While we are partial to necklaces at AGY as our choice of accessory, we also love photographing our pups with other fashion props, such as oversized hair bows, sunglasses, and hats. These accessories are so fun, but can be particularly challenging to work with if you have a young puppy or just a really feisty pet.
To help out those with particularly spunky pups, here are some tips that I have used in the past that may help encourage your sweet pup to wear that giant hair bow, those trendy sunnies, or that hilarious hat.
Start Off Simple
Introduce Your Dog to a Simple Ponytail
In my experience, my pups have adapted more easily to things on their heads, rather than to sunglasses in front of their eyes (click here to go directly to my sunnies tips). So, I recommend that you first train your dog (boy or girl) to wear a rubber band ponytail without a bow. I personally use 3/8 inch orthodontics rubber bands for my dogs' ponytails. These are small, lightweight rubber bands that generally stay in place very well.
When first putting your dog's hair into a ponytail, wrap the elastic around a small section of their hair 2-3 times. Then, gently loosen the ponytail at the base (below the rubber band) to ensure that it is not super tight.
The first time you do this, your dog may react by rubbing his or her head on the floor and pawing at it. If this happens, comfort your dog, retighten the pony tail slightly, and give your dog praise or a treat.
Initially, I recommend that you only request your dog to wear the rubber band ponytail for a short period of time. The length of time will vary depending on how receptive your dog is to the elastic band (could be 5 minutes, could be several hours). Whatever the length of time, the important thing is to not overly irritate your pup and to let your dog know that this is a temporary request. When you feel that your dog has had "enough time" with the new hair accessory, remove the rubber band, and reward your dog with praise and treats.
Love Bailey's necklace? Shop all AGY necklaces.
Slowly Add Larger Hair bows and Hats
Once your pup has mastered the art of wearing a ponytail, you can start adding small bows to their rubber band pony tail. For photos, I recommend using bows with alligator clips. This type of bow is quick to remove and allows you to easily swap out bows during a photo session without disturbing your pup's ponytail. As your pup gets used to the bow, you can gradually add bigger bows.
If your dog accepts bows, you can even add hats. When starting off with hats, I recommend using hats specifically made for dogs (especially if you have a small dog) as they often come with adjustable straps that secure below the chin to keep the hat in place.
An additional hat tip: Both Bailey and Bentley's hats in the above picture have straps that wrap around their heads and under their chins. If you use an editing program like Lightroom, you can easily delete the strap like I did in this photo so that it does not show in the final version.
Training Techniques That I Use in Photo Sessions
Use the Command "Leave It"
As you move into larger hair bows and hats, I recommend associating a command with your pup's accessories.
Anyone who has taken their dog to a puppy training class is likely familiar with the command "Leave It". While this is often taught to prevent our dogs from smelling of another dog's poo or picking up that McDonald's wrapper on the walk, this command can also be used to stop dogs from pawing at their hair bows or hats.
I have routinely used this command in photo sessions with my pups. Simply state the phrase "leave it" as soon as they start messing with the hair accessory. If they stop immediately upon command, give them a treat and praise. As soon as they finish their treat, quickly snap a photo (or snap while they are eating their treats for super cute #tot pics). If they start messing with their accessory again, simply repeat the command, and give them a treat again once they stop. Repeat as necessary.
Interested in other training tips? Check out our article on training your dog to sit for photos.
Distract Your Pup
Alternatively, if your pup completely ignores you, and continues to work on getting the hair bow or hat off, I recommend "resetting" your dog. For me, this involves, putting my camera down, moving my dogs to another spot on my photography table, readjusting their outfits, talking sweetly to them, and fixing their hair bow or hat. As soon, as I "reset" my dogs, I immediately start distracting them with treats (a focal point) and our typical photo commands (e.g., "ready", "look up", "hey pretty girl", etc.), while quickly snapping pictures. This simple act of movement will often give me just enough time to get my dogs focused on something besides their accessory, and give me that picture that I am looking for.
Use a Chair
I also occasionally use a small chair for Bailey, my Yorkshire terrier, when she is being particularly feisty. This is a child-size chair that is just big enough for her to sit up right in, which prevents her from laying down and messing with her accessories. When she is having days that she is not particularly excited about sitting still for photos, I pull out this secret weapon for a quick picture.
My "Sunnies" Journey
You may be noticing a trend on Instagram right now of dogs wearing amazing sunnies. The first time I saw this, I thought to myself, "there is no way my dogs will ever wear sunglasses." Well, I am happy to report that I was wrong, but this is a great example of how sometimes training your dog can simply take time and patience.
The first time I introduced sunnies to my dachshund, Bentley, I basically just held them in front of his face right above his nose for a very short period (about a second) multiple times.
Gradually, I began trying to place them on Bentley's nose. Over and over, Bentley would bow his head down and the sunnies would fall off. Sometimes, he would even duck to avoid them. I was persistent though. I would try for short periods each photo session, giving up after several tries, and placing the sunglasses on the back of his head or in front of him for his picture.
Eventually, he finally accepted them and let them sit on his snout. I snapped a few quick pictures, took them off, and rewarded him handsomely. Over time, Bentley has grown more accustomed to wearing sunnies and routinely appears on our Instagram feed with a cool new pair. My conclusion from this journey: Sometimes, it just takes time for your pup to adjust to the accessory, and patience and persistence on your part is key to this success.
As a special note on sunnies, it is important to set up the sunglasses so they don't fall off when you immediately try to place them on your pup. Sunnies can sometimes be too wide for small dog faces, so when I balance the sunglasses on my dogs' snouts, I partly close the frames so they are in more of a v-shape, and the back points will at least touch the back of the dog's head or neck. Otherwise, they will fall off. (Also, although I have not tried it, I have heard of some owners using eyeglasses straps to secure the sunnies on the dog's head.)
Keep It Short and Sweet
As soon, as I capture the photo I am looking for, I immediately pull the sunnies/hat/bow off, and hand my dogs a treat. I consistently reinforce to my dogs that they are wearing these accessories at my request temporarily in exchange for a delicious treat.
Getting your dog accustomed to accessories can take time, and can easily become frustrating to both you and your pet. So, my biggest advice is to have fun. If your pet is just not into a particular accessory, think of other ways to use the prop for that photo (and then maybe try to reintroduce it at another time). When we were first trying to get Bentley to wear sunnies, he did this funny thing where he would go low to avoid them, so one day we just decided to film that and use it as a reel instead. It was so adorable, and even more fun than if he had perfectly cooperated that day.
Need inspiration for your next dog accessory, check out our accessory recommendations! Good luck, and have fun taking amazing photos of your pups!