How to Include Dogs In Engagement Photos

It seems like a huge number of people become engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. Hopefully, a lot of couples are planning on including their dogs in their engagement photos.   Since I used to be a second shooter for weddings and engagement portraits, I thought I would give you some ideas to help the session run smoothly.  

Choose a Dog-Friendly Photographer

As a dog person, I find it hard to believe that some people don’t love dogs.  But, they exist.  Some people are afraid of dogs or just dislike them.  Stay away from those photographers.  Even if they are great, award winning photographers, if they don’t love dogs, the photos will probably show that.  

How can you tell?  First, look at their portfolio, do they have great images of dogs and humans together?  If so, it could be a perfect fit.  If not, ask the photographer how she feels about dogs.  Most photographers are happy to recommend other colleagues who might be a better match.

Location

Before choosing your location, think about your dog.  If you have a very anxious dog, consider having some photos taken with your dog in the backyard or in your home.

If you are going elsewhere, make sure that it is dog-friendly.  Consider your dog’s personality too.

 If you have a reactive dog, it may be challenging to have photos taken in a busy park.  

However, don’t rule out an urban location just because you are bringing your dogs. Timing is everything, many popular areas are nearly empty if you go during off hours.   

 If your dog is well socialized, a busy area probably won’t be an issue.  

Preparation

Bathe and/or brush your dog before the shoot.  If grooming is stressful for your dog, try and have it groomed a day or two before the shoot.    A long walk or game of fetch might be needed before the photo session to help your dog be relaxed and calm for the portrait session.  A well-trained dog is much easier to photograph than one who isn’t trained. Teach or practice simple commands like sit, lie down and stay.   Even if your dog doesn’t master these commands, it will help if your dog has a general idea of what they mean.

Bring water, a leash (splurge on an attractive leash and collar), treats, poop bags, and possibly a favorite toy for your dog.  Let your photographer know if your dog has a favorite word or sound.  My dogs always perk up when they hear “treat,” or “do you want to go for a walk?” Squeaky toys are also perfect for getting a dog’s attention.

If it is cold, be sure you have a coat or blanket for your dog if needed.  In hot weather, be extra careful that your dog doesn’t overheat.  Have a plan on how to keep your dog comfortable if the weather is extreme. 

If it is possible, bring a friend to take care of your dog while the photographer takes some romantic shots of you and your future spouse.

Set Realistic Expectations

Safety is your number one priority.  If your dog isn’t reliable off leash,  please don’t take the risk of letting her off leash, even for a few minutes.  

You know your dog best, don’t be afraid to tell the photographer that something isn’t a good idea for your dog.

Photographers have a lot of things to keep track of, so be sure to have a discussion of what you want before the session.  I recommend that you ask for some individual shots of your dog.   However, don’t overwhelm your photographer with a shot list that is too long.   Trust your photographer to create beautiful images, not recreate your Pinterest board. Click To Tweet

Some dogs will need a break.  

Many people choose to have their engagement session at several locations and just bring their dog to one.

Accessories

 

I love seeing dogs dressed for the occasion.  Choose something that complements your outfit as well.

You can’t go wrong with a bow tie!

 

Or matching sweaters!

I am a huge fan of dogs holding a Save The Date sign.

Or just being next to it!

I also love the new classic – engagement ring, hands, and paw shot.

Have Fun

I know this is obvious, but remember the goal of the day is capture your love and your personality as a couple, and hopefully that of your dog.  Don’t be afraid to be silly or let loose.

Patience is the key with pet photography, trust your photographer to get the shot.

Sometimes that means making silly noises or trying the same pose a few times, but it will be worth it!

What other advice do you have for including dogs in engagement photos? 

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23 Comments

Melanie says:

These pictures are great!!!!! I love them all!!

I like to run Mr. N before long photo sessions. He’s usually good about posing but if he’s under-exercised, he gets twitchy about staying for too long.

There are so many precious photos in this post that i hardly know where to start. I think my favorite is the third one because the dog takes center stage, which made me laugh. Also, love the save the date photo!

Jane says:

You have offered some wonderful tips to have a successful photo shoot with the family dog. I enjoyed viewing all the photos, just fabulous! I really like the hands and paw engagement photo❤

I’m a HUGE fan of including pets in special event photo sessions, especially engagement & wedding pics. These tips are great. I’ve had 3 professional photographers take photos of my dogs and only ONE of them truly knew how to work with a dog and had the patience for it. So your tip about choosing the right photog is spot on!
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

OMG these are just stunning photos. Great tips. We say similar for filming. Safety and the comfort of the dogs always come first. When we hire anyone we say “must love dogs” and usually Kilo tests them.

Love the idea of the dog or dogs holding the save the date sign! I agree that cool public places can be nearly empty in off hours! I know plenty of our local hot spots are! I also love your idea of getting a nice new collar and leash! That is something I bet a lot of people do not think of. I know I would have forgot this!

Karen says:

What great pictures! People consider their dogs members of the family, so it makes a lot of sense for them to be included.

These are great tips! I wish we could have incorporated our cats into our engagement or wedding photos. But we didn’t have them at the time! One day we will book a photo shoot with us and our pets. Love all the shots you shared!

Wow. Those are some amazing engagement photos. What a wonderful memory of the entire family. <3

These are fantastic tips for planning a special occasion photo shoot with dogs! My big takeaway? It’s time for me to get back out there so I can meet someone so I can schedule my own wedding photo shoot with my dogs 😉 As always, gorgeous images!

I never thought about making sure the photographer liked dogs (or cats) before allowing them to take your photos. It makes a lot of sense.

Robin says:

These are so beautiful! I’m already married, but I’m going to have to have someone take some great photos of my husband and me with our cats one day. I completely agree that you can see whether or not the photographer likes pets in the photos. Art doesn’t lie well. Somehow, it always captures the heart of the artist as much as it does the subject.

    Beth says:

    You are so right about art showing the heart of the artist! I look forward to seeing your family photos with Dexter and Manna.

Aww wow these are all so beautiful!

Alex says:

Thank you for including our sweet couple and their doggies in your article!!

Debbie says:

There are some SUPER cute pictures in here! I wish we had done engagement pics with our then puppy. Maybe anniversary pics are in order?? Hmmm.. Great tips too about getting their energy out beforehand, and reactive dogs too. Really thoughtful post.

Absolutely fabulous feature as always! I love all of your advice and pictures representing puppy engagements. Thank you again for featuring our work!

xo, Samantha Eckhaus with Corner House Photography

    Beth says:

    Thanks Samantha for being an awesome contributor! You always get some great shots!

what an amazing feature! We simply love when our clients include their pets in their engagement photos! Most of time they play a big part in the love story! Thank you for featuring our work!

Sara & Tony Makris Mak Rabbitt Photography

    Beth says:

    Thanks for contributing to this post! I hope a lot of people will be inspired to include their pets in their engagement photos.

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