how to include your dog in engagement photos

After the logistical questions of what to wear and where to go, the number one question couples ask about engagement sessions is if they can include their dog. My answer is of course! When my wife and I got engaged we weren’t yet dog-owners, but if we had been, there’s no doubt we would have included our pup. Over the years I’ve shot quite a few sessions with dogs and there’s a few tips that will make including them in your engagement photos go smoothly.

Make sure they get some pre-shoot exercise

A tired dog is a good (and photogenic) dog. Make sure your pup gets plenty of exercise the morning of the shoot. Even just an extra long walk will go a long way toward making sure they’re relaxed later. It’s a lot easier to work with a dog that isn’t hyper and nervous, so don’t skip the play time.

Bring a helper

Depending on our locations, we almost always start with the dog at the beginning of the shoot. In most cases, we won’t have time to take the dog home. Sometimes we’ll alternate between photos with and without the dog so having a friend there to help wrangle in between is huge. We usually only need them for the first half of the shoot when we’re in more casual wardrobe and locations. 

Don’t forget the treats & accessories

We’ll be asking a lot of and even the most well-behaved dogs need incentives. Make sure you bring plenty or high-reward treats and water. Choose a collars and leash that won’t clash with the rest of your look. Make sure you have extra waste bags and anything else your pooch might need.

Couple walks through park in west loop Chicago with their dog during an engagement session with Sears Tower in the background

Choose a dog-friendly location

Most public spaces are dog-friendly, but remember that there may be many other people in some of the more popular locations. It’s best to start in a more quiet setting. If your dog is particularly anxious around groups, consider starting in a familiar location near home.

Discuss the plan with your photographer

While I personally love dogs, and am happy to include them in your engagement photos, I know that might not be the case with every photographer. It’s a good idea to discuss the plan before arriving with your unexpected four-legged family member just so everyone knows the plan ahead of time.