Studio photographs of dogs from the second half of the 19th century are abundant. Thus it was inevitable that someone would satirize the process of getting a good image of an unwilling canine subject.
There are a number of interesting things about this little trade card from the 1870s. First, photography of dogs is a “specialty” of this studio! The camera is a typical expanding camera of the 1870s with a large portrait lens and the drape for the photographer. Terrified, he has jumped out of the large window that provides light for the studio and is watching his subject, a very muscular bulldog with a docked tail and cropped ears who has taken a position on top of the camera and looks very pleased with himself. I wonder where the owner is?
This fellow may be a fighting dog who has been brought in for a portrait. If he has won a prize (since competitive dog shows were just beginning to appear in the U.S. in the mid-1870s), it would for prowess in the ring. Although dog fighting was a controversial, stigmatized, and increasingly illegal activity at this time, it was a common betting sport.
However, bulldogs or bull terriers of several sizes and shapes were popular watch dogs because of their reputation for aggression. At a time when police protection was uneven, they were a common means of security for private households. Bulldogs and bull terriers do show up in photo portraits as pets, often as the companions of men. Here is a carte-de-visite of an unidentified man and his bull terrier- type dog from the early 1860s. I don’t think this dog threatened the photographer; the man looks scarier than the dog!