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3 Tips for Engagement Sessions with a Dog

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If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I am a total cat person! I wish more people brought their cats to an engagement session. That would be a super interesting blog post to write! But let’s face it. Dogs are just more apt for field trips, whether to go get a pupaccino through the Starbucks drive-thru or to accompany you for a walk to the post office. Which means they are natural third-wheels, so engagement sessions with a dog are not that crazy of an idea.

But I’m also first to admit, I am not a natural when it comes to dogs. I know and love on my own dog easily. But that’s because I’m used to his personality after raising him with my family since he was a puppy. When it comes to other people’s dogs, I am a little… awkward. Every dog seems to have a unique personality and energy level, which is so fun for dog owners! But as a photographer (and a cat lady photographer at that), I learned very quickly that serving clients well who want to include a zany pup in their session meant I needed to learn how to work with dogs in a way that provides ease of mind, fun for the whole party, and clarity of direction.

So here are my top 3 tips on how to have a successful engagement session with your pup:

1. Feed and walk your dog before the engagement session.

Most of my engagement sessions are on a time restraint, because I love aiming for sunset-friendly start times. Having a dog with you will mean we have another agenda to follow on top of our own. Most dogs don’t understand that going number 2 during a pose is an awkward transition to say the least.

Also, lots of dogs can get antsy during feeding times. I know my dog Eli gets very restless when he is hungry. Every move we make is a tease to him that we’re getting up to give him food. Feeding the dog beforehand will mean he/she is full and ready for a new activity.

To ensure your dog is ready for the camera and able to perform in a timely manner, it’s best to get all “business” and feeding done beforehand.

2. Treats and toys rarely fail!

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I have a dog, but he is our family dog we’ve had since I was little. So he lives with my parents. Therefore, I do not have dog toys or treats on hand. But you know what your dog loves most! Be sure to bring his/her favorite squeaky toy and a baggie of treats so I can use them to get them to look towards me and smile for the camera. Then we can reward your pup when I get a stellar model-faced shot.

3. Bring a handler.

You don’t have to hire a professional dog handler. But this may be a great time to phone a friend. I never recommend bringing anyone else along for your engagement session unless you have a dog! Most of the time I prefer my couples to view their session like a special date they’re on together. So human third wheels can make things more awkward and add the pressure of an audience. But with a dog, you will be relieved to hand over the leash when it’s time to capture some romantic portraits!


There are a lot more ways I can tailor engagement sessions with a dog to create a fun, stress-free appointment. But these top three tricks are sure to get us off to an amazing start for most dogs!

If you are considering letting your favorite pooch in on the fun, be sure to let me know so we can talk about your dog’s specific personality and needs!

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