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Internationally-renowned, award-winning animal photographer Illona Haus is the province's premier pet photographer, serving clients across Ontario, the US and the world. Photographing exclusively animals, both commercially and for private clients, since 2007, scruffy dog photography inc. -- based in Kitchener, Ontario -- is considered one of the world's leading and most influential pet photographers.


To learn more about the scruffy dog experience, its creator and history, as well as how YOUR scruffy can become a part of the SDP family, feel free to browse through the menu above, and scroll through a decade's worth of blog entries below!


Please drop us a line! We'd love the opportunity to capture stunning, creative, one-of-a-kind photographic memories of your 4-legged loved ones to treasure in artwork for a lifetime, and show you just what makes the scruffy dog experience second to none.

diesel and jake

meet diesel and jake …


… reddog sidekicks of trainer Diane Holmes of  Holmes on Hounds.   That’s Diesel girl on the left whispering sweet nothings into younger brother Jake’s ear.






the thing about Diesel and Jake is that they know how to have fun … especially with Jake as the instigator …



Diane is a Certified Educator Trainer, taking her classes to the streets of Toronto and teaching people how to manage their dogs in the real world — Street Safety Training — something i’ve always been a huge advocate of, seven years ago starting up my own training-in-the-park group that met weekly to expose our dogs to various challenges and obstacles outside of a controlled (and often boring for the dog) training facility.  anyone with a challenging dog or seeking an avenue to deepen their bond with their dog should definitely try out this kind of group class.


so, inkeeping with Diane’s approach we thoroughly enjoyed the park on one of the last warm days of November.


if Diesel is the sweetheart …


… Jake is the goofball of the family …


and a consummate athlete.


although Diesel-girl had a few moves of her own …



fortunately these guys also knew how to chill out.



and check out Jake’s form … he actually lies like this.  part cat, perhaps?  🙂





then back home for a few indoor shots … don’t take Jake’s expression as any kind of statement on his part.  he enjoyed the attention.


and Diesel was simply gorgeous no matter what the light …


i loved Jake’s twisty feet …


… and Diesel’s eyes …


thanks, Diesel and Jake, and thanks, Diane, for a wonderful afternoon.  see you soon at your add-on shoot!


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  • dianeIllona is right – the second set of shots are spectacular. It truly is a testament to the quality of Illona’s work. I was thrilled with the first set, the second set are STUNNING – now I have to CHOOSE!! Thanks for making it a difficult task! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Lizand by post these on FB, I meant a link to your blog 🙂ReplyCancel

  • LizI saw Diane post these on Facebook after the shoot and she was so thrilled!ReplyCancel

  • illonathanks again, everyone, for your visits and comments. i’ll admit that i honestly wasn’t pleased with this shoot … the light was harsh, the park was crowded … nowhere near the kinds of shots i’d hoped for.

    mind you, after doing lots of processing, i think it turned out better than i’d originally thought, but still, i’m all about “getting the best”, not just “good enough” … i live by high standards. SO, in spite of Diane’s excitement over these images, i had her come out to scruffy dog territory a week later for a make-up shoot … and THOSE images rock. i’ll post them very soon.

    of course, this leaves Diane with an incredibly difficult task of choosing from TWO full galleries of images. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • dianemarci – they’re both rescues (unrelated to each other) and we were told they were each some kind of hound mix. But I see RR in them as well! Well, mostly just around the head – they have long bodies and short legs! They have so much fun together – we couldn’t have found 2 dogs who are better matched.ReplyCancel

  • MarciLoved this! Are they RR mixes? Looks like they have a wonderful life together. Gorgeous photos.ReplyCancel

  • JeanAbsolutely spectacular session of these two who are so full of character.

    Hey I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who wears a leash instead of holding on with hands. The freedom to have two free hands is amazing and so is the control. When I see people who can barely hang on to their lunging, snarling dogs it freaks me out.ReplyCancel

  • Lesley SullivanSuper cool pics! I wish you were closer to my neck of the woods. Dogs are not easy o photograph coz they move so quick. Keep the great work up! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • illonathanks, guys. glad you like ’em, diane. see you tomorrow!

    nick, ALL my sessions are long. i’ve yet to have a single session under three hours. well, one not-so-cooperative cat had me leaving after two hours … but dogs, no way.ReplyCancel

  • nickWhoa looks like it was a long session 😀 Awesome job with those two indeed/ReplyCancel

  • dianeI’m so thrilled with Illona’s work, and these shots are beautiful! I can’t wait to see them up on my walls! Illona – I loved your passion, your commitment to quality and attention to detail. Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

  • MargaretGorgeous red dogs!!! and lovely, lovely pictures of them, Illona!!!ReplyCancel

she had me at ‘woof’

i totally and completely fell in love with a dog today.  don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of dogs who touch me … client dogs … whom i enjoy every moment with, and a small part of me wishes i could take them home.

but today’s client has them all beat. when this girl flew out the front door to greet me, i think i actually gasped.  and i’m pretty sure Karen,  her owner, lost count of the number of times i told sweet Kiera she was the most gorgeous dog on the planet.  totally my kinda dog … stunningly scruffy, joyful and buoyant, free-spirited, and pretty darn smart.

i’ll have more photos to share soon, but thought i’d share at least one for now …kiera-408

if you crossed my departed murph with my serious girl matea, i imagine Kiera is pretty close to what you’d get.  a lovely, spirited girl whose photos i can’t wait to work on.

