When Colt and I planned our engagement session and wedding, it was a no-brainer to include our dogs in both events (see how we included them in our Yosemite National Park Elopement). They are such a huge part of our lives and truly complete our family. Neither of us could imagine having moments documented without them. If you’re anything like us, you want to include your dogs in your special moments, too but you’re not sure how. Fear not, friend. I’m about to drop some helpful tips that will get you through including your fur-children in your engagement session and wedding day.
1. Bring a Dog Handler
You definitely don’t want your pups sitting in the car while you take photos. This could just end up stressing them out. Not to mention, you don’t want to leave them in a hot car. Having an extra set of hands to help out is truly a life saver. It will make your photo experience so much easier and less stressful. The beauty of this is that we won’t need your dogs for the full session. So, your dog handler can take them home after we’re finished with the photos that include them. I usually recommend bringing someone who is familiar with your pups who can even help get their attention for photos if needed.
2. Invest in Coordinating Dog Accessories
Hear me out. You’re investing in beautiful photos and incorporating coordinating accessories will really tie your look together. Using a bandana that coordinates with what you and your partner are wearing will take your photos to the next level. Even a nice matching leash and collar will do the trick. I recommend avoiding nylon leashes with rips and knots in them that don’t match your color scheme. We coordinate with Ruckus and Ransom every single year for photos. I honestly have so much fun with it! We get all our leashes, bandanas and bow ties from Hoot & Co. They even have matching scarves for humans and dogs that are perfect for fall engagement sessions!
3. Bring Your Dogs Favorite Treats and Rewards
Sometimes our pups need a little something extra to get get good photos of them during the session. Ruckus and Ransom are incredibly food motivated and having treats on hand helps to get their attention, especially if there are distractions in the area. If food isn’t your dogs thing but a ball or special toy will do the trick, make sure you pack a doggy bag filled with their special treats and toys. We really are asking a lot of your dog. It’s important to be patient with them and take breaks to give them treats and lots of praise. Truthfully, those are some of my favorite moments. The moments where you’re just loving on your dogs, talking sweetly to them and telling them how perfect they are. Those are the moments I love documenting.
4. Exercise Your Dogs Before the Session
If your dog is amped, and they likely will be, working with them can feel a little stressful for you. Take the time to get them some exercise before your session. Let them run around and play to get their excitement out. You could even show up early to your session and take them on a nice walk around the area to get them used to the space and the smells. Another helpful tip is taking them on a walk at your session location before your session date. This way, they’re more familiar with the area and won’t be as ready to rip and roar with all the new smells.
5. Include Your Dogs at the Beginning or End of Session
We aren’t going to need your dogs for the entire session. It’s easiest to incorporate them either at the beginning or end of your session. Including them at the end is my favorite because if they do act up, your frustration won’t start at the beginning of your session and set the tone for the rest of our time together. This is where a second set of hands comes in handy as they can bring them towards the end or take them for a walk while we take the first part of your photos.
At the end of the day, dogs are like toddlers. They don’t always do what we expect or hope they’ll do. It’s important to keep this in mind when including them in your session and be prepared for the unexpected. If you stay calm and relaxed, that’s going to help your pet. The most important thing is to just love on them and laugh at how silly they are. I know it can be frustrating if they don’t act the exact way you’re hoping. But I promise you if you just focus on giving them love and letting them be who they are and keep smiling, you’re going to get the most beautiful moments that hit you in all the feels.
So, will you be including your dogs in your engagement session? Let me know in the comments!