I've been photographing dogs for over a year and I thought I'd compile a list of tips and tricks that I've learned!
Treats are a safe bet to get attention.
Always, always, have treats handy. The dog you're photographing may or may not want to pay attention. Having a treat in hand will help get them focused and make it more enjoyable for them, I've never seen a dog not be happy over food, lol.
You want cute head tilts and focused looks, right?
I can't resist a head tilt, I mean who can???
Squeaker toys work fantastically! If you have a helper make sure they're directly behind you (if that's where you want the dog looking.) when they squeak the toy! Otherwise the dog won't be looking the way you want and you might miss your head tilt.
Speaking of squeaker toys, one of our favorite Instagram accounts suggested taking out the actual squeaker and putting it in your lips then blow through it! Easy and hands free. I love this method because the dogs don't see it coming and it makes for cute expressions!
We've tried out duck calls too, it worked alright but not as affective!
If you have a helper, have them stand behind you and throw something in the air (treat bags work great!).
This next one is a last resort. If all else fails make really weird noises with your mouth. I know, it's embarrassing, but it's all worth it when you get a head tilt out of it! So don't be afraid to be goofy. Just a side note, if you're being goofy and having a good time, the subject and whoever else is with you will too. Whistling also works pretty good too!
Put your happy pants on!
I cannot express this enough. Be happy!!! Under no circumstances lose your cool and get impatient, because then it will all go downhill. If you're happy, the dog will be too, and so will their owner. If the dog doesn't know you then set aside a couple minutes to let it relax and feel comfortable around you before you start! If the dog isn't behaving or simply isn't paying attention then take a break, let it run around, play with it, anything! It will help tremendously and it will help you too. Attitudes are contagious, make sure yours is a good one!
Angles and composition matter!
When photographing dogs always get eye level with them! I even like going way below eye level sometimes and including the grass/sand/snow in the foreground to add depth! Getting eye level or lower (Don't ever go below eye level with people! Just talking about dogs/animals here.) is way more pleasing to look at than if you were standing and taking a picture above them. This is excluding the head shots directly above that shows off the puppy dog eyes of course, then it's fine.
Helpers? You mean life savers.
You can do it by yourself, sure, but having a helper is going to save you a ton of stress. They are your extra set of hands you wish you had when you're by yourself! They can help position dogs where they need to be, they help brainstorm ideas for last minute shots, they can run and move that twig that is obstructing the view, and most importantly, they can squeak the squeaker for you when you're hands are full, lol! Seriously, they are the best kind of friend because you can both laugh afterwards at the things you have to do for that shot.
These are things I have had and like to use everytime I go shoot. I hope you find them helpful!