Picture Perfect

Snow covers the ground. Leaves fall as I walk through our back yard. The smell of turkey fills the air. It is official: The holidays are upon us.

Proud pet parents know exactly what this means. It is time for photos with Santa! My husband and I look forward to taking (most of) our pack to see jolly old St. Nick. We lovingly display our collection of Christmas photos on our entertainment center every year.

For some, this experience is anything but merry. Inexperienced or negligent pet owners can create chaos that has a ripple effect. I have complied a list of tips that will ensure you and your furry friend will stay on the nice list.

1.ALWAYS have your pet on a leash! No exceptions! Some people foolishly think that their dog will be fine as long as he/she is held. Keep in mind that your pet will be overwhelmed by new sights, sounds and smells. They may act in ways that completely surprise you. The typical reaction is, “They never act this way at home.” Of course not. Home is familiar to them. The local Petsmart, Petco, etc. is not home. And your dog may not be the problem. Perhaps another dog becomes too friendly or aggressive. If your dog is on a leash, you will have more control over the situation and will be able to escort your baby away from the problematic pooch instead of having to chase him/her through the store.

2.Bring along some of your pet’s favorite treats. I remember a Halloween photo event that we went to. The pet store people were squeaking toys and making noises trying to get our babies to look at the camera. That is when we noticed the display of Beggin’ Strips. I politely told a worker to grab one of the bags and give it a shake. That did the trick! Their heads snapped up and the photo was amazing. Not all animals like the same things. Mine are very picky where toys are concerned and could not care less about rubber toys (which is what the store clerk kept waving around). You know what your pet likes best. Use it to your advantage.

3.Dress for success. We always dress our dogs in “ugly” Christmas sweaters. They only cost $3 per sweater at the bargain spot at Target. We also have some fancy dresses for our little ladies that were a Target special as well. While every fur baby is beautiful on its’ own, dressing them up can give them confidence. Penny, our tripod, and Theo, our oldest, LOVE to get dressed up. They hold their heads a little higher and seem to have smiles on their faces. Be sure that your pet’s face and ears are free and not obstructed by any garments. While you may think that photos of your pet bundled up to their eyeballs is adorable, he/she may be miserable. Remember, this is supposed to be enjoyable for you and your pet.

4.Allow your pet to sniff Santa. While we all know and love the man in red, your pet has no idea who the bearded, big-belly guy is. Treat Santa as you would any stranger that asks to pet your dog. Slowly approach Santa in his seated position. He should extend his hand low to the ground, not directly in front of your pet’s face. Give your fur baby some time to sniff. Do not shove him/her onto Santa’s lap. Also, keep your pet’s personality in mind. If you have a dog that does not like men or beards, forcing him/her to meet Santa is not fair. You would be placing him/her in a situation that you know would make him/her uncomfortable. If this is true of your pet, ask if you can sit next to Santa and have your pet sit on your lap or on the floor on the opposite side. Be sure to let Santa know that he can look, but not touch. This will save you from potential drama.

5.Be patient. We all want that perfect picture and it rarely happens on the first take. Do not become angry with your pet. Remember that pets can sense tension. If you become agitated, so will they. Then they will start to fidget and things will go downhill quickly. And being patient also extends to the other patron’s pets. The holidays tend to make everyone feel rushed, but be sure to take time to stop and smell the gingerbread. Give peace to get peace.

6. Know when to go. My husband and I always try to arrive about 20 minutes before the photo event is to begin. This way we are assured a parking space and can get a good spot in line. However, you should also know when it is time to pack up and leave. We had a horrible experience at one of the annual Halloween events. While we were in the middle of the line, we barely moved after almost 30 minutes! None of the staff knew how to work the simple point and shoot digital camera. Pet parents were told that they could step to the side to pick up their photo only to be told to come back because their photo had not turned out. Ours had to be re-taken three times! And our fur babies were getting antsy. They had had enough of being dressed up and were so done with the ever-growing crowd. If the third attempt had not worked, we were prepared to leave. It would have been asking too much of our babies to expect them to pose, yet again as they had become tired from all of the waiting. You may be disappointed that you did not receive the photo you had hoped for, but you will save yourself and your pet from extreme stress.

Remember to be polite and friendly to those in attendance. You may even make new friends while waiting in line. Happy howlidays!

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