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Why do dogs hate phone cameras?

Many dog owners have experienced their furry friends suddenly becoming anxious or aggressive when a phone camera is pointed at them. This seemingly bizarre behavior has puzzled both owners and canine experts alike. However, recent research into dog psychology and vision capabilities has begun to shed light on the various factors that may cause dogs to react negatively to phone cameras.

The sudden appearance of a camera can be startling

One of the main reasons dogs seem to dislike phone cameras is simply because of the way they are used. Phone cameras tend to suddenly appear from pockets or hands when taking a photo. The abrupt motion of a phone being pulled out and pointed at them can startle some dogs. This surprise factor can trigger a fearful or defensive reaction in dogs that are more anxious or skittish by nature.

Additionally, the clicking sound a phone camera makes when taking a photo can also contribute to dogs being alarmed. Dogs have very sensitive hearing and loud or strange noises can easily put them on edge. The foreign clicking or beeping noise a camera makes can therefore further add to a dog’s unease when being photographed by a phone.

The flash can be visually disturbing

Another key factor is that phone cameras often utilize a bright camera flash. This sudden burst of blinding light can be both scary and disorienting for dogs. Studies have shown dogs primarily see in shades of gray and specific movements or changes in light contrast catch their attention the most. When a bright camera flash abruptly goes off near a dog’s face, it can easily cause disturbance, especially if it was already wary of the camera.

They may associate cameras with stress

Past negative experiences can also play a role in creating camera shyness or phobia in some dogs. If a dog has previously been exposed to uncomfortable photography sessions, or has been startled by flash photography regularly, it can develop an aversion to cameras in general. Dogs may come to associate cameras with feelings of stress or fear if they have repeatedly been put in unpleasant situations involving photography.

Cameras can seem threatening

An additional reason some dogs dislike cameras is due to the camera itself appearing threatening from the dog’s perspective. To human eyes, cameras are harmless inanimate objects. However, studies have found dogs to be surprisingly wary of objects that only crudely resemble a face. This is an instinctual reaction stemming from canine ancestral memory of wolves viewing faces as potentially threatening due to competing packs. The front lens and flash of phone cameras can vaguely mimic eyes and teeth to a dog, provoking a cautious reaction.

How cameras differ from human vision

To better understand dogs’ adverse reactions to phone cameras, it helps to be aware of the major differences between human vision and dogs’ visual perception of the world. Some key ways dogs’ eyesight differs includes:

Dogs see less color

Humans see the world in a rich, vivid array of colors. Dogs, on the other hand, view the world primarily in blacks, whites and shades of gray. Their color vision is considerably more muted and limited compared to humans. When a camera flash suddenly produces a burst of bright white light, this harsh difference in color contrast is much more pronounced to dogs.

Dogs have wider fields of vision

Humans have a straight-ahead, central field of vision. Dogs have a much wider peripheral field of view spanning approximately 240-250 degrees. This means they can see more to the sides but have some blind spots right in front of their nose and directly behind their heads. When handlers abruptly raise cameras to a dog’s face, it can disappear from the dog’s sight, causing surprise.

They see better in low light

Humans see best in bright lighting conditions. Dogs actually see much better than people in dimmer environments. Camera flashes are therefore overly bright and blinding to a dog’s eyes that are more adjusted to lower light levels. This causes discomfort and disorientation for the dog.

They primarily notice movement

While people focus mainly on shapes, colors and details, dogs view the world in a more motion-based way. Subtle or sudden movements stand out more to dogs compared to still objects or inert backgrounds. The swift motion of a camera being lifted quickly to snap a photo catches a dog’s attention, as does the abrupt movements associated with camera flashes going off.

They have lower visual acuity

Dogs do not see stationary objects as clearly as humans do. Their visual sharpness and acuity is substantially lower overall. When cameras are waved in their faces to take a photo, it can appear as a blurry, indistinct object to dogs. This unfamiliar blur approaching them can heighten caution in some dogs.

Signs a dog is disturbed by cameras

How can owners determine if their dog has an aversion to cameras? There are certain behavioral signs displayed when a dog is unsettled by photography:


Does your dog immediately try to walk away, hide behind someone, duck their head or move behind an object when you point a phone camera at them? Avoidance behaviors are a clear sign they are attempting to evade the camera’s view due to discomfort.


Some anxious dogs will simply freeze and remain motionless when a camera is aimed at them. A stiff, tense body and worried facial expression indicates your dog is alarming but unsure how to react.


Lowered heads, tucked tails, hunched postures and shaking demonstrates the camera is producing significant fear in your dog. They are trying to appear small and avoid notice.


If your dog begins growling, lunging or snapping when you grab your phone to take pictures, this shows the camera is causing hostility and making them feel threatened. Aggression stems from fear and stress over being photographed.


Excessive lip licking, panting and yawning points to high anxiety building when your phone camera emerges. These are nervous displacement behaviors in response to stress.


Fidgeting, pacing, whining and inability to settle indicates your dog is growing increasingly distressed by attempts to take their photo. They do not feel comfortable remaining still for pictures.

