Christmas is a magical time that’s meant to be spent with your family, eating lots of food, and taking fun photos. No matter who we are, a small part of us still yearns for that ‘perfect’ holiday photo with our loved ones and our pets. However, far from every pet is well-behaved for long. And some dogs seem like they’re on a mission to mess up their parents’ portraits and create photo fails in any and every way they can.
Bored Panda has sniffed out the best Xmas photos ‘ruined’ (some would say ‘enhanced’) by pooches on the internet, so get your Scooby Snacks ready and start scrolling! Remember to give your fave dogs a boop on their noses and an upvote under the photo. Do you have any stories or photos of your pets messing about during the holidays? Share them in the comment section.
Some photography basics never change, no matter your subject. In this case, if you’re going for the ‘perfect’ holiday pic, you want to play around with the lighting to see what looks best. As a rule of thumb, natural light tends to look better. What’s more, you can hardly expect to take the best possible shot on your first try. So don’t be scared to re-do your snaps if your dog decides to paw you in the face or flash a silly face. But that’s not all.
Toronto-based pet photographer Karen Weiler, the creator of Posh Pets Photography, told Bored Panda all about taking photos with dogs. She explained that if you want your dog to focus on the camera, you can hold treats or toys over the lens, say their favorite words (for example, "walkies"), or make sounds to grab their attention. "As a professional dog photographer, my secret weapon is that I can make the highest pitched sounds you can imagine—sounds that always elicit laughter from the humans and the crowd-pleasing favourite, the head-tilt, from the dog." Read on for our full interview with Weiler about rewarding your dog for being well-mannered during photo shoots and what to avoid doing so you don't scare your pup.
According to Canadian pet photographer Weiler, the secret to getting great photos of your dog is to make it fun and full of "high-value rewards." Now, these can actually be different depending on each individual dog. But the rewards are worth their value in gold if it means that your dog will be well-mannered on the big day of the important photo shoot.
"What motivates your dog? If it is treats, get the best tasting treats you can find and use these to reward your dog for good behavior. Even better if you can do a little training each day before you require a certain behavior. You’ll be so much happier with the result on the big day, and your dog will thank you for all of the opportunities to earn tasty treats!" Weiler told Bored Panda.
We were also curious to find out what faces dogs make when they're 'smiling' like we are. " What we call a dog smile is actually a relaxed mouth, usually with a bit of their tongue hanging out. It is different from the very stressed, tense closed mouth and the opposite which is the long, dangling tongue hanging out of the mouth," Weiler, the pet photographer, explained.
"So, the dog smile occurs when the pup is relaxed, happy, and confident. It goes without saying not to put your dog in situations that make them nervous or uncertain. At this time of year, that can mean prickly tree branches, rustling paper, and please, do not wrap them up in lights. Wait them out. Sometimes, dogs will really focus on you if you are asking for a certain behavior, for example ’sit,’ and watch you intently with a closed mouth. Just pause for a bit and you might find that they will relax and that little smile will show itself," the photographer said.
"Mom wanted a picture of the dog for our Christmas card. Nailed it?"
Remember to keep in mind that your dog is a member of your family: you wouldn't force your kids to take a photo if they didn't want to, so don't pressure your pet either. The PDSA, the UK's leading vet charity, explains that there's a "ladder of communication" when it comes to dogs and how they deal with stress.
For example, turning away, pawing someone away, or walking away could indicate that your dog is slightly stressed. Meanwhile, creeping or having its ears backs shows elevated stress levels. While growling and snapping show very high levels of stress. Keep an eye out for these to see how your pet feels about having their picture taken.
"We were taking our family Christmas photo, and let’s just say the dogs weren’t in a Holly Jolly mood. This photo was the worst of the batch, but now it’s a conversation starter. We keep it right by the entrance of our home here in St. Louis"
Keeping your dog well-behaved and feeling good during your holiday photo shoot can be a challenge. But it’s important to stay playful and accept any mistakes that happen as they come along.
After all, your dog doesn’t really understand what photography is or why it needs to look ‘presentable’ and stay still. To your dog, what you’re doing probably looks like a fun game (or something incredibly tedious, from the expressions of some of these pets).
Enlisting the help of a squeaky toy or a snack can work wonders. Especially if your dog is well-trained and listens to your commands. All the while making sure that the lighting is alright, the angles are good, and that everyone looks happy in the portrait.
"I just wanted a nice family photo for Christmas. I don’t know what Donut wanted"
"Our failed attempt at a Christmas card a few years ago lol Merry Christmas"
"My dog tangled in Christmas lights, and breathing fire"
At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ Xmas photo. But the goofy pics that you take with your dog messing everything up might just make for the most memorable snaps that you’ll be showing your friends over and over and over again.
We think it’s time to redefine what ‘perfection’ means and to fully embrace our ‘ruined’ photos (and our best boys and girls).
"My friend's dog's reaction after finding out that his Christmas gift was a sweater"
"Taught my dog to pose and now he is photobombing all my attempts to take a pic."
“My husband and I wanted to take a Christmas family photo with our dog Rylee, but he kept wandering off. When we got home our photographer called us and said, ‘I found where Rylee was.”
"I tried to take a cute christmas photo holding my dog..."
"In case you were wondering, this is what happens when you try to take a Christmas card picture, but your dog firmly believes she’s the star of every show..."
"Benny disapproves of family photos..."
"Sully disapproved taking a family photo while matching outfits"
"My supervisors daughter got a new dog. This is the Christmas card she just got"
"Just wanted to take a nice Christmas photo with my dog..."
"This photo not only captures a quote from my favourite Christmas movie but also how I dealt with 2020... this is fine. *no dogs were harmed in the making of this picture."
"This is our 2006 Christmas Card photo with our 6-year-old English Bulldog, Joan"
"My dog wouldn't sit still for Christmas photos so I just went with it"
“Resentment at it’s finest…not sure if it’s from the elf costume or for us bringing home this baby!”
"Trying to take a nice family photo"
“This is my cat (Gus) and dog (Honey Pie). Honey wouldn’t sit down next to me so I thought it would be a good idea to hold her and Gus. While my sister was getting ready to take the photo they both started fighting. This photo is the end result. That is the look of true fear on my face of being mauled by my cat!”
“It is a rare occasion when we can gather all grown children, significant others, grandkids AND dogs for a family picture. We did it! Sort of.”