Picture Day Prep

A Trip to the Doggy Photographer Need Not be a Trial

Following on from our more general discussions on helping puppies and dogs be more comfortable in new situations we look at preparing your dog to go visit the photographer. A lot of dogs find the new sights, sounds and overall situation very scary. So rather than spend lots of time trying to coax your pup to chill out and feel at least comfortable enough for a simple sit, prepare beforehand and make it easy on your dog, yourself and your photographer! At the end of the day everyone wants the same thing, an awesome memory of your dog just as they are in everyday life.

Doggy Photographer Visit

New things to consider to prepare for:

  • New people
  • Camera lenses (long black holes/eyes pointing at them)
  • Lots of lights
  • Weird props (chairs, stools)
  • White walls, hard to see borders
  • New toys, probably squeaky ones
  • Being alone on the couch with mom/dad the far side of the room
To prepare for your visit, spend time working on each of these things separately and then together. As a rule of thumb you should get your dog comfortable with lots and lots of people. Have friends come over, give your dog random treats and play with your dog. Dogs are not good at generalising so meeting 10 people is not the same as meeting 100. They need to meet men, women, kids, toddlers, kids, people with mobility aids, different dress, heights, weights, people with beards, with glasses, scarfs, and every other combination you can think of. Have a look at our free puppy socialisation guide for an idea of what to work on and track.
Don't start with pointing a camera lens straight at your dog. Have one on the ground for them to check out first, then slowly bring it up and move it around. Then move it to briefly 'looking' at them, slowly increasing how long it looks at them (lots of treats each time).
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Working with lights, again, take it slowly. Start with a single desk lamp on the ground with you while you play a brain game. Once your pup is completely unconcerned by it, move up to two table lamps in your play area. While doing this, make sure you are playing a low-arousal game! So no agility training please.

When playing with 'weird props', treat it like a game. If your pup is agile, and the chairs and stools are stable you can do some low-level agility or tricks training with them. From jumping up and off to standing with front legs up (or back legs). It will get your dog nice and comfortable. They will also help make some gorgeous pictures.

Some dogs won't be bothered by a white area but some will. You can replicate this with a white bed sheet. Again, start small so it is not covering the whole room, just have it on the ground to start, then drape it over a chair/stool. Gradually extend to covering larger areas. Build up to placing other objects in this white space and add your lights gradually from above.

Hopefully your dog is fairly happy with toys, especially squeaky ones. A lot of photographers use toys or fun voices to get a dog's attention to look toward the camera just before taking a picture. If your dog is not pushed on toys, find something else they are. Ideally work on a verbal cue 'look' to get your dog to look at the person asking.

Other behaviours that are really useful to have on cue for visiting the photographer are things like: wait, stay, sit, down, roll over, bow, speak, high five, beg, sit pretty, and many more. Think of what sort of poses you might find show off your dog's personality and put them on cue as you see them use it around the house.