Doubling down on dogs catching treats
Photographs by Christian Vieler
Story by Kyle Almond, CNN
December 17, 2021
If you ever want to get a dog to “smile” for the camera, try throwing a treat their way.
It’s worked wonders for German photographer Christian Vieler, who has now published two books of dogs trying to catch snacks in midair.
It’s a very simple concept, but an effective one. The photos are cute, hilarious and sometimes surprising.
Vieler’s first book, “Treat!,” published in 2017, and he was stunned by all of the positive feedback he received from around the world.
A sequel, naturally, was the next step. And he already had an idea for an updated theme.
“What’s better than one dog? How about two or even three?” Vieler says in his newest book, “Treat Too!”
The new book focuses solely on pairs. Vieler photographed these dogs in the same style as his first book, using a portable flash and shutter speeds as fast as 1/8000th of a second.
The techniques allow him to catch amusing moments or expressions that are often gone in the blink of an eye.
But double the dogs meant double the challenge.
All of the dogs in each pair knew each other well, often because they lived together. This familiarity was required by Vieler so that the dogs wouldn’t fight.
But the flip side of this, he noticed, was that there would be a natural hierarchy between the two.
“Very often one partner deliberately pulls back, and the intended pair picture becomes a ‘one-dog show,’ ” he said.
Positioning two dogs at once — and keeping them side by side — was also tough.
“Once the initial hurdles are cleared, good timing is still needed when throwing” the treats, Vieler said. “After a single attempt, the dogs often have to be repositioned, which can then become a test of patience.”
And even though you might see just one treat in some of these photos, don’t worry: Every dog got plenty of treats.
“I make sure that both get the same amount without long waiting times, so no frustration arises,” Vieler said.
He prefers to use dry treats because they are not sticky and are easier to throw. They also look better on camera, he says.
Many of the photos were taken at Vieler’s studio in Waltrop, Germany, but he also went out on the road to meet dogs he cast for the book.
He likes to take his time getting to know each dog and build trust before he breaks out his camera. Safety is always a priority.
And if he notices any dog getting scared or stressed during a shoot, he will stop taking pictures. A stressed dog, he said, won’t eat treats anyway.
Vieler has been taking dog photos like these for nearly a decade. His inspiration came from Lotte, his Labrador retriever and longtime companion.
When he got a new portable flash in 2013, he tested it out on Lotte. He was amused by the shots it produced, and it gave him the idea for his photo series “Dogs Catching Treats.”
Lotte is 16 now, and she’s also in the new book alongside Anni and Tammi, two of the other dogs shared by Vieler and his wife, Linda. Anni is a Doberman pinscher, and Tammi is a mixed breed. The couple also has a dachshund named Alfred.
Vieler’s favorite shot in the new book is of Debbie and Quincy, two very chilled-out basset hounds waiting for him to throw a treat.
It’s a great example of how these dogs’ expressions can spur our imagination.
“I am very happy to have caught this short moment in which they look at me slightly peeled and expectant: ‘What is he doing now? Why doesn’t he finally throw?’ ” Vieler said. “The longer I look into their eyes, the funnier it gets for me. Every time.
“The picture will also soon adorn the tailgate of my company car. I hope they don’t hypnotize anyone behind me.”