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10 Tips for Holiday Pet Pics

AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior Trainer Nicolette Meyer shares 10 tips for taking pictures of your pet to use for your holiday cards.

The holidays are upon us and among the myriad of things on your To Do list, sending out cards to friends and family might be a high priority.

I always like to take a festive picture of my dog to use as the front cover because:

A) I’m a borderline crazy dog lady and

B) Otis is much more photogenic than I am.

I also delight in the creativity of staging little Christmas-themed scenes and much like his Halloween costumes, I try to out-do myself each year. I have made a pact, however, to never feature my dog as baby Jesus in the manger. I PROMISE!

If you think taking an action shot of Fido playing with his favorite toy can get a little tricky, though, you’re in for a challenge when it comes to  making a background for a furry family portrait, as well as getting the pup to stay still.

I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to aid in a successful holiday photo shoot:

  1. Make sure to have a bunch of EXTRA SPECIAL DELICIOUS treats to dole out for good sit-stays or down-stays.
  2. Keep your pooch’s personality in mind: are they the docile napper, able to withstand all sorts of Santa hats, jingle bells, and holiday-themed ties attached to them? Or is your pup the type who can’t stand still? Maybe a snowy outdoor action shot might be more up his alley!
  3. Plan ahead for the photo’s composition. I recommend making a rough sketch so you know which pose & what camera angle you’ll use. With enough planning, you can keep this little photo shoot under 5-10 minutes!
  4. Have Spot chase a ball or play fetch for a few minutes before the shoot, it’ll not only tucker them out a little, but you’ll get that adorable “doggie smile” that melts hearts.
  5. Use natural light if possible. Not only are dogs’ eyes highly reflective (just think laser eye) but having a camera flash going off in their eyes can be highly distracting and stressful for them.
  6. Unless you have a reliable “Leave it” with your pup, don’t put any props around them that might tempt their taste buds.
  7. If you’re trying to get your dog to look right at the camera, try holding either their favorite toy (the squeakier the better), bone, or treat directly above the lens for them to focus on during the stay. Make sure to give him the treat after a few shutter clicks!
  8. Don’t take the picture in front of something ordinary and out of context like the refrigerator or your dirty laundry hamper. The background is important. I like to go to a craft store and buy a yard or two of the cheap cotton fabric that has a festive print.
  9. If you’re including your children in the picture, try to have them refrain from holding onto the dog. Being restrained will feed into their natural instinct to flee right out of frame. Instead have them pose next to Bowser and snap the picture right after they’ve asked him to sit or lay down.
  10. For self-snapped pictures of you and your dog, the use of a tripod or flat tabletop with the self-timer function is really important. It may mean that you have to run back and forth to the camera more times to get the right shot, but your dog is most likely going to be moving around a little bit, and since you’ll be using natural light (remember?!) that could cause a shaky and blurred image if you’re trying to wrangle a dog and hold a camera at the same time.

Most importantly, remember to have fun doing it! If your dog is uncooperative and you start getting frustrated, put the camera down, walk away, and come back to it later (maybe when your pup is sleeping and won’t move!).

Post your holiday photos on the AnimalSense Facebook page so we can see how they turned out!

AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior offers group dog training classes at Glenview Animal Hospital and private in-home training throughout the North Shore.

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