Leah O'Connell

client tips, families

4 Tips for family photos with your dog

I'm Leah!

I’m obsessed with stories of family, creativity, and simple joys.  A nostalgia nerd, educator, wife, and mom of 3, I believe life’s most fun when you’re dreaming big and having kitchen dance parties. 

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Dogs are part of the family! And even though you want to include them, sometimes it can feel like a bit much. These 4 tips for family photos with your dog will (hopefully) help ease the tension to make sure it goes smoothly.

4 Tips for family photos with your dog

1. Carry treats

Put a handful of treats in your pocket before the shoot to help positively reinforce your pet and better obey when asked to sit, stay, etc. If I know a family is bringing their dog along for an outdoor session, I also try to remember to pack a few treats of my own to get on your dogs’ good side (but I’ll always ask before treating to be sure it’s safe for his/her diet, training, etc.).


2. Bring a dog wrangler

It always helps to bring along a friend, neighbor, or grandparent who is familiar with the dog if we’re meeting at a location outside the home. This person can easily take him/her on a quick walk or back to the car if needed throughout the session.

This way, you don’t need to be in charge of handling your pet if she gets super riled up and needs a break or we simply want to try to make some photos without her! 

If it’s not possible to convince a helper to come along, just make sure you bring a leash that’s easy to wrap around a nearby tree or pole so we can safely keep your pet aside throughout the shoot as we walk around the location.

couple with 2 dogs

3. Choose a private location or stay at home

You know I’m a fan of family photos at home for the familiarity they allow with kids, and the same applies to family photos with your dog! 

Your pet will be most comfortable, less riled up, and easier to manage in his regular environment. It’s also super easy to put the dog in a separate room, his crate, or outside when/if it’s time for some family moments without him.

If home is not an option or preference for you, we can keep the stress-level low by choosing a location that’s private or very rural with lots of open space to run and play.

4. Go along with their play

When including your dog in your family photos, it’s okay to get active and play along! Just as play encourages connection with your people, it will help us capture the love you share with your dog, too. Bring a frisbee or tennis ball to toss across the yard (or even into the water if he loves to swim!). Do tricks, cuddle with him on the bed – whatever you’d normally do with your pup. Dogs have a great way of loosening up their humans, so go with the flow!

Bring on the pups!

Dogs of any age and size are welcome in your session with me! And if you follow me on instagram, you know that I have a pretty wild one of my own so I’m so stranger to jumping, barking, or aggressive nuzzling.

Hopefully these tips will hopefully help you include your dog in your family photos while keeping things fun and stress-free.

Ready to make family photos with me (and your dog!) in Charlottesville this year?

Reach out here!

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Hi, I'm Leah.
Family photographer, writer, educator.

I’m  one of the first to meet your newborn baby, the one who won't judge your clothes baskets and unmade beds, and the one who can capture the way your husband looks at you with a twinkle in his eye after 12 years of marriage. I believe in honoring people and telling stories.

I believe art has the power to light up the world in dark places, starting at home.