I have a lot of couples ask if they can do some pictures with their dog(s) on their wedding day. I end up photographing a lot of pups (both at engagements and at weddings!) and yet, ironically, I don’t have any pets of my own! When it comes to photographing dogs, while I don’t have any experience as a pet owner, I do have a lot of experience as a photographer and I rely heavily on that to get the best reactions from both the animal(s) and the humans.
Here are 5 tips if you plan on having your dog in your wedding photos:
1. Be realistic. What I mean is that animals are similar to children; they have short attention spans and are usually really excited to be in a new place (grass! trees! water! new smells! adventure!) with new people (me…with an exciting “toy” that I’m looking through that makes clicking noises…and with your family and friends and lots of attention). Expect that the first few minutes will simply be letting your dog explore a bit and get used to what is happening. Your dog may not look at the camera. Your dog may not want anything to do with your beautiful family photo. And that’s okay! Those happen to be my favorite photos! Play with your pup and let me capture real life for you. The imperfect is what makes it perfect.
2. Have a friend/family member help or, better yet, hire it out so your dog is taken care of all day long! This is an absolute must on a wedding day. Most likely your dog won’t be there the whole day and usually just pops by for a short time for some photos. Have someone in charge who both a) knows your dog and is very comfortable being around them and b) will not need to be there for pictures around that same time. For example, maybe you have a friend or aunt/uncle who is not in the bridal party or immediate family photos on dog duty so that he/she can take your dog back to your house while we move on to bridal party and family photos.
Many of my couples hire dog handling for their weddings so that friends and family can relax, not get their clothes messy, and be fully present. I highly recommend Pals for Paws Petsitting if you’re interested in this option! I’ve worked with them at several weddings–sometimes just for bringing dogs for photos and sometimes also for getting dogs down the aisle during a ceremony–and they are professional, loving, and wonderful! They think of literally everything, from a towel to clean paws before picking up to treats, toys, and comfort items. They are there early to let your dog sniff out the area and get comfortable and are a constant help during the moments that include your dog. And the best part is that when your dog is done, they will take them so no one has to worry!
3. Bring treats. This is really helpful if your dog is a treat-incentivized animal or a young, energetic dog. This is usually the best way to get them to sit still if even for a moment, but eventhey don’t, I kind of think they deserve a treat anyway just for going along with the plan and trying.
4. Keep it short. I usually limit the pet portion of photos to 5-10 minutes. The main focus of your wedding day is for you two (and I know how important it is to get your family photo with your dog), but also, see item #1. Short attention spans mean working quickly and getting genuine moments.
5. Have fun. I’ll ask you to play with your dog and have fun. Laugh, chase, kiss, etcetera. Have fun and be silly (like you normally would at home!) with your pet and you’ll absolutely treasure the photos.