6 secrets to success for bringing your dog to your engagement photo session | helpful hints series

If you're engaged, and your family-of-two is actually a family-of-three with your furry, four-legged friend, it's natural to want to include them in your engagement session! Incorporating your dog into your engagement session is awesome, and when my clients ask if it's okay to do, my answer is a resounding "yes!"

That said, preparing for a successful engagement session with your pup is a little bit more complex than leaving them at home. So if you're looking at bringing Roxy or Pumpkin or Shadow or Fido to your engagement session, here are my 6 time-tested secrets to it being a successful experience for everyone involved, from couple, to pup, to photographer!

dog engagement photos

1. Bring a friend to play pup-wrangler

Having a friend along to help manage your pup is my number one suggestion for a successful session.  When my couples include their dog, I make a point to include Fido for half the session -- usually the second half. By having a friend play pup-wrangler, they can take Fido for a walk during the half the session we're not including them in, and during the half we are working with the pup, they're super helpful to have on standby behind-the-scenes with a leash, treats, etc. It makes everything in the session far less stressful, making for much more relaxed, happy photos! 

dog engagement photos

2. Get your pup a lot of pre-shoot exercise

Want a relatively docile, well-behaved Fido or Fifi during the shoot? I cannot say this enough -- exercise, exercise, exercise! A LOOONNNNG walk or trip to the dog park a few hours ahead of time will go such a long way in your pup being manageable and cooperative during the shoot.

3. Bribery is a must - bring treats!

Whether it's your go-to dog snack, bits of cheese, or even just plain kibble, please, PLEASE bring treats! There is a time and a place for bribing and rewarding your pup for good behavior, and this is it!! The #1 best way for me to get Fido or Fifi to look at the camera is to have a treat in my hand. 

bringing my dog engagement shoot

4. Uh-oh! Expect the unexpected

Dirty puppy paws on a white dress or shirt, nails scratching through fancy clothes, and pups so excited by the new experience, they just have to jump. It happens! Take some time before the session to think through what uh-ohs could come up based on your dog's personality, and either make peace with them (a little snag in your clothes) or prepare (by packing an extra outfit and/or a Tide pen).

5. Stay positive and be prepared to laugh!

You've probably noticed your dog tends to pick up on your energy. Packing a suitcase? Your pup knows something is happening! If you’re nervous or agitated, they notice that too, and translate it into their own behavior! So if your dog isn’t behaving well during the shoot or things aren’t going as planned, remember to take a deep breath and stay positive! Dogs look to you for guidance and if you’re smiling and taking everything with a positive attitude, Fido will too!

6. Choose a pup-friendly venue

No matter how sweet your golden retriever is, a crowded popular place probably isn't a great choice to do pictures with them. Why? Everyone will want to stop, say hello, and offer a friendly pat! Places near busy streets or large crowds can be equally stressful on pooches of all sizes -- as well as you, their owner! Think through your pup's personality, and choose a shooting location that will help bring out their best!

Have other questions about bringing your pooch along to your engagement session? Let's talk them out! I'm a firm believer that you should be able to include your furry friends in your session -- and together, we can make it an awesome experience for everyone!

More to read in the helpful hints series

helpful hintsAimee Custis