Looking for a unique Christmas present for the animal lover, or perhaps an avant-garde addition to your art collection? Valerie Risk and her doggos Orca and Timber are ready to oblige.
Risk has been teaching the two canines to paint, and has sold their paintings over the internet, with the proceeds going toward a fund for dog bones, treats and toys.
The Lively woman got the idea from dog training classes with the Sudbury and District Kennel Club. The final class in the course involved trying to get your dog to paint.
Risk started out with her one-year-old Shepherd-Lab mix, Timber, and has since moved onto her two-year-old Labrador-Rottweiler mix, Orca. She also has a third dog, a seven-year-old Great Dane named Dixie.
She said it took a couple of weeks to train her dogs to paint.
First she gets the dog to touch the canvas with their nose, rewarding them with a treat and clicking a clicker. She repeated the process, gradually moving the dog further away from the canvas.
“And then, once (Timber) had all that figured out and was good at that, you introduce the paintbrush,” Risk said.
“I just got him to nose-touch the paintbrush on the ground for now, and once you’re good at that, I had him mouth it and pick it up, and click and treat that.
“I didn’t introduce the paint until he was good at bringing the paintbrush up to the board. A couple weeks after that, I had introduced the paint.”
Risk said she’s not sure if Timber is enjoying painting so much lately, because he’s kind of ignoring the paintbrush. “I think my lab-rottie mix (Orca) likes it more right now,” she said. “She knows she’s getting some treats out of it.”
She describes the style of dog paintings as abstract. “I had Timber paint me one that looked like a dog,” she said. “It was really cool that it actually came out as a shape of a dog. Sometimes he’ll paint like hearts. They’re all different.”
Although a messy hobby, teaching her dogs to paint has been a lot of fun. “I have to put garbage bags down, and my floor is still covered in paint,” Risk said.
She has sold about 10 paintings at $15 each through Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace ads. People “think it’s so cool,” Risk said.
If you’re interested in purchasing one of Timber or Orca’s paintings and contributing to their treat fund, you can send Risk a private message on her personal Facebook page or on the Facebook page for her business, Lively Area Pet-Sitting and Dog Walking.