Are you considering having a photoshoot with your dog?
It should surprise no one that I am a big fan of dogs and I am always excited when one of my couples or families wants to include their pups in a photo session.
I was looking at my own Instagram the other day and realized that the majority of my favorite sessions in the past year have been the ones where there was a dog included in the photos.
OK, maybe I don’t need to answer this question, but just in case…
If your dog is going to stress you out more than calm you down, you might want to leave them at home. Some dogs get very anxious around new people or haven’t quite learned how to behave — and I totally get that. My dog, Martha, has a pretty intense anxiety disorder and we know that if we’re going somewhere there might be loud noises or anything that could overwhelm her, it’s probably a better idea to let her stay at home.
But I do believe that more often than not, with preparation you can set your dog up for success in front of the camera.
If you know you have a photoshoot with your dog coming up, consider hiring a trainer for a one-hour session. Our wonderful trainer Josh of Mindful Training worked with us in advance of our wedding to teach Martha how to calmly walk down the aisle and then stay seated for our entire ceremony. He was so helpful that Martha actually fell asleep in the middle of our vows!
Some helpful commands for your dog to be familiar with on the day of the session:
Checking out the location of your session in advance gives you a better idea of what you’ll be working with. Is it relatively closed off? Close to a highway? Will there be lots of distractions present, like squirrels? Do you see anything that could trigger your pup?
All of that helps you form a game plan and mentally prepare.
If you take your dog with you, it will help them become familiar with the new setting. That way, when you return for the session they will be less anxious about being in an unfamiliar place. If you give them lots of treats while you’re there, they will also associate it with it as a good place.
If your dog is really anxious like mine, it might be better to take the photos at a location they are already familiar with—like your house. They will be most at ease in front of the camera if they’re in a place where they feel safe. In-home sessions are also just really cute and the ultimate way to add a personal touch to your photo session.
If your dog gets territorial over strangers in the house, I recommend you walk them right before your photographer arrives. That way, the photographer is already there when they get home from the walk. (For whatever reason, our dog never barks at strangers if they were already in the house when she got home, rather than if they knock on the door while she’s there.)
If you’re a dog owner, then you already know that it doesn’t take long for your dog to find some dirt to roll around in! I would never recommend forcing your dog to stay inside and away from fun for days, just because they have a photo session coming up. Instead, try to book your grooming session close to your photo session. Or, be chill about your dog not looking perfect in the photos — I promise most people won’t notice. 🙂
This is a BIG one! No matter whether your dog is a young pup or a timid senior, exercise always helps improve their behavior before a session. For more hyper dogs, trainers typically suggest they have a lot of play time before a training session because it helps them focus. It works just as effectively as prep for a photo shoot.
If your dog is anxious, exercise stimulates the production of serotonin, which can improve their mood. Burning off energy also gets rid of pent-up energy and tension.
If your dog is like mine, leaving the house or meeting a stranger could be a pretty stressful situation for them. I suggest a photoshoot with your dog the same way you would any other major event that may cause them anxiety, like an evening of fireworks or being kenneled.
CBD has become a popular treatment for situational anxiety in dogs. We buy our CBD for Martha from Tomlinsons, but there are plenty of options out there — just make sure to do your research and check with your vet before you give your pup anything new. I’d also recommend trying it before the photo session.
Some dogs feel more secure in sweaters or thunder jackets. Thankfully, there are lots of cute options out there that could actually enhance the whole aesthetic of your session.
Even the wildest dog will sit for a treat — I promise you! Bringing treats and toys to your photoshoot with your dog is the best way you can help your photographer get the best shots of your dog.
Additionally, don’t forget to bring water, a water bowl, waste bags, and a brush for grooming.
Your photographer is probably fine holding/waving treats at the same time as taking pictures, but it is honestly so much easier for everyone involved to have a second pair of hands to assist.
For longer sessions, your dog will need a break or eventually be done for the day. This is a good opportunity to get photos of just the humans involved. When it happens, you’ll want to have someone who is comfortable with handling your dog to keep them occupied while you wrap up your photo session.
This will make all the difference. If you hire a photographer who hates dogs or who has no patience for misbehaving pups, there will be tension during the session and that tension will be evident in the final product.
Instead, invest in a photographer who will love on your pup and make everyone feel comfortable — even when your dog decides that they need to race up a tree to meet a squirrel.