How to include your dog(s) in your engagement photo session

Are you thinking about including your dog(s) in your engagement photos? AWESOME. Engagement sessions are so much more fun when pups are involved! If you and your husband/wife-to-be are obsessed with your furbaby, it’s definitely a great idea to bring them along for the photos too. As you can probably guess, trying to get pictures with a dog (or dogs) can create some unique challenges.  Read on to find my top 9 favorite tips for making your dog-friendly engagement session run smoothly!

1. Discuss with your photographer

While I personally love dogs, and am happy to include them in your engagement photos, I know that might not be the case with every photographer. It’s a good idea to discuss the plan before arriving with your unexpected four-legged family member just so everyone knows the plan ahead of time.

The first thing I always do during any session with dogs is I spend the first 5-10 minutes just getting to know the them and their personality. I literally sit on the grass with them, talk to them, rub their bellies, and let them sniff my camera gear and bags so that it all becomes familiar to them. This way, when we start shooting, they feel a little more comfortable.

2. Bring someone along to help

Let’s be honest, dogs have a mind of their own especially in a new environment. So, if you want to include them in your engagement session or wedding, you’ll want to have an extra set of hands around whose sole job is to babysit the dog! After all, you will want SOME photos of just the two of you! Have a friend or family member tag along to offer distractions, treats, toy squeaks etc. Your friend or family member can also help us transition effortlessly between having the dogs in and out of photos. When they are not in photos they can take your dog on short walks to get some of their sillies out and keep them entertained during the in between moments with just the two of you.

3. Pick a Dog friendly location

After you’ve discussed with your photographer about wanting to bring your pup/s along, you can all decide on an ideal location. While most public spaces are dog-friendly, popular locations can be busy and distracting for your them. I suggest that you begin at a quieter place so they can focus. Choosing a location the dog is familiar with can also be helpful.

4. Plan to include your pup for only part of your session

Dogs are a lot like kids – they’ve got a pretty limited attention span! Initially, they’ll be curious and fairly cooperative, but they won’t stay interested in becoming a cover model for long. Thats why I recommend bringing a friend or family member along to help. I usually recommend that your helper take your dog for a short walk to get their new-place curiosity satisfied while we warm up, and then circle back. Once we have some great images with all of you together, your helper can bring them home while we finish our session!

5. Bring treats or toys

If I’ve learned one thing about dogs and photographs it’s that there’s one magic word… “Treat!” I think a little bribery goes a long way with fur pup and trust me, it’s worth it to have them on their best behavior for your pictures! Iusually will ask couple to hold on to the treats, so that you can reward them for good behavior while I use a squeaky toy or one of your pups favorite toy to get them to look in the direction of the camera. So be sure to bring along your pup’s favorite treat and toy so that we can help keep their attention where we want it. Also, it helps to bring along some water in case your pup gets thirsty as well.

6. Doggie bags

This one can be easy to forget when you’re planning for a beautiful engagement session and since not all locations have a pet waste station it’s always better to be safe then sorry incase your pup has to go!

7. Dog leash

Even the most well-behaved dog could run off at any moment. It’s totally a dog’s nature to chase things – and since parks and outdoor settings are going to likely have squirrels, birds, and rabbits – it is vital to keep your pup leashed! That doesn’t mean that the leash has to be IN the photos. We are totally able to take it off during the actual photo along as you are nearby and can make sure they say safe and close.

And since theres a good chance It will be in some of the photos, you may just want to plan ahead with which one you bring. Black or brown leashes and collars tend to be a great choice because they don’t draw attention in the photographs. In general, you want the focus of your photos to be on you and your pups, not their brightly colored leash/collar. It’s basically the outfit your dog wears in the photos, so you may want to coordinate in advance.

8. Bring props or costumes

I also love it when couples make it special for their pet by bringing bow ties or flowers to slide onto the dog’s collar! It’s the perfect little touch that says it all!

9. Go for a walk before the session

Let out some of that pent-up energy in your pup by giving them a bit of exercise before the session. Throw around a ball with them in your backyard or give them some kind of puzzle treat to work their brains and make them a little tired. After they’ve let out that first burst of energy, they’ll be more ready for their close up!

Bonus

The trick, of course, is to make sure that you and your future spouse remain in the moment and focused on each other. At the end of the day, you and your relationship are the centerpieces of the photos. Your dog is there to add context and spark to the scene; you are the stars. If you are preoccupied with trying to make them a part of the pictures, that becomes the story.