Pet Pics with Ol' Saint Nick
Most of us probably have those great looking photos of us sitting with a mall Santa crying, screaming or fidgeting and attempting an escape. Even with those, it's still hard to resist the trip to see Kris Kringle, and it's even harder for us with our pets!
Pet pics with Saint Nick have the potential to be a fun and yes, even a magical way to get your holidays started, and if you're like us, that image is on your holiday cards too.
Planning for posing your pet with Santa is similar to preparing for children's photos with Santa and if you have a checklist and some preparation the day should go well.
Costumes are weird
Let's face it, Santa can be intimidating if your pets (and children) don't see people dressed up. If you pets are uncomfortable, you can always practice being Santa at home and take photos there too. Your pets may benefit from calming treats before heading to the photo session to reduce any anxiety they may have.
Socialization is important
Your dogs should get out and about and have practice with good manners in public settings. If your dog is perfect at home, it doesn't mean those skills transfer to the world. Some animals are timid, spooky, barky and some are painfully shy when meeting people. Practice meeting strangers all the time and to enhance the stranger experience they could give your dogs some of their favorite treats. Being comfortable around strangers will help your dog be successful with Santa too.
How is your dog around other dogs? If your dog isn't comfortable and under control, you may want to have a crate handy to help keep your dog calm while waiting. Prevent your dog from racing up to other dogs and getting in their face, no matter how much your dog wants to meet other dogs; other dogs don't like that behavior.
Dressed Up Dogs
When your dog is visiting Santa, you may want to get a seasonal collar, reindeer antlers or even an outfit to fit the festivities. Those little touches help bring back fond memories every time you look at the photos. If your dog is dressed up in a costume, be sure to take time and practice with the outfit at home enough before going to the photo shoot, so your dog is comfortable. Put the outfit on just before it's your turn with Santa so the clothes stay clean and your pet stays comfortable.
Your dog will look best when groomed before the photo shoot. For breeds that visit a dog groomer ask how long before the photos they should have their styling. If you're giving a bath before the shoot, usually 3-5 days ahead is a good guideline. Bring a brush along, so your dog looks their best.
Walk the Dog
Walking your dog before the session will help take some of the edge off, so they are more relaxed during the photo shoot. Walking is beneficial for you and your dog, and Santa will appreciate having a calm dog on the photo set.
Strike a Pose
Bring the "Good Stuff" to the Santa session. Delicious, high-value treats will help your shoot go well.
You want treats that are interesting enough that your pet wants to work for them and small enough that eating them doesn't fill up your pet. I usually have some high-quality treats on hand but not all dogs like all treats. If your dog prefers a particular treat, bring those along. The best treats for photo shoots are small, soft and stinky. No crunchy treats during the shoot, they aren't smelly enough, are messy and take too long to eat.
Does your dog have a favorite toy? Bring some along. Favorite toys give your dog something to focus on and let their personality shine through.
Bringing some favorite toys along gives your pet something familiar to focus on, and be more “himself” during the shoot. Is there a toy that has special meaning to you? Bring it along to include in the photos. Bring the toys out when they are needed. If your dog is extraordinarily toy motivated it may be best to wait to show the toy, so we don't lose their attention.
Squeaky Toys are great to capture expressions, but timing and amount of squeaks are critical to success. One single squeak at the right time makes the image, but it only works when it is unexpected. Continually squeaking toys will cause your dog to lose interest and the reactions we are all hoping for vanish. I know the most beneficial times for exciting sounds to get your dog looking fantastic.
The same theory applies for trigger words, use them sparingly and be prepared to take direction on where to stand when you say them to create what we want.
My Eye versus Your Eye - what I see through the lens is different than what you are seeing. You'll get direction on what I need to get those great shots, and it will be fun too!
What else should you bring? Anything that you want to have included in the images. Pet outfits, ties, scarves, bandanas, and costumes. If your dog likes to drool, please bring a rag to wipe off their mouth.
Safety Tips for Santa Pet Pictures
When visiting Santa with your dog, specific safety tips are essential to keep the experience enjoyable for you, your pet, the wranglers and Santa. It's vital for your pet to feel comfortable, and it's equally important for the wranglers and others to feel safe and relaxed while working with your pet on the set.
Here are a few things to keep in mind for picture day:
- Use a Leash, Harness or Carrier. Even if you trust your pet to behave off-leash, other pets may not. It’s always a good idea to keep your pet restrained both for their safety and the safety of others around them. Cats should also be on a leash or harness in case something frightens her.
- Teach Your Pet Basic Commands. You'll have better photos with Santa if your dogs know basic commands like "Sit," "Wait," "Off" and "Stay." Not all pets want to sit on Santa's lap; it's perfectly fine if they're going to sit on the floor in front of Santa. If your dog still isn't sure about sitting next to the man in the red suit, ask Santa to drop some yummy treats on the floor to help your dog feel more comfortable sitting on the set.
- Dress up. Just in case you end up in the photo with your dog because they can’t get it together, make sure you wear something you wouldn’t mind seeing in a photograph.
Looking forward to seeing you and your pets!