5 Ways to Prepare for Your Session

It’s almost time for your session, and you’re pumped! You’re finally going to have your very own artwork of your furry family member. So are you wondering what to do before the big day? I’m here to share with you the 5 ways to prepare for your session.

1. Obedience (or Not)

Are you a little worried because your dog isn’t an obedience champion? Perhaps your pup hasn’t quite mastered sitting in place while you step back to the end of the leash. Don’t stress about it, perfect dog manners and obedience isn’t necessary. Actually, I get some of the best images when dogs are just being themselves. And unless your dog is safely enclosed in our fenced-in field, your leash stays on. Safety first, always.

Silver Lab Shadow Dog Photography

If you want to practice anything though, here are a couple of suggestions. First, try and improve your dog’s ability to sit on command. If you’re having trouble with this, or your pup just stands there and looks up at you, that’s okay! Try this: have your dog in front of you. After giving the sit command, slowly walk “into” your dog. When your dog looks up at you, your couple of steps will have you walking into his space. As he looks up at you, his bum will head down toward the floor. The moment this happens, calmly give your pup lots of praise. 

Here’s something else that comes in handy during photo sessions. Being able to place your dog while stepping back to the end of your leash. Here’s what to do: again, start with your dog in front of you. Whether your pup is sitting or standing, you’ll give the “wait” command. Try putting your hand up, as if you were going to tell your dog to stop. With your hand up in front of your dog, quietly say WAIT, and take a step back. After a couple of seconds step forward again and praise your dog. That’s not easy for your dog to let you get away!

Continue practicing WAIT while you step further away. Once this is working well, start waiting a little longer before returning to your dog. Before you know it, your pup will be confidently waiting at the end of your leash, watching you and waiting for you to return. Here’s a tip to help with the WAIT command. While you’re away from your dog, do NOT look him in the eye. If you maintain eye contact, your pup will get up and come to you, thinking you’re wanting something. Eye contact is a form of communication, and a powerful one too!

If you practice these two things, you’ll see how much it helps during your session. Remember to keep any training sessions short and sweet. But please, if you struggle with obedience with your pup, don’t get frustrated. Top obedience is not necessary to enjoy your Shadow Dog experience. I’ll capture your dog’s best expressions whether he knows how to sit on command or not. I promise!

2. Grooming

In preparation for your session, it’s a good idea to brush out your dog. Or maybe this is just the occasion you’ve been waiting for to book that professional grooming appointment. If you prefer the look of short nails, be sure to have your dog’s nails trimmed (or if you’re like me, get out the trusty Dremel).

Black Dog Shadow Dog Photography

If you have a white dog with a beard you’ll want to address any stains (and possibly tear stains below the eyes). Just do your best, I know these stains can be stubborn.

If you have a scruffy, rough-coated dog, you may want to trim away some of the hair around the eyes (or better yet, have a professional do this). A key part of your dog’s final images is eye contact. This works much better if we can see those beautiful eyes!

3. Gear and Accessories

If your pup can be under control in a well-fitted flat collar, that works best. Now is the time to go shopping if there are any beautiful collars you have in mind for photos. If your dog is normally in a harness, no problem. If you can manage without one for photos, you will be much happier with the results, since harnesses are not normally removed during the final editing process.

Does your dog wear any clothes or accessories? Perfect! Be sure to pack them and bring them to your session. If this is a part of your dog’s normal day, why not highlight this in some photos? I want to capture your dog’s true personality, and if clothes really help your pup shine, then we want to be sure to include them. Does your dog have a favorite bow tie or bandanna? These can add a fun flair to your images. Your photos will be a conversation piece!

Standard Poodle Shadow Dog Photography

On the topic of clothes, let’s address your outfit. Are you wondering what you should wear? I like to include you in some photos, so it would be best if you dress in something casual, but avoid any busy patterns. Solid colors work best. I always suggest sturdy footwear too, since we normally do lots of walking.

Sometimes I’ll have an image that might highlight some detail of your pup. It’s possible the image may have your hands or your feet, so if you wear nail polish be sure it’s fresh and not chipped. This may be your reason to treat yourself, and book that mani pedi!

4. Exercise

For those of you with dogs that never run out of energy, no problem. You may want to let them run and play before you arrive, or if your dog responds better to “working”, then maybe you do a practice obedience session. But remember, part of the Shadow Dog experience can include running safely in our fenced-in field. So we’re sure to get your pup a little more settled if necessary. 

Running Dogs Shadow Dog Photography

On the topic of excess energy, I have a suggestion that may help. I have found that for dogs who are very excitable or quickly become nervous, a quiet voice helps keep them calm. So if you’re getting frustrated because your dog won’t sit and wait while you step away, or he’s looking over at the birds instead of focusing on me, don’t worry! Remember, that’s my job. I have some tricks up my sleeve, I’ll get your dog’s attention while keeping him calm.

5. Treats & Toys

Does your pup have any favorite toys or stuffed animals? Please be sure to pack them in your bag, but shhhh, keep them a secret! I may want to surprise your dog with these items a little later into your session.

I normally bring my own stash of tasty treats but if your pup has any food sensitivities just let me know. We don’t want any upset stomachs! If your dog is crazy about a certain food or treat, please be sure to pack some of it and bring it along. Sometimes dogs are just particular about what they eat, and that’s perfectly fine.

Well there you have it. The 5 most important things you can do to prepare for your upcoming Shadow Dog session. Above all just be ready to have fun. This is going to be an adventure, and we want your pup to go home tired and happy. And if you haven’t yet booked your session, click here to learn more. I’d love to learn more about you and your pup (or pups) and share many more details about what you can expect from your Shadow Dog experience.



Hi, I'm Jan

I help dog parents celebrate their best friends with adventurous portrait sessions and extraordinary artwork for their home. Tail wags and smiles guaranteed! Based in Whitewater, WI.


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