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the single best book you could buy for your dog’s health

i’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but wanted to get through my second reading of Marty Goldstein’s book.  i read it originally seven years ago … after losing my 4-yr-old murph to vaccine-induced lymphoma.  leaving me far too early, his legacy is scruffy dog photography.  you can read more about murph — the original scruffy dog — on the main website.

but after losing him, then adopting my girl matea from a shelter and watching her fall apart from her vaccines, i found Dr. Marty’s book.  what i remember most from that initial reading so long ago was my deep, almost overwhelming sadness and regret that i hadn’t equipped myself with this knowledge much, much earlier.  it no doubt would have saved my boy’s life.


with a recent and disheartening diagnosis for matea, and with morley growing older — now blind in one eye, losing his hearing and sometimes, it seems, his lucidity — i turned once again to Dr. Marty’s book. from page one i am touched by the truths, by the sanity of taking natural approaches.  Dr. Marty’s writing is both eloquent and steeped in a lifetime of experience, with many encouraging anecdotes of miraculous recoveries.

on this second reading it seemed that so much more made sense. whereas seven years ago a lot of information washed over me along with the waves of guilt and grief, today Dr. Marty’s words make such profound sense … especially after spending the past seven years feeding raw, taking natural approaches, and being a strong and loud advocate for my dogs’ health.  whereas before i might not have understood some of his writings and approaches, today it stands as such a naked truth, sane and practical, not voodoo … and makes me wonder how i could ever have seen the world differently.

on my own journey i have sought out chiropractic and acupuncture for my dogs, never even considering NSAIDs or any kind of pain killers … i use TCM (traditional Chinese medicines), herbs and plant extracts, homeopathy and numerous supplements as needed … always conscious of my dogs’ different requirements as they age.  it felt like coming full circle reading Dr. Marty’s book again.  his book had started me on the path, but the journey was my own … and now his words resonate, affirming that i have, indeed, been on the right path.

still … there are a couple of areas where i don’t fully agree with Dr. Marty’s approach.  the book was written in 1999, and — quite honestly — i would hope that by now he has abandoned his former practice of feeding mostly cooked and such high amounts of grains.  in this publication, although he writes: “It’s true that raw meats do accord with pets’ natural diets and supply, among other nutrients, the amino acid taurine, found only in flesh-based protein” Dr. Marty admits to preferring cooked for his dogs, claiming: “My hesitation [with raw] is that i don’t trust the meat.  The E.coli outbreak that led to a huge federal recall of frozen hamburger patties in 1997, the widespread incidences before that of salmonella in chicken — these were, I feel, only the latest indications that our meat is unsafe.”

yes! meat not handled properly isn’t safe — for us or for our dogs.  this is why a lot of die-hard raw feeders get their meat from trusted sources, not from some grocery store … and ‘hamburger’?  please.  the raw feeders i know feed better than this.  not to mention that salmonella and other bacterias are rarely an issue given the typical dog’s digestive system and its ability to handle just about any kind of rotting carcass or poop.  unless your dog has a faltering immunity or other severe health issues, this concern over salmonella and other bacteria is rather radical on Dr. Marty’s part.

so … although i recommend this book and wish every committed dog owner had a copy, i have to add my own disclaimer — several of them, in fact — on the chapter It All Starts with Food.  at the time of publication, Dr. Marty advocates a cooked diet … not only is cooked not as healthy for your dog as a properly researched and managed raw diet — as Dr. Marty basically admits in his writing — but his ‘recipes’ and approach are more complicated than it has to be.  excessive supplements to compensate for what is lost in the cooking and more effort into cooking the dogs’ meals than my own, no thanks.  not when the end result is inferior to a properly handled raw diet.

my strongest disclaimer — or rather word of warning — comes in response to Dr. Marty’s practice of feeding cooked bones.  from everything i have learned over the years and come to understand, cooking changes the make-up of the bone itself, altering its digestibility severely.  the enzymes in your dog’s gut can handle most raw bones … the acid breaks them down quickly and efficiently as they were meant to be … but not cooked bones.  so although there is no other book i would recommend with more vigor and enthusiasm than this one, i worry strongly about Dr. Marty’s suggestion that people feed cooked bones.

but feeding aside, this book is a must.  the truth about vaccines is laid bare.  here are a few excerpts …

