It’s been a minute, but, I’m back with another wedding planning post! Today, I’m so excited to dive into a topic that makes me SOOO happy: bringing your PUP with you to your engagement session! If you know me well, you may know that I truly believe that your pup is part of your family and that they absolutely SHOULD be involved in your engagement session.
That said, there is a best way to involve your pup in your session, and we’re going to dive into that today! I truly believe that safety should be at the top of your list as you plan to bring your pup to your session. Today, we’re chatting through a few points to help keep your pup their safest at your session AND to make it fun for the entire fam!
Select a safe location
There are many AMAZING locations you could choose for your engagement session, but if you are opting to include your dog, safety should be your top priority as you consider different spots. When selecting your location for your engagement session with your pup, you’ll definitely want to consider their personality first. Do they tend to bolt with loud noises, cars, or strange people? Are they calm around other dogs and pedestrians? Can they handle surprise squirrels? I know these questions all sound a little strange, but engagement sessions with pups can be a little stressful. You know your pup best and must put their wellbeing first. From there, consider locations they may be familiar with! Do you often walk together in a specific park? Do they do better when exploring new locations? It is important you’re selecting an environment/location where your pup will, not only be safe but will also be able to shine!
Bring along a trusted friend or family member to watch your pup
During your engagement session, you and your partner will be the stars of the show! Because of this, I recommend having a trusted friend or family member that is familiar with your dog and that your dog is familiar and comfortable with along to keep an eye on your pup. We’ll be including your pup for a few shots here and there. In between shots that they’re in, they can hang out with your friend! It is so important that there is an extra person there to keep an eye on them and to ensure they’re entertained, safe, and ready to go for the next shot! We’ll go into this more later, but they’ll also be able to help get your pup to the shoot (and can take them home early!) if they’ll only be at your session for a portion of it.
Bring treats and rewards
This one should be a give-in… that said, you’ll want to bring along plenty of treats for your pup! In fact, you’ll probably want to bring along more treats and toys than you think! Consider breaking up larger cookies and treats into bite-sized pieces… bring along a new cheap toy that makes noise (I love Homegoods for discounted toys!), or their favorite ball/toy from home. Make sure you have plenty of rewards for your pup along the way— they’ll be working hard for you! Chances are good, photo sessions will feel foreign to them, and it’s important to have a few motivating items along to keep them engaged! I find tiny, kibble-sized treats are a favorite for dogs (and for making sure you’re not over-feeding them!).
Consider having your pup along for a portion of your session
I touched on this above, but keep in mind… if you think a longer session will be overwhelming for your pup, they can come along for a portion of your engagement session! They can come along for one location, a portion of one location, at the very beginning, or at the very end! This is why it is so important to have someone along to care for your pup! They can be the ones that help you get your pup safely from point A to point B AND that keep them safe in between shots. Get creative here, you know your pup best and know what will help them shine their brightest.
Don’t forget their leash and collar
There are two parts to this point… the first: your dog’s safety is my top priority. I do not recommend changing lead types for your session, even if it means having a harness or a not-so-photogenetic collar featured in your photos. You know your pup best and know how they behave with certain leads, so if you know that they will either be unsafe or difficult to control on a changed lead, go with what they are most comfortable with, even if it means having a lead or something in your images that doesn’t necessarily “match” your human attire.
The second part of this and a total contradiction to what I just said? Consider elevating their leash and collar for your session. If you know your pup will be safe with something new, consider purchasing a leash that will coordinate with your outfits, and depending on your pup’s comfort level with certain collars, considering getting a “cute” collar or something that will coordinate with your outfits. Before your session, do be sure to take a walk around your house with the leash and collar set up… if you have access to a backyard, take them there next! You’ll want to make sure you and your pup are comfortable with the set-up and that there are going to be no issues with the new set when you’re out and about. For your session, consider bringing along their typical walking set-up, including collar and leash, to keep them safe on their way to your session, on the way home, and in between any shots.
I’m going to be completely honest and say: having your dog or dogs along at a session is one of my favorite things EVER! That said, is it the easiest thing? Nope! Your pup will bark, will sit facing the wrong way, will be interested in squirrels or other people… you get my point… they’re not going to behave perfectly, and that is TOTALLY normal and okay. Set your personal expectations upfront: your pup won’t be perfect, but we’ll get plenty of fun shots! Lean into the crazy, enjoy their company at your session, and prep ahead of time. Bring the treats, have their favorite toys, keep a person close on hand for safety, and then enjoy the rest! They’ll be able to pick up on your energy, so try your best to relax and enjoy.
Bonus: if you need, hire a service
If all else fails, hire a service to care for your pup during your session! If your friends are booked or aren’t the best with dogs, don’t worry… I have an AMAZING backup for that! Meet my friends Furever and Fur Always! No… this isn’t an ad for them… I’ve just worked with them in the past and have nothing but great things to say! They have packages for engagement sessions AND various wedding packages and are absolutely phenomenal with caring for your furry family members.
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