I truly enjoy getting to help my couples prepare for their engagement session — everything from planning outfits to picking a location makes me more and more excited to capture their love story in a way that is special and unique to them. Occasionally, my couples ask if they can bring their pup to their session, and the answer is always an enthusiastic YES! It’s no secret that I adore furry friends, so dogs are 100% welcome to join us! Our pup, Steele, is a huge part of our lives, so I know just how sweet it is to include your fur baby in such an important event as your engagement or wedding!
The last thing I want it to be, however, is an added stress for you two! So to help alleviate that possibility, I’m sharing a few tips to prep your pup and ensure that we have a successful session.
1. Bring Treats!
If you take nothing else from this post except this, it will be a HUGE help! It’s no secret that most dogs are food-motivated, so I can hold up a treat behind my camera to grab their attention. This is the best time to break out the “good” stuff — pick strong-smelling, savory treats that your pup usually doesn’t get so they are extra excited to earn it!
2. Pick a Dog-Friendly Location
First, we want to select a location that dogs are allowed because, well, if not, we will likely get kicked out! For instance, pets are not welcome above the stairs of The Lincoln Memorial, so that isn’t the best spot for your fur baby to join us. Secondly, you want to choose a spot where they can be themselves. Our dog, Steele, is AMAZING in front the camera (his mama is a photographer, after all), but he can get overwhelmed in the city where it’s busy and loud. Knowing your dog and picking a spot where they can feel relaxed and able to focus is super important!
3. Invest in a Nice Leash
You and your fiancé are going to be all dressed up for your session, so your dog should be, too! You wouldn’t want that old hot pink leash to clash with your fancy outfits, so try to find a nice complementary option at a local boutique or even PetSmart! I recommend a simple leather leash as it will go with anything! You’re welcome to bring along a cute bandana for a few shots as well.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice!
It may feel silly, but it’s always good to try to practice getting your pup’s attention for photos at home before the session so they know what to expect! Find out what noises or phrases can catch (and hold!) their attention so that I can use them during our shoot! We will do a little loose-leash walking during the session, so take a stroll around your neighborhood (with the new leash purchased in #3!) to give your dog some practice time.
5. Set Expectations.
Finally, head to the shoot without any of those Pinterest-perfect photos in mind. Dogs are dogs, which means they may not perform exactly as you would expect them to based on their behavior at home. Remember: they are in a new location, surrounded by new people, with a camera in their cute little face… it’s totally normal that they are a bit out of their element! Trust me, I will 100% believe you when you say your pup doesn’t act like that at home! Just relax and enjoy them as they are — I promise, the photos of them being quirky or licking your face will be even more special than if they were perfectly posed!
One “extra” tip that I wanted to share that is especially important for couples who are bringing their dog to the wedding day — hire a handler! Find a neighbor or distant family member who won’t be involved in as much of the day as say your mom or aunt, and ask if they wouldn’t mind looking after your sweet pup. It will take the stress off of you two to know they are in good hands. This is also something to consider for your engagement session if you’re bringing more than one or have a strong or rambunctious dog. You’re welcome to bring a friend or family member along to help wrangle and to bring them home after the first part of your shoot!
I hope these tips have been helpful for you! I cannot wait to meet your pup!