Have you ever admired the portraits of dogs and cats that you see in museums? Immortalizing a pet on canvas isn’t just a thing of the past or something for the wealthy. You can commission one yourself to commemorate a special event, such as a dog earning a championship or a sport title, or simply to capture the likeness of a cherished companion. A pet portrait can also be a special gift to a family member or friend.
“I have many pictures of my animals,” says Jenn Prendergast of Tracy, California. “Several friends over the years have given them. I feel honored that they made them, and it honors the memory of my beloved pets.”
Finding a pet portrait artist is as easy as asking around at local pet boutiques, getting referrals from friends or looking up artists on the AKC’s Museum of the Dog registry. Before you choose someone, look at many different styles of dog portraits. Decide if you like a whimsical look or something more formal.
Consider the pros and cons of different media as well. Acrylics and oils look different than watercolors. Pencil art looks different from paintings. Oils and acrylics on canvas or board don’t need to be under glass, but pastels, watercolor and pencil art can be damaged by water, so they need protection.
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Interview the artists before you hire one. Questions to ask include the size and price, whether it will be matted and framed or unframed, how long it will take, whether you can see a sketch beforehand, what medium the artist will use (some work in more than one), and if the artist guarantees satisfaction.
“I always say I will do it over if they don’t like it,” says Terry Albert of Poway, California, an award-winning artist whose work has been exhibited at the Museum of the Dog. “Once I had to make a tabby cat browner instead of gray, and once a black Lab just didn’t come out the way they envisioned it. The second version in both cases was a hit.”
Costs can range from as little as $50 to five figures. Price depends on the medium (oil, pastel, watercolor, charcoal or pencil), the demand and the artist’s reputation.
Oils are usually most expensive, often starting at $1,000 and rising from there. Price can also vary by such factors as the number of animals in the painting, the size of the canvas and the complexity of the background. Expect to pay a deposit, with the balance due upon completion.
Cavalier owner Cathy Remoll Torres has an oil painting by artist Dominique Oboyski of her beloved dog Jake, who died three months ago.
“Dominique asked permission to paint him years ago when she was working on painting cavaliers,” Torres says. “Years later, she was clearing inventory and offered to sell it to me at a cost I could afford -- it was too expensive for me when she originally painted it. I jumped on the chance, and the painting now hangs in my bedroom.”
If you find an artist who works in your area, he or she may meet your dog in person to get an idea of his looks and personality. Otherwise, plan on providing several photographs in different poses. A written description of your dog can help as well. Is he serious or funny? Does he have any quirks? How does he look at you when he wants something? All of these details can help the artist produce the perfect painting.
A portrait of a pet is an everlasting tribute to a friend. When an artist captures an animal’s essence, the pleasure a painting brings is immeasurable.
“I have always thought my dogs and cats were true, moving works of art,” says Janet Velenovsky. “Having a talented person make that a reality is the logical next step.”
Teach pup not to jump
Q: My 5-month-old puppy loves to jump up on me when I come in the door. It’s not too bad now, but he’s going to be pretty big when he grows up. How can I break him of this habit?
A: It’s really cute and endearing when puppies jump up on us, but you’re right: All too soon, they get big enough that the habit of jumping up on people becomes not just annoying, but sometimes downright dangerous. If you’re small or you have a toddler or a senior in your household, your dog could knock them down and hurt them.
There are a couple of ways you can deal with this behavior. One is to teach your dog to always sit when he greets people. The other is to teach him to jump up only with permission.
To accomplish the first, stay calm when you enter the house. Greeting your dog should be a routine event, not a matter for excitement. Come inside and put away your keys and coat. Wait until you are away from the front door before acknowledging your dog. If he tries to jump up, turn away, but never yell at him or try to knee him in the chest. Then ask him to sit, and reward him with praise and a treat when he complies. Your dog can learn very quickly that sitting gets him more and better attention than jumping on you.
To teach your dog to jump up only when you ask, dress for the part in clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Pat your chest and say “Up!” When you want four paws on the floor, say “Off” (not “Down”). If he tries to jump on you without an invitation, turn away and say “Off.” Make sure friends and family follow the same routine so he doesn’t get confused. -- Mikkel Becker
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com.