You've decided to move forward with a pet portrait session for your reactive pup, but now you don't know what to do to prep for that session. Don't worry - I've got you! Below are my top 5 tips for prepping your reactive dog for his outdoor pet portrait session.
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPHER
This step lands at number one because it's the most crucial step, and really should be done even before you've booked that session and begun prepping. When working with dogs, and especially with reactive dogs (including anxious, nervous, and fearful pups), I can't stress enough how important it is to select a photographer who specializes in working with animals. While your average family photographer may be able to get a few cute photos with your dog in them, a pet photographer is going to spend the extra time to get to know your dog and capture that special bond that only the two of you share. Plus, they've got lots of training, experience, and tricks to help make your session safe and enjoyable for both you and your pup.
And of course, when we're talking about reactive dogs, it's even more important to find someone who understands the physical and emotional needs of your special furbaby. As the pet parent of a reactive dog myself, it's crucial that anyone working with my dog understands his triggers and is respectful of his boundaries.
2. SELECT A COMFORTABLE LOCATION
While some happy-go-lucky pups can go anywhere for their session, that's most likely not the case for your reactive dog. If you followed Step #1 and found the perfect photographer who understands your dog's needs, they should be able to help you narrow down a spot that will be safe and comfortable for your pup.
Sometimes, this might mean photographing your dog at the place where he's most comfortable - home. Got your heart set on an outdoor photoshoot? Make use of your backyard, or your front yard or neighborhood park if they're free of your pup's triggers.
If your dog is okay to brave the outside world, look for a location that's more private with little to no distractions. Private photography venues or other rented spots (like Sniffspot) make great choices. When in doubt, make a couple of visit to your preferred location prior to your session - once without your dog so you can get the lay of the land, and a second time with your dog so he can start to develop some familiarity with your chosen place.
3. BRING LOTS OF MOTIVATION
If your reactive dog is anything like mine, only the most high-value treats (steak and Easy Cheese for Omega) are going to hold their attention when they're in an unfamiliar situation. For some dogs, this might be food, but for others, it might be a favorite toy, ball, or even attention from their human.
4. DON'T FORGET THE NECESSARY GEAR
While some pups are fine to be off leash for their session, my experience with reactive dogs (mine included) is that they most likely will need to remain on leash in order to stay focused and safe. If you're interested in capturing action shots, a long line leash may be helpful to bring to your session. If your dog is used to walking on a gentle leader or harness (versus a regular flat collar), those can also be helpful to bring to a session - just make sure you ask your photographer what their preference is for the actual photos. I always remind my clients that most harnesses cover too much of the chest to edit out of the photos so they'll also need a flat collar while we're actually photographing their pups.
Don't be afraid to bring along any other fear free training devices you may need to help your dog to stay focused and comfortable during their session - muzzle, anxiety vest, treat bag, training clicker. If you're unsure if you should bring it, consult with your photographer.
And lastly, relax. These sessions are intended to be fun. In order to create a comfortable environment where we can capture the most natural images of your dog and the bond you share with him, it's important for you to stay as stress-free as you can. Will your dog react to something out in the world? Maybe. Will it stop us from creating and capturing beautiful memories? Absolutely not.
Ready to find out if a pet portrait session with me is right for your reactive pup? Fill out the form here to get started.
ALL AROUND THE CIRCLE
Don't forget to continue following the blog circle to see how our other pet photographers are getting ready. Up next Angela Schneider of Big White Dog Photography in Spokane, Washington, giving you great tips to get ready for a dog photo shoot.