“That the old vaccines are given more often than they once were might suggest they don’t work as well as they used to.  Not true. Two of them, indeed, have worked well enough that they need not be given to every pet.  What’s disquieting is that they are.  Infectious canine hepatitus doesn’t exist anymore, so why bother to vaccinate for it?  I’ve seen one case of distemper in fourteen years – a dog from Puerto Rico – and frankly feel that the distemper vaccine is no longer necessary for adult dogs.  Even though leptospirosis has reappeared after a long absence, the bacterin used to combat it is ineffective for protection, and has been associated with more adverse allergic reactions than any other ingredient of the typical DHL combo.  The rabies vaccine remains crucial in areas where rabid animals have been reported, but does it really require a booster every year of a pet’s life, or even every three years, as some states require?

As for the new vaccines, they have a mixed record at best.  The parvo vaccine appears to have succeeded in containing outbreaks, though the disease, like polio, may have self-limited.  In any event, parvo remains a serious canine threat, which is to also to say that the vaccine doesn’t always work.  (It has side effects, too, but we’ll get into those later.)  Kennel cough vaccines offer so little immunity as to be virtually worthless …  The coronavirus vaccine is generally ineffective, and unnecessary in any event – coronavirus, akin to kennel cough, is a mild condition best addressed with proper diet.  Even less necessary is the Lyme vaccine, since most dogs in Lyme-infested areas acquire Lyme antibodies without ever exhibiting symptoms of getting the full-blown disease.

Why, then, are all these vaccines being given? And why so often?

By no coincidence, over those same twenty-five years, the manufacturing of animal vaccines has become a multibillion-dollar industry for drug companies like Pfizer, Intervet, Peska, Ford Dodge, and Solvay. Initially, those companies may have responded to health epidemics in an admirable fashion. Over time, they’ve evolved as any business does, pushing all the products they can, vying for market share, and creating new markets, sometimes by creating a market for vaccines to fight mild diseases better addressed with treatment. And veterinarians, well intentioned as they may be, have shared in the profits.  ‘It’s the vets’ fault, really,’ says Jean Dodds, the veterinarian whose research on vaccines I admire so much. ‘We stopped practicing medicine and started pushing vaccines and pills.’  Vaccines, after all, could be ‘retailed’ at sizable markups, with an extra twenty-five-dollar or more profit from the inevitable office fee.  Eventually, they came to account for a major chunk of any veterinarian’s income.”

he goes on to say: “Few if any vaccines lose their efficacy – such as it is – in just a year or two, as proved by various studies. At the least, then administering annual boosters is redundant and unnecessary. But redundancy isn’t the only criterion. Giving too many vaccines makes pets sick.” and: “With distemper, for example, the incidence of disease from vaccine is higher than from the disease itself.”

and here’s something to really make you stop and think!

“My doubts about vaccines begin with the way they’re delivered to the body.  Injecting a concentrated foreign substance into the blood-stream is not only a shock to the system — it’s unnatural.  With the exception of rabies and Lyme, none of the diseases addressed by that standard regimen of vaccines enter the body directly by injection.  Distemper, parvovirus, viral hepatitis, leptospirosis, coronavirus, parainfluenza — all are absorbed via the oral and/or respiratory systems, where they encounter the immune system’s first lines of defense: the skin itself, saliva and mucus membranes in the mouth and throat, powerful stomach acids, and enzymes and bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.  Obviously, diseases sometimes break through those defenses; still, the rest of the immune system is warned that a viral threat is coming, and given time to rally its white blood cells and antibiotics. Where is there a dog or cat in nature who’s exposed to seven or eight diseases at the same time by injection?  Yet we subject a pet to exactly that shock with injected, polyvalent vaccines.  The immune system isn’t designed to withstand that onslaught.  Hit with repeated injections, especially combinations, it can lose its strength.”

seriously, think about that.

i hope these few excerpts have convinced you that this is a book that needs to be on your shelf … marked up, highlighted, and — of course — well dog-earred.  honestly, i don’t push things on people … i’m slow to sing praises and reserve my song for only the very best.  THIS is one of those ‘best’ … and must if you care for your dog.

check it out on Amazon.  seriously. i promise it’ll be the best $16 you’ve spent lately.

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  • has become a favorite sunday point for meReplyCancel

  • ColleenThanks for this! Vaccinations are a concern that I talk to my vet often about…it will be nice to get some unbiased information.

    Can you recommend some good reading on feeding raw? There is so much conflicting info out there, it’s hard to know where to start.ReplyCancel

  • dianeThis is an amazing book and am so glad you posted about it. I read it earlier this year and it was a big part of my decision to switch my dogs to raw. I too had a dog that passed from arthritis and paralysis, and wish that I knew then what I know now.

    Good luck with Matea – I hope that some of Dr. Marty’s advice can make a difference!ReplyCancel

  • LindaThanks so much for this information! I will buy this book today!ReplyCancel

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