We may not be dog owners ourselves, but we’ve shot dozens portrait shoots with all kinds of dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, hyper dogs, lazy dogs – we’ve worked with ’em all!
The first thing we do after a couple books us for their wedding is send along an engagement session information guide. A whole section of that guide is devoted entirely to including your dog(s) in the engagement shoot. But we think everyone could benefit from what we’ve learned these last 6 years of doing shoots with dogs!
Checklist time! Don’t leave home without:
- a leash
- poop bags
- a toy or two (squeaky/ball/etc)
- realistic expectations
And now for our tips!
1. Tucker them out beforehand
If your dog tends to be bounding with energy, it’s a great idea to make sure they’ve had plenty of time to run and get exhausted before we meet for the shoot. Sometimes we work with older dogs or dogs with a more relaxed disposition, so in that case, be careful not to wear them out TOO much! You know your dog best, so plan in advance for his or her energy level.
2. Plan for half of the shoot
Plan to include them in half of the shoot (at the most). Which half is dependent on logistics / locations. Sometimes it works best to start closer to home and shoot in a more casual outfit with your canine friend, then you can change, leave them home to conk out, and we can switch locations for the last half of the shoot. Other times it works best to do the first half of your engagement shoot elsewhere and have someone bring your dog to meet us for the 2nd half. We can help you iron out the details, but ultimately it works best to only worry about including your dog for half of our time together. Otherwise we spend a lot of time tethering the dog to trees/parking meters, which gets old after awhile!
3. Keep your dog’s personality in mind
If your dog is skittish around strangers and more of a homebody, then it’s not a good idea to try to take them into a busy city scenario for your portraits. We don’t want to stress them out! Consider the circumstances in which your dog is on his/her best behavior.
4. Seriously, don’t forget the poop bags
Do you know what happens at almost every shoot with dogs? They poop. If you forget to bring their doodie bags, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ll do their business for all the world to see. And it will be the largest, nastiest turd they’ve ever pooped. And then you’ll be embarrassed and probably have some guilt, and both of these feelings are things we want to avoid during an engagement session!
5. Treats and toys
Both toys and treats are a great way for us to get the attention of your pups, especially when there’s more than one dog. A squeaky toy can be super effective. And if you have any other toys that your dog loves (a ball, frisbee, etc), definitely bring those along too!
6. Have patience
We like to take a minute or two when we first meet your dog and let him sniff us and get to know us. Sometimes dogs (typically rescue dogs that have a history of abuse) can be a little offput by the sound of our shutter firing off. Don’t worry if we spend a little time bonding with your dog at first- once they seem calm and ready to go, we can get some great photos of them in no time. And most people end up loving the more candid, in-between photos featuring their dogs anyway – so just go with the flow, we promise we’ll get great photos!
We think that covers it for now – if we think of any more we will update this post with additional tips.