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Taking Your Dog to See Santa: Tips for a Jolly Visit!

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Are you taking your dog to get see Santa? ‘Tis the season!

You can help create a more memorable photo–and a better experience for both you and your dog–with just a little preplanning. We checked with PetSmart, which offers Santa photos in their stores at the Paws & Claus photo event (Dec. 16-17, 2023) for their tips on taking great photos with an in-store Santa!

Santa posing with a border collie and a German Shepherd
Photo courtesy of PetSmart

Get in the holiday spirit.

Before taking your dog for his or her photo with Santa, help them look and feel their best with a pre-photo groom.

Dress your holiday best.

For dogs who enjoy dressing up, you can dress them in holiday outfits such as a reindeer or Santa costume, cable knit sweater, elf hat or holiday collar.

It is a good idea to try the pet costume on at home before going to the store for a Santa picture.

This will help to make sure the holiday outfit fits properly and that your dog is comfortable.

Plan ahead.

If you are attending the PetSmart photo event, book your appointment in advance.

If you’re participating in another Santa photo event, consider calling the store to see how large the crowd is before taking your dog in for a Santa photo if you have a dog who is easily distracted. Wait until the line is low and then go to the store so that your pet can focus and take a precious picture.

Arrive early.

PetSmart training expert Jodie Havens, CPDT-KSA, recommends helping pets expend extra energy by playing at home or walking through the PetSmart aisles before their appointment to capture their beautiful – and calm – smile.

On a personal note, I’ve found that the fish and cat sections of the store are good places to warm up, practicing some sits and hand touches to get my dog’s attention. These areas have fewer dogs and fewer distractions. (The aisle with the dog treats and chews is the toughest!)

If you don’t want to arrive at the store early, take a long walk before entering the store.

Catch their attention.

Havens suggests creating a picture-perfect moment by using an eye-catching holiday-themed toy or making noises, such as calling a dog’s name, to ensure they are looking at the camera during their time with Santa.

Reward your dog for good in-store behavior.

Treats or special toys can keep pets from getting anxious while in line and even help them behave during the photo.

Using a treat or toy while standing near the photographer can get your pet to look toward the camera and rewarding them throughout the experience can also ensure that pets are well-behaved for their next photo session.

(Also, if you are a PetSmart Treats Rewards member, you can receive a photo book gift from Mixbook; you’ll get the promo code via email following the event.)

Make introductions.

To help your pet feel comfortable with Santa during the photo, be sure to walk up and introduce Santa to your dog.

This will let your dog know you are at ease with Santa and encourage your pet to act the same way.

A few minutes of pre-trip preparation can help you and your dog enjoy your visit with Santa–and bring home the photos to prove it!

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Taking your dog to visit Santa
Paris Permenter
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