, Treats!—The use of treats can be helpful when trying to get your dog to do what you want them to do. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve found that treats are most helpful when getting Simon and Rosee to “focus” on the camera. However, treats are also pretty helpful when first getting them in position. For most dogs treats provide the proper motivation, and treats can really take on any form. They can be food like pieces of fruit, vegetables or plain old dog treats. Otherwise, they can be special toys. Although, if your dog is an excellent sniffer, then I wouldn’t recommend keeping any food treats in your pocket while you pose next to your dog because they will most likely try to get into your pocket instead of “focus” on the camera.

Give Yourself Time—Taking a good holiday photo really can’t be rushed. It’s a process that is going to take time. The important thing to remember is to actually take the time. Dogs aren’t always easy to work with, and it may take a few tries to get them to cooperate with what you want. It might also help if you tire your dog out a little beforehand by playing fetch or something. Just so that they are a little more compliant and some excess energy is burned off. Most importantly: Don’t get frustrated. Instead, try going with the flow (if you will). The photo may not necessarily turn out the exact way you pictured, but in the end it might actually turn out even better.

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   Happy Pawlidays!

I Put A Spell On You . . . And Now You’re Mine (Or We Are Hers)

**Warning** This post is seriously, hilariously, egregiously, ridiculously . . . late.

We here at Play Hard Bark Often love Halloween. It’s just such a fun holiday that never takes itself too seriously and encourages a multitude of decorations to litter front yards. Similar to the winter holidays, yet with more mischief and spooks hanging around. I personally find Halloween fun because it means carving pumpkins, breaking out the tombstones, and wearing all ten of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion-themed t-shirts I own without feeling like I’m pining for something. All in all it’s a great holiday filled with gooey baked goods, a miniature village with frightening sounds, and two pups trying to wrestle themselves out of strange costumes their silly humans keep trying to wrangle them into.

Halloween and the entire month of October has always been a greatly anticipated month, but about two years ago this holiday took on an entirely new meaning when we brought a new addition into our home and family.

IMG_2308You see, October 31st, the day dedicated to all things Halloween-related, in our house is also dedicated to all things Rosee-related as it is the day of this esteemed girl’s birth. That’s right. It’s Rosee’s birthday!

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We’re definitely looking forward to moving out of the terrible twos.

It was two years and four months ago that my family walked into our local PetSmart while it was holding its weekly adoption event and saw Rosee being walked around the store with a cute little vest on that proclaimed “Adopt Me.” We were sold. Two weeks later and she was ours.

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Her first day home.

She was about nine months old at the time and Simon was about a year and a half. It was love.

Now at three years old Rosee is a little ping pong ball, bouncing around the house, making a racquet, and generally getting spoiled. She enjoys long walks to our local parks, keeping the squeaky toys away from Simon, and taking up the whole couch for her naps.

This year I decided to go all out for the big 3, whipping up candy treats for humans and trying my hand at some sort of tasty pumpkin cake for the pups to enjoy. Now, let me start by saying as much as I love to bake and cook and try my hand at all things with clear, concise recipes I wanted to be a little more adventurous this time. So, I put on my big girl apron and tried creating a birthday cake for Rosee out of sensitive-stomach-dog-friendly ingredients. After making about five different versions of some kind of pumpkin cake (because it is Fall after all), and Simon and Rosee enthusiastically taste-testing all of them, I finally settled on a version. It turned out to be a little closer to pumpkin bread, but it tasted pretty good, looked even better, and was eagerly gobbled down by the birthday girl and her partner-in-crime.

IMG_2395It was a fun evening and even though I’m pretty sure the pups have absolutely no idea why they were happily given new treats to eat, they enjoyed it all. However, getting so much attention does tend to tire a girl out pretty quickly.

IMG_2390The only problem: I have no idea what to do for Simon’s birthday in February!

A Sweet Deal: Peppy Turnovers Review

I found myself perusing through the aisles of a Petco the other day. Now, Petco is not my usual stomping ground for dog (or cat) supplies. To be honest, most Petco stores are small, further away, and slightly more expensive than my go to Petsmart. It just so happened though, that this particular day I had some extra time to waste between activities and so I thought I’d wander Petco to see if it had any interesting treats for sale to surprise Simon and Rosee with. And as luck would have it, treats on sale is exactly what I found.

You see, my Petco (and I’m sure others too) had a little section in their treat aisle dedicated to more homemade-looking treats, packaged in small plastic tubs rather than the typical plastic bags that you have to tear the top strip off of in order to open. Intrigued, I made my way through the several different tubs that were on display. There were ones that looked sort of like mini Nutter Butter cookies, ones that looked like little éclairs, and even ones that looked like small pinwheel cookies. However, the ones that caught my attention were modeled after apple turnovers.

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Rosee couldn’t resist. If only the treats were underneath the table (where her foot actually is).

Similar to mini apple pies, these little turnovers look like half-moons with puffed up centers (which is where the filling lies) and a sprinkling of something enticing on the outside. As is expected the turnovers are not soft little things, but have a nice crunch to them, though they are still pretty easy to break in half if need be. They are probably about six inches long, so for my two barking buddies they are just the right size to be a special daily treat.

IMG_2156Aptly named Peppy Turnovers and made by the Gourmet Tails company, they seem to be made with good stuff. The packaging even calls the treats’ ingredients “quality and palate-pleasing” to make it clear that their treats are better than others. And, I’d have to agree. So far these turnovers have not upset the delicate balance that is the digestive systems of Simon and Rosee. They have not made either pup gassy, extra poopy, or given them any extra spots to sport (i.e. hives).

IMG_2157Unfortunately, both Simon and Rosee have shown themselves to be quite sensitive creatures, especially when it comes to particular foods. The fact is peanut butter is so far off the table it’s been relegated to the laundry room cabinet. The few times we tried to give them peanut butter, both ended up developing tiny bumps all over their backs that our veterinarian labeled as an allergic reaction, so no more peanut butter for them. And it made Theresa and myself even more wary about what ingredients were in the foods and treats that Simon and Rosee end up consuming. However, I thought that I’d splurge and take a chance on these turnovers because unlike peanut butter apple-things do not give the pups hives, though they do tend to amp up the out-pour of gas (if you know what I’m saying). Lucky for us humans who have to be around them, this has not happened with these particular treats.

IMG_2161Now, it was not just the adorable look of these treats that caught my eye, but their price. Anyone who has ever bought dog treats knows that they can be expensive. The least expensive dog treats that my family buys are little tiny baked bones that we can buy in bulk at our local pet store. However, most other mass produced dog treats can start at ten dollars for a small bag that, let’s be frank, might last about a week in our household. So, to find these treats, specialty ones no less, for three dollars a tub—um, yeah I bought the two they had left. I had never been so excited to purchase turnovers not made for human consumption in my whole life. Before I get to far gone in fantasies of saving money on dog treats I should say that these treats were on sale. Normally, a tub costs about six dollars, so when I bought them they were half off. Still, six dollars for a tub seems like a steal to me. Other specialty treats I’ve found (you know, those ones that look like frosted sugar cookies?) will cost six dollars for one single treat, let alone buying close to the fifteen that fill up the tub. I say: sweet deal.

IMG_2158Sweet indeed! These turnovers sure have been a hit with Simon and Rosee. (They wouldn’t leave me alone while I tried to take pictures.) Though I can’t say I’ll find myself driving specifically to Petco just to pick some up when the tub we have now inevitably runs out, I can say that the next time I find myself passing by a Petco I will find it in myself to drop in and buy a tub to surprise the pups with. I’m sure Simon would appreciate it. (Am I the only one who can see the drool?)