Tips for photographing anxious dogs

If your dog seems perturbed, frightened or antagonistic towards phone cameras, you can take steps to help them become more comfortable and relaxed during photography sessions:

Acclimatize slowly

Gradually get your dog accustomed to your phone first, allowing them to sniff and investigate it thoroughly while powered off and without taking photos. Provide praise and treats for calm, relaxed behavior near the phone.

Avoid surprises

Always show your dog the phone and allow them to see you activating the camera app before you start taking pictures. No surprises!

Use dog-friendly cues

Teach your dog photography cues like “Smile!” or “Say cheese!” so they learn to associate these prompts with posing for the camera. Give them a treat immediately after taking each photo at first.

Take it slow

Be patient and do short photography sessions, taking just a few photos at a time and ending on a positive note with praise and rewards. Don’t force the issue if your dog seems overwhelmed.

Watch the flash

Avoid using the flash when photographing anxious dogs at first. Introduce it very gradually once the dog seems more comfortable around the camera.

Set up a positive environment

Take photos in your dog’s favorite locations, like in the backyard vs an unfamiliar setting. Have fun toys on hand so playtime can reward the photo session.

Keep sessions low-key

A chaotic family photo shoot with shouting and commotion will distress dogs. Have a mellow, relaxed vibe and photographer during your dog’s pictures.

Use positive reinforcement

Heavily reward your dog with praise, petting and high-value treats for any curiosity, tolerance or cooperation shown toward the camera. Proper conditioning takes patience but pays off.

Remain calm and patient

If your dog seems distressed, do not react emotionally. Just calmly end the session and try again later. Do not punish or discipline fear reactions, as this can make dogs more camera-phobic.

Why some dogs are more camera-shy

While no dog inherently loves cameras shoved in their faces, some individual and breed personality factors make certain dogs more prone to reacting badly to photography:

Nervous temperaments

Anxious, timid or sensitive dogs are most apt to find cameras and flashing unnerving. Breeds like Chihuahuas and Dachshunds are more easily startled.

Abuse survivors

Dogs rescued from abusive backgrounds often associate things looming over them or being blocked in with prior mistreatment. Cameras can indirectly trigger those memories.

Herding breeds

Intelligent workaholic breeds like Border Collies dislike strange disruptions to their environment, making them more perturbed by camera antics.

Livestock guardian dogs

Protective breeds like Great Pyrenees are hardwired to view anything new as a potential threat. To them, cameras are an unknown possible danger.


Older dogs’ eyesight and hearing can decline. Loud camera noises and bright flashes are more alarming and disorienting to aging canine senses.

Motion-sensitive breeds

Sighthounds like Greyhounds who strongly prioritize movement and chase response are extra sensitive to the sudden motions associated with cameras.

Should you avoid photographing camera-shy dogs?

So should owners simply refrain from taking photos if their dog dislikes cameras? Not necessarily. With the right approach, most camera-wary pups can learn to better cope with photography:

Desensitize positively

Use praise, play and rewards to counter-condition your dog to associate cameras with good things happening. This gradually blunts negative reactions over time.

Take it at their pace

Let your dog’s comfort level guide the speed of photography training sessions. Don’t rush the process if your dog is struggling.

Recruit helpers

Have someone your dog feels safe with assist with handling and rewards while you operate the camera. This prevents added stress.

Use the right gear

Equip your camera with a silent shutter, use your phone’s burst photo mode to shorten the sessions, and bounce flash off ceilings instead of aiming it directly at your dog.

Watch their body language

Frequently check in on your dog’s signals during a photo shoot. Stop immediately if you observe significant discomfort or anxiety.

Keep perspective

Avoid forcing photos just for the sake of a picture-perfect holiday card or social media post. Prioritize your dog’s wellbeing over capturing the moment.

Try a pet photographer

Hire a professional pet photographer experienced with handling anxious dogs. Their expertise can get excellent photos while keeping the process low-stress for camera-shy pups.

Should you use positive punishment?

While patience and positive reinforcement are the ideal ways to improve a dog’s camera manners, some owners wonder if adding punishment will quicken the process. Here’s why punishment is ill-advised:

Increases fear

Punishing a dog for reacting fearfully to a camera will only amplify their anxiety and negative associations. This exacerbates the problem.

Triggers aggression

Punished dogs become defensive. Scolding or physically correcting camera-shy dogs for growling or hiding can potentially provoke bite attempts.

Erodes trust

Harsh handling methods undermine your dog’s confidence in you as their protector. This damages your bond and their willingness to learn.

Suppresses warnings

Punished dogs stop communicating their distress. This removes your ability to recognize and address your dog’s discomfort with cameras.

Adversely impacts welfare

A heavy-handed approach focused on punishment creates significant fear and stress for dogs. This impairs their quality of life and happiness.

Slows progress

Positive reinforcement fosters enthusiastic cooperation from dogs. Punishment has the opposite effect and is counterproductive to training success.


Cameras can seem alarming and intrusive to many dogs due to factors like how abruptly they move, how loudly they click and flash, and resemblance to faces and eyes. Breed tendencies, past experiences, age and temperament also influence dogs’ reactivity. While photographing camera-shy dogs requires more time, positive reinforcement and patience yield good results without harming trust and welfare. Avoiding punishment and forcing interactions is imperative. With compassion and creativity, even the most camera-averse dogs can step up to the lens.