What Makes a Great Dog Selfie?

selfie with dog

There’s nothing a proud dog parent likes better than to post images of and with their dog. The dog selfie is not a new phenomenon, nor was it born with the advent of reversible cameras and social media platforms on which to share them. Regardless of medium — whether the image is committed to stone, carved from marble, executed in paint upon canvas or taken with a mobile phone — no sooner is a new art form developed, than artists of all skill levels find ways to work their dogs into the picture.

A quick peek into the annals of art history shows this to be the case. The 18th-century English painter and engraver William Hogarth, for example, owned a series of Pugs throughout his life. One of his best-known self-portraits gives a Pug named Trump pride of place. Likewise, the 20th-century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, whose self-portraits rank among her finest and most memorable works, also painted herself with a favorite dog. The 1938 painting, Itzcuintli Dog With Me, portrays Kahlo seated with her beloved Xoloitzcuintli, Mr Xoloti.


Dogs taking selfies

What constitutes a great dog selfie? Let’s start with a few photos where the angle of the image and the position of the dog gives the illusion that a dog wants to take a selfie! Check out this happy little fellow, having a leisurely nap amidst the clover! How intently he stares at the tiny flower, reveling in the first signs of Spring!


Prior to the availability of accessories like the selfie stick, photographing oneself often meant that one’s arms and shoulders necessarily made for bulky intrusions in the foreground. The need to twist your limbs to get yourself or your dog into the frame could make for an awkward image. In this dog selfie, our four-legged friend mimics not only the bipedal stature of their owner, but also the fore-leg contortions required to show itself off!


No matter what your preferred social media platform is — be it Instagram, Facebook or Twitter — we’ve all seen our friends and coworkers post the “It’s so hard getting out of bed” style of selfie. This adorable Yellow Lab seems like a clever dog for being able to express the all-too-human look of exasperation and world-weariness universally associated with Monday mornings. Welcome to the working week, buddy!


Even the most callous and high-minded art critic has to admit that they receive, chuckle at and hit the “like” button when they see pictures of their friends making silly faces. A truly funny dog selfie conveys the serendipity of getting the perfect shot at just the right moment. When it looks like a text you might get during your lunch hour from a happy-go-lucky pal, it’s even more precious!


Dogs taking selfies with their friends!

Our next few dog images remind us of the great times and hilarious misadventures we share with our friends and family. It’s amusing enough when it looks like a dog took a selfie of their own volition. What happens when dogs bring their puppy pals in to share the fun? Meet Molly and Taffee, whose photo together reminds me — for better and worse — of most of the photos I took in college! Ah, memories of my misspent youth; the word “selfie” didn’t even exist in those days!


Here’s another one where the dogs in the selfie are almost anthropomorphized through their positions and expressions. Go ahead! I dare you to tell me you haven’t taken photos exactly like this with your own friends during a pleasant weekend adventure!


Here’s an unlikely duo! The historical animus between dogs and cats is well known. It is the very rare dog selfie that features the two side by side, and each hamming it up for the camera! Another pet truism is that when the sun comes out, so do the tongues!


One of the best composed of our dog selfies, this one is particularly good because of the consistency of its color scheme. Shades of blue dominate the background, framed by a series of brown tones, including those on the selfie-taking Jack Russell Terrier‘s head. The neutral whites of the two dogs’ coats stand out more against the blue and brown, and lend a harmony to the whole scene. It’s interrupted only by the bright orange quilt which forces our eyes to meet with those of the canine photographer.


Selfies with dogs

We started our survey of dog selfies with a discussion of how artists portray themselves with their own pets. We now return to that theme, because as hilarious as it is to think of dogs taking their own self-portraits, what we really love to share are photos of us with our dogs. What makes a great entry in the “selfie with dog” genre? Is it the triumph of managing to get the shot when both you and your dog are in the ideal configuration against a gorgeous landscape?


Or is it a sense of spontaneity? Sometimes the stars align, and you end up capturing the moment that your dog surprises you just as you hit the button on your phone. Candid dog selfies like this one can sum up your life together and all of the adventures you shared. In later years, these stolen moments are powerful reminders, simultaneously evoking the sorrow of loss as well as small moments of forgotten joy.


This one may be my favorite of all. The contrast between the human owner’s placid, contented visage and the seeming rage on her Samoyed‘s face couldn’t be more perfect.


Just like the rest of you, I’m forever trying to take that one picture with my own dog. It’s a goal that’s proved elusive so far with Baby because she’s basically a ball of limitless energy. Every time I try to take a photo of us together, she inevitably hears a twig snap or catches the scent of a nearby squirrel. The resulting images usually find her looking away from the camera or feature a blurry dog head. After 20 or so of these failures, I usually give up. Once in a blue moon, though, everything comes together.

selfie with dog
Baby gives me an unexpected ear lick! (Photo by Melvin Peña)

Share your best dog selfies!

The inevitable cultural backlash to anything that brings anybody any joy whatsoever has long since reached the selfie. Scholars of art and art history have been voluminous in their tongue-clucking and finger-wagging, going to great lengths to make distinctions between self-portraiture as high art and the selfie as low art. This distinction is largely academic, and therefore meaningless, as is the very notion of “guilty pleasures.”

Whether you’re the toast of the art world or a clock-punching manual laborer, the advent of digital photography and reversible smartphone cameras makes creating and sharing images of yourself and your beloved pets easier than ever. What makes a dog selfie great is ultimately the joy it brings you, and the delight of sharing it with your friends and family. There must be more true gems out there; share your best dog selfies in the comments below!

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