Over the past few years, I’ve photographed quite a few engagement sessions and weddings where dogs have played a special role! In my own wedding Sophie, our Australian Shepherd, and Hunter, our lovable rescue pup, joined us for a quick picture during Cocktail Hour that sits framed in our living room! Huey absolutely loves that photograph and we *might* be using it for our holiday card this year!
Today, I wanted to share a few big tips for incorporating dogs into your wedding day or engagement pictures! I believe including your furry best friends is an amazing way to make your shoot special, as long as you prepare and keep in mind these suggestions!
1) Designate Someone To Care for the Dogs Behind the Scenes: Especially on your wedding day, your dog will need to be fed, given water, and walked while all of the festivities are going on! Designate a friend or family member (preferably outside of the bridal party) who can make sure that your pet is taken care of throughout the event.
For engagement sessions, we only include your dog in about one-third of the photographs – so it’s helpful to have a friend join us to hold onto your pet while we photograph the couple’s portraits! It is never safe for a pet to be left alone in a car for an extended period of time (especially during the hot summer months or cold winter days!) and having an extra hand to walk your dog during portions of the shoot is the best way to go!
2) Plenty of Pre-Shoot Exercise: This tip is often ignored in the chaos of preparing for your engagement pictures or wedding day and it’s truly one of the most important suggestions that I can give! A tired dog is a very happy and photogenic dog!
Give your dog plenty of exercise the morning before the shoot or wedding festivities. A long walk or a few extra minutes of play can help your dog relax and feel at ease before a shoot and gets out some of their nervous energy! It’s harder to photograph a very hyper dog that only wants to run and jump around after being cooped up all day, than it is to photograph the same dog after a long walk who is just happy to be spending some time in the outdoors!
3) Anticipate and Prepare for Possible “Uh-Oh” Scenarios: My dog Sophie is a frisbee dog and she absolutely loves to jump… With a lace gown and her sharp little puppy nails, one of my biggest worries included her jumping and accidentally tearing the dress or getting muddy paw prints on my train! Because we talked about these concerns in advance, we took special care to make sure that she was calm before bringing her out for pictures! Your dog is going to be excited to see you on your special day and knowing your pet’s personality may help you to foresee any “uh-oh” moments!
4) Stay Positive & Enjoy the Candid Moments: Dogs tend to pick up on their owner’s energy and if you’re nervous or agitated – your pet often translates those signals into it’s behavioral response! For example: 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!
Also, remember that dogs don’t like to sit still for long when they are outside, which is one of the reasons I love mixing in candid portraits with your pet along with the most posed images at an engagement session. Playing with your dog (fetch, running around, petting, etc.) often helps your pet to relax, show his or her personality, and it gives me the opportunity to capture authentic images that showcase your family dynamic!
5) Treats, Toys & Dressing them Up: Bringing treats to the shoot also encourages good behavior and don’t forget to reward your pet when he or she is doing a great job! 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!
I absolutely love The Rover Boutique for dog bow ties, bandanas, and attire! Y’all know that Hunter is a dapper bow tie wearing dog, right? And after searching Pinterest for a few minutes… there are so many amazing ways to incorporate your dog into the proposal, save the date, wedding thank you cards, – my mind started spinning!
I hope this post is helpful for all the dog-lovers out there! I absolutely love photographing pets at engagement sessions, portrait shoots, and on wedding days! I can’t wait to continue this tradition into the fall!