Six Tips for Including Your Dog in Your Engagement Session

Updated April 25, 2024

We LOVE dogs. We’ve photographed a lot of engagement sessions all over Charleston WV and beyond, but the ones where people include dogs are always some of our favorites. Most of the time we find that couples are even more excited about the photos with their furry friends than they are about the photos with their person! We get it.

In our years as portrait photographers we’ve had a lot of sweet pups in front of our cameras. Big dogs, little dogs, hyper dogs, lazy dogs; we’ve worked with ’em all! And we’ve learned a lot about working with our canine friends along the way! 

When clients who book an engagement session with us, we send along a guide to help prepare for the shoot. A whole section of that guide is devoted entirely to including your dog(s) in the engagement session. We think everyone could benefit from what we’ve learned from all these years of doing photo sessions with dogs! So we’ve put together this article with six tips for getting the best engagement session photos with your dog!

Couple sits with each other on a dock while their two dogs lay in front.
tips for including dogs in your engagement shoot
Emmy and James strolling through their snowy neighborhood with their Bernese Mountain Dog Otis during their engagement session.

Don’t Leave Home Without These Things!

Here’s a little checklist to help you get off to a good start when you bring your dog along for your engagement session:

  • A leash
  • Poop bags
  • Treats
  • A toy or two (squeaky/ball/etc)
  • Realistic expectations (good in all other aspects of life too)

And now for our tips!

Wait, is that a dog driving the boat?
Sweet golden doodle cuddles with moma nd dad durin gtheir engagement shoot.

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.

Sweet doggo goes for a walk.

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!

tips for including dogs in your engagement shoot

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.

tips for including dogs in your engagement shoot

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!

tips for including dogs in your engagement shoot

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!

tips for including dogs in your engagement shoot

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!

Cute Boston Terriers making faces while their parents give them scritches.
tips for including dogs in your engagement shoot
tips for including dogs in your engagement shoot
tips for including dogs in your engagement shoot
tips for including dogs in your engagement shoot
tips for including dogs in your engagement shoot

The only thing we love more than photographing you with your doggies at an engagement session is photographing them at your wedding! Check out our wedding page for more info on what we offer.

If you want us to take photos of you and your floofy buds, then give us a shout!

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  1. This has me itching for a dog included family photo shoot up on the mountain! (Where paula lives) great tips!!

  2. Great pictures. I love the color and contrast, your composition is very nice. You gave me some good ideas. Thank you so much. Keep up the good work!

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