5 Tips to Prepare Your Dog for His Session

Much like people, some dogs may express nervous energy when they arrive to their session. Just as you may not know what to expect, neither does your pet. He may be in an unfamiliar location with an unfamiliar person asking him to pose, stay, calling his name, and making strange noises to catch his attention. Add in the camera and it can be a totally unusual experience for your fur baby.

Review these five quick tips to help prepare your dog for his session and ensure a positive experience for you both.

1. Exercise!

Exercise is one of the best ways to burn off that nervous energy and help your pet focus, relax, and adjust to his surroundings. Plan to arrive about 15 minutes prior to the scheduled start of your session to provide your dog sufficient time to explore and sniff. A short walk together is a great time to do so.

For high-energy dogs, a brief game of fetch or Frisbee may be necessary. For that reason, I recommend bringing along your pet’s favorite toy to their session, whether that be a beloved tennis ball or attention-grabbing squeak toy. Not only will it encourage him to relax and let his personality shine through, a colorful toy can be a fun addition to your images.

Watch not to tire your pup out too much though; we want him to reserve some energy and interest for his session and prevent him from panting or looking overheated in his photos.

chocolate lab playing with a pink tennis ball in a field at south park

2. Primp your pup.

If you typically have your pet professionally groomed, book his appointment with enough time between his grooming and session to allow his coat to grow out a bit. We want your dog to look his best and giving him some time between his appointment and session allows his coat to reach its ideal length and prevents that I-just-got-a-haircut look.

At the very least, your dog should be bathed and brushed a day or two prior to your session. If you’ve got a shedder on your hands, brush him thoroughly right before your session to remove stray hairs created from his bath.

Lastly, don’t overlook the little details. Give him a good look from head to toe. Wipe away any eye-boogies and do your best to clean up tear stains. Don’t forget about his nails either; trim them to the appropriate length a few days beforehand as overgrown nails aren’t flattering on your four-legged friend.

Remember, it’s OK if your pet isn’t looking perfectly polished before his session. Like people, almost all pups need a little touch-up here and there during post-processing. Rest assured I will only deliver images of your best friend looking his absolute best.

3. Don’t forget the treats.

Ah, treats…for food-motivated dogs, treats can be a blessing or a curse depending upon how you choose to utilize them for your session. Typically treats are very beneficial, particularly at the start of your session when we are trying to calm any pre-photo jitters or when I’m gaining his trust. There are instances, however, when treats can work against us, often if they are used too early and too often in the session.

When selecting treats for your pet’s session, I recommend choosing small, super delicious, exciting bites. We want your dog to want to work for them and be sized small enough so that even a few don’t fill him up too quickly.

4. Review commands/tricks.

While knowing basic commands, like “sit,” “down,” and “stay” are helpful, it certainly is not required for a successful session. (The morning of is not the time to try to teach your pup a new trick.) If your dog has mastered a these commands, however, spend a little time leading up to your session brushing up on them. The same goes for any special tricks he may know, such as “shake” or “roll over.”

Be patient with your pooch if he’s not performing up to standard during his session. Sometimes the best shots come from dogs just being dogs when their true personalities are shining through! Keep in mind what I see through the camera can be very different that what you’re seeing as a pet parent. I assure you no matter how obedient your dog may feel the day of your session, you’ll be so proud of him when you see your gorgeous images he worked to help create for you!

5. Choose your collar carefully.

If your dog will be wearing a collar for his session, make certain that it is a color and style you’ll enjoy seeing in your photos. Choose a collar that is comfortable, clean, and well-fitting. Some owners opt to remove tags from their pet’s collar as they can be distracting in photographs; however, that is entirely up to you. If you have a special tag that you’d love to have included, feel free to leave it on.

Another big concern for many owners is leashes. Let me start by saying that nearly every dog I photograph is leashed. Whether a leash is required by law at your session location or you prefer your pet remain leashed for safety (I know I do!), there are ways to minimize the appearance of your leash while shooting as well as remove it during post-processing.


If you would like to book a Bark & Gold Photography session for your pet, click here or give me a call at 724-913-BARK (2275). For more information on Bark & Gold Photography sessions, visit “Your Session” in the menu.

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4 thoughts on “5 Tips to Prepare Your Dog for His Session

    1. Thanks, Darlene! It really does help burn off that nervous energy or restlessness. I see so often how dogs calm down and settle in more as the session progresses. Taking care of that a bit beforehand can really ease an unfamiliar situation.

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