While we would all love to have perfectly trained pups, the reality is that not all of our furbabies graduate obedience school at the top of their class (or even at all). But don't worry - it doesn't make your pup a bad dog, nor does it make you a bad pet parent. Just take my Husky mix, Anya, for example. While our other two dogs are velcro dogs, Anya is true to her Husky nature, and can't be trusted off-leash. She went through basic obedience training, and even in class, when it came time to work on recall, Anya was the first dog to run in the complete opposite direction and refuse to come back (thankfully the classes were inside).

If this sounds like your pup, you might be wondering, "Then how can I make a pet portrait session outdoors work for my dog? He won't sit, he won't stay, and he definitely can't be off-leash." Don't worry! Keep reading for my top five tips on how to manage a pet portrait session with your obedience school dropout.

1. keep your pup on a leash

My number one rule if your pup doesn't have a solid recall is to always keep them on leash during the session. Don't worry about this impacting the final look of your images - with a little post-processing magic, I can take that pesky leash right out of the image.




Especially if your pup is reactive or nervous in unfamiliar places, your home and/or backyard might be the perfect location for your pet portrait session. In fact, sessions at home sometimes make for more meaningful, sentimental images because it's where you spend the most time with your furbaby. If you're worried about whether your backyard will make for a nice enough backdrop for your images, we can look at your space and discuss options during your consultation.

3. use an extra set of hands

Although I don't typically bring an assistant to sessions, sometimes having an extra set of hands to help wrangle your pup (especially if you have more than one) can be helpful when they're not particularly well-behaved. If your pup or pack might need some extra assistance, we'll chat during your consultation about whether you should bring a friend or family member to the session with you to assist.

This is my dog, Anya, the runner, taken in the middle of Sacramento. Her leash and my assistant were removed from this photo.

4. work with high-value treats or toys

Because I'm often photographing your pup with high shutter level speeds, I really only need 1/500th of a second (or less!) of focus from your pup to capture the perfect image. While I always have noisemakers and treats with me, I recommend you bring your pup's favorite treat or toy as well to really grab their attention. The other great thing about bringing a favorite toy? We can include it in some of the images to tell your furry friend's story.

5. bring a little extra patience

Sometimes it may seem like your dog is out of control and we're not capturing any good images. But don't worry - I promise I've (most likely) worked with dogs more poorly behaved than yours, and I guarantee we'll be able to create incredible artwork of your furbaby. Just remember that your dog is attuned to your emotions so the more stressed you are during your session, the more likely it is that your dog will act out. I'm a dog mom myself so I'm completely empathetic to the situation. Make sure you come to your session with a little extra patience saved up in your back pocket and I'll make a little bit of magic to create a fun experience and some gorgeous artwork that you'll be able to enjoy for the rest of your life.


Not a problem! Did you know that I actually specialize in working with reactive and highly sensitive dogs? Read a little more about it here.


Don't forget to continue following the blog circle to read about other pet photographers' take on working with less-than-obedient pups. Up next Canberra Dog Photographer Ina Jalil of Ina J Photography shares how you can get stunning photographs of your dog even if they are not the most well behaved dogs.

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