You’ve booked your family photo session, and you want to include your dog. After all, they’re part of your family! But you may be worried that your furry friend won’t behave or pay attention, and you’ll end up without a single decent photo. 

Photographing dogs can be challenging, but there are ways you can help out your photographer and prepare both you and your pet for their moment in front of the camera. Check out these seven tips for including your dog in your family photos.

Brush up on basic commands
In the weeks and days leading up to your session, take time to practice commands with your dog, like sit, stay, and down. These commands can be incredibly helpful when positioning your dog for photos or getting them to cooperate with the photographer. And if your dog knows any special tricks, be sure to practice those as well because they can make for great images

Run off some energy
To keep your dog from acting wild during your photo session, find a way to help them get some energy out beforehand. Take a long walk or even a jog around the park. Even better, have them spend the day before the session at a doggy daycare to play with other dogs. A little exercise prior to your session can help your dog relax and be more focused on you and the photographer.

Prepare yourself—and try to relax
If you’ve owned a dog for any length of time, you probably know how sensitive they are to your moods. The calmer and more positive you are about your session, the more at ease your dog will feel. But if you’re stressed or anxious, your dog will pick up on your emotions and develop a similar attitude. Just go with the flow of the session and don’t worry if everything doesn’t go just according to plan.

Bring plenty of treats and toys
Don’t skimp on the rewards! Be sure to bring along a bag of your dog’s favorite treats to entice them to obey commands and look at the camera. Just make sure not to feed them too much before the shoot so they aren’t full and will still be interested in treats. It’s also a good idea to bring along your dog’s favorite toy, but you may not want to bring it out first thing during the session. The sight of their favorite ball or squeaky toy may cause your dog to lose all the focus they’ve held for your photographer.

Have noisemakers handy
The key to capturing those adorable expressions on your dog’s face is a toy that squeaks or crinkles or even makes a high-pitched noise. Just be sure not to overuse these toys and allow your dog to become accustomed to them. Save your noisemakers for when you really need your furry friend to pay attention.

Let them express their personality
The best way to include your dog in your family photos is simply to let them be who they are. Instead of trying to coax your dog into unnatural poses, treat them like you would a child. Allow your dog to run around and play, giving the photographer a chance to capture them in their element, and then bring them in for the posed photos by putting an arm around them or petting their fur. Physical contact is a great way to help your dog feel comfortable and show off more of their unique personality.

Dress with your dog in mind
When you’re planning outfits for your family session, think about your dog. Avoid colors that will clash with the color of their fur and go for simple solids or neutral tones. If your dog is a shedder, avoid wearing a color that will really show their hair. For example, if you have a golden dog, you may not want to wear anything black. Putting a little extra thought into how your outfits will look with your dog can help make for the best images.

Your pet is a part of your family, so they deserve to be in your family photos! Just be patient with your dog and remember that their unpredictability is part of why you love them so much. The most important thing is capturing your family—including your pets—in all the joy and love you share!

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