There is no doubt that I LOVE DOGS! Your dog, your neighbors dog, the dog in the next county over. And then my very own dog. So, if you tell me that you are debating on bringing your fur-baby to your engagement or family session, the response you are likely going to get is, "It is so important to include them. They are, after all, a part of your family."
It goes without saying that dogs bless us in incredible ways. They calm us down when our brain goes haywire, they make us laugh with their quirky personality, they lift us up when we are down, they give us some of the best snuggles and just make our days brighter just by being a part of it. As someone who has grown up with dogs, and has beena puppy whisperer since youth and now has a dog of her own, I know firsthand the unconditional love that a pet provides. They are an extended part of us and an integral part of our family and lives.
Dogs are amazing creatures! They have an innate ability to sense energy. Whatever energy you give off, they will feed off of. I know if I am feeling anxious, Bella will react two ways !) She will either stay beside me to make sure I'm alright, or not care - it's guaranteed. She tends to acts out when I want her to do something such as updating our photos. So the best thing for me to do is if she is behaving this way, I need to let go of any and all expectations I have of her and how the session will go.
Let me paint you a picture - one of my dearest friends was taking photos of Bella and me together in 2019. I looked great and Bella was acting like an angel that morning before we got to a beautiful park in Annapolis. As soon as Bella jumped out of the car, she turned into a wild child. Pulling me across the parking lot to check things and to say hello to walkers and bikers in the parking lot, and was just overall uncontrollable. It was infuriating! All the hours days, months and special training she had gone through went out the window. She was on a mission to explore and get into as much trouble as possible. Any commands I gave her meant nothing to this wild child of mine. We walked down towards the water and Bella (on a leash mind you) pulled me in the direction for the doggy beach in the park that we were at. I was not exactly in the best mindset after experiencing what happened in the parking lot just a few minutes before. But I went with it. Knowing how happy Bella is to go swimming and retrieving sticks, my shoes came off and I waded into the water with her. Getting those photos of her and I playing in the surf are some of my favorite photos I have of the two of us together. Letting go all the expectations is just what I needed to do. Anything to make my best girl happy! And Joy captured some of the best candids - fun and sweet. As well as captured Bella's sassy and sweet attitude.
(photo cred : Joy Michelle Photography)
Yes, it is expected that your furbaby will likely not behave initially despite all the time you have put into training. But you know what - to hell with it. It's a once in a lifetime experience for you and your pup. If they are acting crazy, as owners, it is good to try to be calm down and not yell at them for their behavior. Remember what I said earlier about them sensing your energy? They can't help that they are excited. Heck, I am excited to know that they are there too and you want to include them in your session. It is encouraged that you arrive early prior to the session so that it gives them a chance to explore and be a little nuts. Especially if they are in a new location. Dogs are easily overstimulated when at a new location that they are unfamiliar with or around new people. And if you have a dog that is super chill and not easily overstimulated at all, I am soooo jealous! However, if I can get some great pictures by letting those expectations go, so can you! Just know that as your photographer, I will do my hardest to keep calm so then they are calm. Once everyone in the session has had the opportunity to relax then the session will continue seamlessly. It is my goal that you and your pup feel comfortable, have fun and just know that you are in great hands!
"My dog loves her! Casi even brought our dog treats!" - Tessa T.
In my 10+ years of experience of photographing so many families and couples, just like with children, you give them an opportunity to behave with a little bit of bribery. It is always encouraged that you bring plenty of treats or maybe their favorite squeaky toy with you to your session. It grabs their attention and may even hold it for a few minutes. They are more likely to listen and doing exactly what you or I want them to. Plus, I ALWAYS bring a few treats of my own, just so they get something a little different and tasty at the same time. Trust me, treats work every.single.time. Also included in my arsenal is a variety of sounds and movements to grab their attention.
Once your dog has had time to explore and settle into the session (fingers crossed) then they are most likely going to do what you want them to do. This will be the time that I capture the sweet personality that they have as well as the relationship between you and them. And if you feel like going to a new location will only cause your dog stress and anxiety and bad behavior, I will happily come to your home and do your photos at home where everyone is comfortable. Especially, if its a family session with young children.
If you are engaged and want to included your puppy in your engagement session, DO IT!! Bring the treats. It is always suggested that you bring along a family member or good friend that the dog is comfortable with to take them on a walk, away from the session. This adorable couple brought the grooms sister along to take the dog on a walk after the dog was done with photos. I remember this pup being crazy excited - she was in pictures for about 15 minutes because that is all everyone could handle. But she was a good girl and got some yummy snacks in the process
Or maybe you have a senior dog and time with them is ending and creeping up on you quicker than you would like. Hold on to those memories by capturing some lasting memories with a session of just your and/or your family loving on them. My sister (above) lost her best friend just a few weeks after these photos were taken. She knew her time with her old man was coming to an end, but little did she know they were closer then she thought. Those photos don't have to be perfect, but it's not about perfection - it's about capturing those final days of love, their favorite fast food (Bella's is Chick-fil-A fries), trips to the park, and lounging at home cherishing those final days, but the fact of the matter is, you now have memories together where healing can begin when they are no longer beside us.
"I had been sitting on the idea of taking pictures with my senior dog, Brady, but I am so grateful that I booked a session with Casi and just got it done. A month later, my family said goodbye to our beautiful boy and I hold these pictures of him in my heart and home forever. Don’t wait, get them done.
Casi loved on Brady and worked so well with his aching bones and sassy attitude like a pro. She guided us on how to pose while still maintaining Brady’s spirit and personality. The experience was easy and the pictures will last a lifetime." - Shanna C.
So when the time comes, will you be bringing your furbaby to your session?