The Perfect Howl-iday Card: Training Tips for Great Holiday Photos

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Photograph of a Rottweiler in a Santa hat for christmas

If you’ve ever tried to include your dog in holiday photos, you know it’s not as easy as it sounds!  A photo shoot can be a stressful environment for dogs. They’re often asked to remain stationary for long periods of time, sometimes with unfamiliar props and surrounded by flashing cameras and bustling people. The good news is, a little prior training and some gradual acclimation can go a long way towards helping your dog be the star of your holiday greeting cards!

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Start at home

If you would like to your dog to sit, lie down or and stay still for your photos, start training well in advance of your scheduled photo day! Dogs learn best by starting in a low distraction environment and with generous positive reinforcement. Now is the time to enroll in a training class to make sure your dog has plenty of time to practice prior to the big day! Themed props and outfits can add that something special to holiday photos. Make sure to introduce your dog to props ahead of time and practice any poses involving the props at home.

Check out your shoot location

Now that you and your dog have practiced posing, it’s time to take it on the road! If you are using a new location for your photo shoot, you’ll want to schedule a few visits in advance to practice with your dog. Check the lighting in your shoot location. Dogs don’t understand a camera’s bright flash and will often squint or move away. Try to pick a location with plenty of natural light to avoid using a flash. Evaluate distraction levels and try to choose a location that will set your dog up for success. Choosing an area off the beaten path could mean all the difference for a dog that’s easily distracted by other people and dogs.

Day-of tips

  • Help your dog burn off excess energy by scheduling a long walk or playtime a few hours before your shoot.
  • Pack extra high value treats along with you and don’t forget to reinforce your dog’s good behavior.
  • Bring along your squeaky toy and have a helper stand directly behind your photographer with it to focus your dogs gaze towards the camera.
  • Watch out for signs of stress and give your dog plenty of breaks to sniff and decompress in between shots.
  • Embrace imperfection, sometimes the “outtakes” are actually the best photos in the end.
  • Smile and have fun!

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