Does your dog need to know any tricks before you book a session? NO, absolutely not! It is my job to capture your dog’s true character and personality, so please don’t worry if your dog is a little pocket rocket that happily ignores all your commands. We will still be able to get great photos, portraiting your dog the way he really is. Therefore, please don’t feel that you can only book a photo session if your dog is trained to star in the next Dr Dolittle movie (there’s bound to be a sequel, right?)! I’ve got a very fast camera and lots of patience to guarantee that I catch your dog frolicking about and doing his thing just like he always does.

However, for a more controlled session, the below basic commands are a big help, you don’t need to worry during the session and instead can concentrate on having fun because you just know that your dog can obey and look cute for a second or two, no matter what. It might be a good idea to brush up on these basic commands as soon as you are thinking of booking a session. They also provide you with a great excuse to have fun and bond with your dog or puppy. The below positive training methods require only three ingredients:

  • delicious treats (I successfully use Wuffit Mix Lick n Mix during my photo sessions) 
  • lots of patience
  • repetition

Remember never to punish or shout at your dog – he only wants to get it right and please you. So, are you ready for some action? Here is how you get started.  

Sit

Sit, cocker spaniel
Pickle modelling the “Sit” position

This is one of the easiest dog obedience commands to teach, so it’s a good one to start with. It is also the most important trick your dog should master to guarantee a relaxed photo session and easily achieve gorgeous portrait shots. If you haven’t practised this command in a while, it might be a great idea to incorporate a little fun training session during your next walks. 

STEP 1   

Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose.

STEP 2 

Move your hand up and behind his eyes, allowing his head to follow the treat and causing his bottom to lower.

STEP 3

Once he’s in sitting position, say “Sit,” give him the treat, and give praise and affection.

Step 4

Repeat this sequence a few times every day until your dog masters it perfectly. Then ask your dog to sit before mealtime, when leaving for walks, and during other situations where you’d like him to be calm and seated.

Stay

Stay Cockapoo Tashi
Tashi waiting patiently in the “Stay” position

Before attempting this one, make sure your dog is an expert at the “Sit” command. If your dog masters this pose, it gives me time to come closer and catch his best side. It’s a fantastic trick to have up your dog’s paw for when I find a picturesque photo spot where the light is just perfect and your dog is able to remain in this position for a little while for me to get the shot. 

STEP 1

First, ask your dog to “Sit.”

STEP 2

Then open the palm of your hand in front of you, and say “Stay.”

STEP 3

Take a few steps back. Reward him with a treat and affection if he stays.

STEP 4

Gradually increase the number of steps you take before giving the treat.

STEP 5

Always reward your dog for staying put — even if it’s just for a few seconds.

This is a challenging exercise in self-control for your dog, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to master, particularly for puppies and high-energy dogs. After all, they want to be on the move and not just sitting there waiting and looking cute. 

Sit Pretty

Asking your dog to sit pretty looks a lot like begging but it is a very cute pose to have in your repertoire. It is also one of the easiest tricks your dog will learn aside from learning the ‘Sit’ command. Because the ‘sit pretty’ command focuses on your dog’s manners, it’s a great command to use in several ways from petting, showing affection, and meeting new people, as well as receiving treats or meals. When you ask your dog to sit pretty, you’re asking him to sit down on his rear haunches and lift both his front legs up. His back should be straight, his belly should be exposed, and his bottom should be on the floor. I’m still looking for a dog modelling this pose for me!

STEP 1 

First, ask your dog to “Sit.”

STEP 2 

Hold a treat up above your dog’s nose and very slowly raise the treat higher. This should get both of your dog’s front paws off the ground to try to get the treat from your hand. 

STEP 3 

Once your dog’s front paws are off the ground, offer him verbal praise and the treat. 

STEP 4 

Repeat this several times, expecting your dog to rise off his front paws every time you raise the treat up and over his nose. 

STEP 5 

Once your dog has done this a few times, raise the treat even higher until your dog is completely sitting on his backside with his front paws off the ground. 

STEP 6 

Once your dog hits this position sitting on his hind feet with his bottom on the ground and his front legs up as if in a begging position, name the trick. Tell your dog, “sit pretty.” 

STEP 7 

Continue to practice this new trick but be consistent about raising the treat higher and having your dog in the “sit pretty” position before you offer him a treat.

Come

Come, boxer dog
Dusty jumping into action with the “Come” command

This command is great for choreographed running shots. I say choreographed or controlled because rather than me following your dog around with my camera and hoping for a great moment, we can deliberately set up a nice scene, get your dog to “Sit” and “Stay” and once we are in position, call him to “Come” and… ACTION! Here’s how you get started at home to practice this great move for those action shots you will adore.

STEP 1   

Put a leash and collar on your dog.

STEP 2

Go down to his level and say, “Come,” while gently pulling on the leash.

STEP 3

When he gets to you, reward him with affection and a treat.

STEP 4

Once he’s mastered it with the leash, remove it — and practice the command in a safe, enclosed area until he comes to you without fail every time you call him.

Down

Down, cockerpoo
Daisy looking adorable in the “Downward Dog” Position

This can be one of the more difficult commands to master because the position is a submissive posture. You can help by keeping the training positive and relaxed, particularly with fearful or anxious dogs. If your dog manages this pose, we can achieve very adorable photos that give you this warm fuzzy feeling. 

STEP 1

Find a particularly smelly treat, I like the Wuffit Mix Lick N Mix Fish Suppers for this purpose, and hold it in your closed fist.

STEP 2

Hold your hand up to your dog’s snout. When he sniffs it, move your hand to the floor, so he follows.

STEP 3

Then slide your hand along the ground in front of him to encourage his body to follow his head.

STEP 4

Once he’s in the down position, say “Down,” give him the treat, and share affection.

STEP 5

Repeat it every day. If your dog tries to sit up or lunges toward your hand, say “No” and take your hand away. Don’t push him into a down position, and encourage every step your dog takes toward the right position. After all, he’s working hard to figure it out!

Does your dog know a special trick beyond these basics? Comment below for your chance to brag and show-off your dog’s skills.