What to do about dogs at weddings?

More and more couples are incorporating their 4 legged family members into their wedding day. For photographers who prefer posed and controlled shooting environments, and those not used to dealing with the fast moving and unpredictable canines, this can lead to all kinds of un-needed stress.  The key is to not only knowing how to work with the humans, but also to know how to work with the canines.

How to work with the humans:
1) Set expectations. Talk with the couple about how they expect the dog to be in the photos.  Do they want posed photos or candid? Explain that though they may want posed photos with the dog, the dog may feed off of the couple’s excitement and have zero interest in sitting still.  Steering the couple towards candid shots with their dog will save everyone (two legged and four legged) a huge amount of time and stress on the wedding day.
2) Have a trust worthy point person to be in charge of the dog.  That person should be someone who the dog knows, and who is loaded down with treats.
I cannot say it enough:  having a person other than the couple (or a bridal party member or anyone else key to the day) be in charge of the dog is very, very important to a successful wedding day.  It prevents logistical stress due to the couple not knowing what to do with the dog during the wedding day, and keeps the dog from running off because no one is looking.
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How to work with the canine:
1) Don’t expect the dog to sit still, remember, they’re a dog. This is my most important tip.
Understand they are stressed, too.  They’re feeding off the energy of their humans, their pack leaders.  If the couple is excited, the dog will be as well.  If the couple is stressed, the dog will be as well.
If the dog won’t sit still and won’t pose, that is fine, the couple will know that might happen because hopefully you set that expectation.  Move on to candid shots of the dog with the couple.  The last thing you want to do is cause more stress for the bride and groom because their dog won’t pose.
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2) Establish trust with the dog.  Before shooting, introduce yourself.  Do not start shooting right away.  The clicking noise may make them nervous at first, so having them  comfortable with you at the beginning is key. If they hate flash – turn it off.  A nervous dog makes for bad photos.
3) Have someone the dog knows and trust help get their attention. For posed photos,  have this person stand behind you with treats to get the dog looking at you.  For candid running photos, you can have them stand behind you and call the dog so it comes towards you with the couple in the background.
If the dog is supposed to walk down the aisle, have that same person either walk them down the aisle, or stand behind the couple calling the dog down to them with treats.  Keeping the dog focused on one person as the treat machine will keep things going smoothly.
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Keeping the couple happy and the dog happy in a wedding is key to a stress free shoot.  By following these steps,  establishing trust with the dog, and setting realistic expectations with the couple, everything will go smoothly.  Just don’t forget the treats!
Written by Hannah Stonehouse Hudson

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