Bring the Dogs! Tips for Incorporating Your Dogs into Your Wedding Day or Engagement Photo Session

A black and white photograph of a bride holding her dog close and smiling at the camera. The bride is wearing her wedding dress and the dog is small and fluffy.

Our pets are an integral part of our lives (and many of us consider them as family members), so it’s only natural that we want to include them in our weddings and engagement photos. If your dogs are your family and you want them included in your session, here are a few things you can do to make sure that they’re comfortable and well-behaved during the shoot. **I’ll cover some specific tips for wedding days at the end.

1. Choose the Right Location

A photograph of a couple standing on a beach holding their two rescue dogs on leashes. The woman is wearing a pink dress and the man is wearing a white shirt and blue shorts. The dogs are looking at the camera and enjoying the beautiful scenery of the beach

Choosing the right location for your photo session is crucial. Make sure that the location you choose is dog-friendly and has enough space for your furry friend to move around. If your dog is not used to being around crowds or unfamiliar environments, choose a secluded spot that’s peaceful and quiet. You can also opt for a familiar location such as your backyard or a nearby park where your dog has spent time before.

2. Prepare your dog

Before your photo session, make sure that your dog is well-groomed and clean. Brush their fur, trim their nails, and give them a bath if needed. It’s also helpful to practice some basic commands like sit, stay and come ahead of time, just so they’re used to what we’ll be asking them to do.

3. Dress up Your Dog

You’re curating your own wardrobe for your engagement photos or your wedding day, so do the same for your pup! If you want them to actually wear something (we’ve had dogs wear tuxes in weddings before) choose an outfit that’s comfortable for your dog and fits your aesthetic. If your dog is not used to wearing clothes, make sure you acclimate them to the outfit before the shoot. You can do this by letting them wear the outfit for short periods and rewarding them with treats.

A black and white image of a German Shepherd dog wearing a tuxedo, standing on the beach, and holding a stuffed animal in his mouth
A black doodle dog wearing a red and green plaid bandana around its neck, sitting on a white background with a slight tilt to its head.

Think about the color of their leash and collar, since (likely) they’ll need to keep these on throughout the session or wedding day. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to pick up a special neutral colored leash and collar just for the sessions.

4. Use Treats to Keep Your Dog Focused

During the photoshoot, it’s essential to keep your dog focused and engaged. Use treats to keep your dog’s attention and reward them for good behavior. You can also use toys or other distractions to keep them occupied when they’re not needed in the photo. Always keep treats and water handy to keep your dog comfortable and happy.

A couple standing in front of a historic gate in downtown Charleston at sunset, with their black doodle sitting politely in front of them

5. Have a Pet Handler

Having a friend or family member come along as a pet handler can be a huge help during the photoshoot. The pet handler can keep your dog occupied and entertained when they’re not needed in the photo. They can also keep an eye on your dog’s behavior and help them feel comfortable and safe in the unfamiliar environment. A handler is especially helpful to work with me (the photographer) to ensure that your dog is positioned correctly and looking their best.

A bride and groom on their wedding day, the bride is kneeling down and laughing while holding her bouquet as the groom attempts to get their dog to behave.
A bride and groom smiling at each other on their wedding day. The bride holding their small fluffy dog and their bernese mountain dog sitting politely beside them

6. Get down to their level

When taking pictures with your dog, make sure to get down to their level. This will create a more intimate and personal photo that captures the bond between you and your furry friend. Some standing photos are completely fine, of course, but let’s make sure and get some snuggly ones. If your dog is small enough, pick them right up!

A man and a woman are on a cobblestone street in Charleston with their dog. The woman is bent down and the dog is giving her kisses on her nose while the man is also bent down and looking at them.
A bride in a wedding gown standing in a wooded area in Maine, bending down to kiss her German Shorthaired Pointer dog on the head.

7. Be patient

Taking pictures with dogs can be challenging, so it’s essential to be patient. Dogs can be unpredictable, and it may take some time to get the perfect shot. Don’t get frustrated if your dog doesn’t cooperate, and don’t be afraid to take breaks and give your dog a rest. Trust me, I’ve got two dogs of my own so I completely understand. No stress!

Wedding Days

If you’d like to include your dog in your wedding day all of the above tips apply, but I wanted to give a couple of additional pointers:

  1. Choose a specific moment during the day that you’d like them to share with you. Wedding days are LONG days, and your dog will get overwhelmed quickly with the number of new people, things happening, etc. Whether you pick the ceremony, or just a portion of your photo time for them to join, keep it short and sweet.
  2. Tell your photographer! (me) If we know your dogs are joining for part of your day we’ll make sure and prioritize their photos just like we do for little kids. Their attention span is short, so we’ll get them done quickly.
  3. Make sure to designate a family member (or better yet, hire a wedding-day dog handler) to bring your dog TO you for the chosen time, and also to bring them home afterward.

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