How to prepare your dog for an outdoor portrait session | Calgary Dog Photography


As dog lovers, we know our dogs are much more than pets; they are family.  They are unique family members with their own needs, wants and behaviours.  This is why many people choose to hire a professional pet photographer like myself, to capture the beauty and personality of their canine children in the beautiful outdoors. But…

calgary dog in a bathtub

How do you get your pooch to look and feel his best for the camera? 

Fret not! Here are some pre-session preparation tips that will help your pup be at his best! (and you’ll have some stunning portraits to treasure).


Clients often come to me with the belief that a full groom and haircut within 24 hours of the session is best for achieving nice portraits. In actuality, for most dogs, a full haircut/shave down 10-14 days before the session is better. This is because the goal is for your images to represent a natural ‘every day when I see my dog he looks like this’ type look. Two weeks after a fresh cut allows for some regrowth while still maintaining a nice appearance. Grooming appointments close to the session time can also cause your pet to be unusually tired or stressed and that is often visible in the images. You know your pet better than anyone else so consider these ideas and make the choice that suits you best. 🙂

If your groom is simply a bath or a bath and tidy (don’t forget the nail trim) – then a day or two before is just fine! It’s a good idea to bring your pet to the session as clean as possible and freshly brushed.


Take a few minutes to consider the album, wall art pieces or keepsakes that you’d like me to create from our session images.

Would you enjoy a beautiful arrangement of portraiture on your walls to smile at each day? or one beautiful masterpiece? What is the colour scheme and theme of the room where you want to display the wall art? We will choose a location for our images that will match well with your home decor.

Can you picture yourself turning the colourful thick pages of an album filled with all the lovely photographs telling the story of your pup and your relationship together? Is it placed on your coffee table where you share the story with family and friends when they visit? Always having a place for it through the rest of your life to bring those memories back?

Perhaps a showcase box engraved with your pup’s name, holding mounted prints of your favourite portraits in a frame on your mantel?

Knowing which artwork products you are interested in and discussing them with me in advance will be very helpful when planning our custom session. 🙂


If you have a puppy or a high-energy type of dog it’s a good idea to give them some exercise a few hours before the session. Just enough to get them more relaxed – but not exhausted. After all, we DO want to see their personalities shine through in the session.


What should you bring in your “doggy bag” with you during the session?

  1. Your dog’s favourite small treats in a baggie. (if he doesn’t have any health issues you may want to save half of his dinner so he’s eager to please for a treat)
  2. Water. A water bottle and a collapsable bowl or dish are extra important for warm weather days and also for those dogs who will be running or playing during their session.
  3. Your dog’s favourite ball or toy.
  4. Poop bags because when they gotta go – they gotta go.
  5. Wet wipes or a washcloth in case they find a way to get dirty (where there’s a will – there’s a way)
  6. A simple leash and collar. Lean away from bright colours, graphics or patterns unless it’s very sentimental to you.


Don’t worry that Fido won’t be on his best behaviour or that he doesn’t like to sit and stay – our goal is to capture him as he REALLY is – full of personality – funny quirks, energy and all! The more relaxed you are during the photoshoot the more relaxed and happy your pup will be – and that will shine through in your images. I have all the patience in the world for animals. The safety and happiness of each animal in front of my camera is my priority, so we will take our time and enjoy every moment together.


From goofy faces and silly poses to all-out “canine athlete of the year” shots, every dog photo is a little treasure that reminds us of the joy that our beloved canine companions bring into our lives.  A dog’s life is far too short (sob), but quality photographs help us to remember their unique personalities and never forget the special connection that we share with them. 

If you have any other questions about preparation give me a call or pop over here to send me an email and I’ll get right back to you!

Looking forward to our session,

Pawsitive Vibes, 🐾

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Heidi Grace Pet Portraiture Logo

Heidi Grace

Fine Art Pet Photographer

Pet Portraits with Personality

Heidi Grace is a nationally accredited and award-winning professional photographer serving Calgary, Alberta.

She’s dedicated to preserving the bond between pets and their parents with her colourful style of story-telling imagery.

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