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I’m Jill, a wedding photographer based in New Jersey — and I’m so excited that you’re here! Follow along with the blog to get a glimpse into the heart behind my work.

5 Tips for Bringing Your Dog to Your Engagement Session

If you’re like me, your dog is probably more like a member of your family than a pet. And if you are planning to get engagement photos done, you most likely will want to include your furbaby in your session!

I absolutely love when couples bring their furry friends along to sessions for a few reasons: 1) I am OBSESSED with animals, specifically dogs, so any excuse to hang out with a canine companion is a no brainer for me, and 2) it’s basically a scientific fact that dogs have a calming effect on us, so what better way to relax and have fun at your engagement session than having your best friend come along as well.

However, I will say that if you’re already nervous or a little stressed about your engagement session, adding your dog into the mix can sometimes make things a bit more overwhelming (especially if they are a high energy dog, or young and untrained). As much as love my own dog, I knew she wouldn’t be behave for our engagement session so we ended up leaving her home and did another shoot at a later date that was a much lower pressure situation in a location that didn’t matter if she barked or ran around like a feral beast. You know your dog better than anyone, so it’s up to your discretion if they will be well-behaved in this type of situation!

All that being said — as much as I absolutely love having doggos come to their parents’ engagement session, there are a few things that are important to think through before you decide to bring them along:

1. Make sure your location is dog-friendly.

This may seem like a no brainer, but some beaches or national parks do not allow dogs. It’s important to research the location you’ve chosen for your engagement session to make sure that dogs are allowed, and in what capacity — are there any restrictions to where they are allowed? Do they have to stay on the leash the whole time? The last thing we want is to arrive at your location and realize your furry friend isn’t allowed on the property.

2. Have a family member or friend come along.

Chances are you will not want to have your dog in every photo, and in most cases it’s easiest to have a family member or close friend come along to hold your pup while you and your fiancé are taking photos of just the two of you.

It will be difficult for your photographer to hold your dog and take photos at the same time, and tying your dog up nearby isn’t usually the best option — they often get nervous that you’re leaving them and will start barking, or trying to get to you. The best option is to bring along someone who your dog is familiar with who can help out!

3. Start without your dog in photos first.

Although I definitely think that having your dog in photos will help you relax and look more natural in photos, it usually makes more sense to start with photos of just the two of you — without your pup. This way you can get a better sense of the engagement session experience and how to work with your photographer, without having to also be wrangling your dog at the same time.

Once you have warmed up and know what to expect, then it makes sense to bring your dog into the photos as well! Sometimes it is helpful to have your family member or friend show up about a half hour into the session with your dog so that they don’t have to be waiting around getting bored and fussy until you’re ready for them.

4. Bring treats, water, and favorite toys.

Dogs are motivated by food (aren’t we all?) so it’s important to bring along their favorite treats to encourage them to be on their best behavior for photos!

Bringing water along is especially important on warm, summer days, but I recommend having water for your pup for whenever you are not at home! We got this dog water bottle on Amazon for $16 and it was the best investment ever. If your dog doesn’t finish what’s in the bowl, you can simply press the button and tilt back and the unused water will flow back into the bottle!

Favorite toys, especially ones that squeak, are helpful to bring along as well. Your friend or family member can stay near or behind your photographer and squeak the toy to get your dog’s attention. It can be difficult to get your dog to look at the camera, because a lot of the time they will want to be looking at you!

5. Choose a neutral-colored leash and collar.

While hot pink or colorful patterns might be fun choices for your dog’s collar, leash, and harness at home, in photos it can be quite distracting and take away from the focus of the photo — which should be you and your fiancé! If possible, you want to consider a solid, and preferably neutral, colored leash and collar. Plain, brown leather is a great, timeless option for collars! Here are a few options you can check out from Chewy, we got these for our dog Macie for our fall photos with her:

Soft Touch Leather Two-Tone Collar | $23.95
Soft Touch Leather Braided Leash | $34.95

If you don’t want to buy a new collar, a neutral bandana is a good option as well! As far as harnesses, these can be distracting in general, so if your dog is well-behaved without one it’s usually better to skip the harness for photos.

Also, remember to take the poop-bag-holder off of your dog’s leash. While it is VERY important to have poop bags on hand during your session in case your dog goes to the bathroom on location, you probably don’t want to look back years from now and be able to see a poop-bag-holder in every photo.

1. Make sure your location is dog-friendly.
2. Have a family member or friend come along.
3. Start without your dog in photos first.
4. Bring treats, water, and favorite toys.
5. Choose a neutral-colored leash and collar.

Liked this post? Check out this list of things to do before your engagement session.

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