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How to Make the Perfect Holiday Card Starring Your Dog

We walk you through taking the best possible picture of your pup, whether you're a beginner, intermediate or advanced holiday card maker.

Nikki Moustaki  |  Dec 7th 2016


People might not pay much attention to your social media posts during the busiest time of the year, but they’ll definitely open their mail. Not only is a custom holiday card featuring your dog going to brighten people’s day, it’s fun to make. Here’s how to create the perfect holiday card featuring your dog.

Classic Santa’s lap

Featuring your dog on Santa’s lap is a no-brainer for strange jolly men-loving dogs. Find out where Santa will be and if the location allows dogs to be photographed. You can often find Santa’s lap photo sittings specifically catered for dogs. The photographer should be used to shooting both kids and dogs, which means that your dog should have the right expression in the photo — alert, looking into the camera, ears up, mouth closed. If your dog has a “crying, terrified baby” look on his face (we’ve all seen that card!), try another theme.

Deck the halls

Decorating your dog with holiday-themed items is a popular holiday card tactic. What’s cuter than a dog dressed as Rudolph? If your dog doesn’t shake off the reindeer ears before you can take the photo, that is. Know what your dog will tolerate before you set up the photo. Is he good at holding a Sit or a Down? Will he accept being dressed up in clothes? Here are some ideas and their relative skill levels:

BEGINNER

Holiday stuff: Photographing your dog next to or among holiday items makes for a cute card, and it’s fairly easy. Park your dogs in front of the tree, lay them next to wrapped presents, or put them in a basket among garlands and ornaments. This card is great for dogs who won’t tolerate being dressed.

Dogs in ugly Christmas sweaters: Most dogs will tolerate a sweater. Bonus points if the entire family dons ugly Christmas sweaters and joins the dog in the photo.

Wreaths and garlands: A wreath around the neck can make for an adorable card, but size it for your dog. Even easier: Wrap some garlands around your dog’s neck or body (don’t let him chew it). You can even hang a few ornaments from them. Cover your dog with holidaycolored ribbons and present bows for an easy and festive photo.

Holiday pup by Gina Cioli/Lumina Media.

Holiday pup by Gina Cioli/Lumina Media.

INTERMEDIATE

Tiny dogs in stockings: There’s not much cuter than a puppy in a stocking, and if your dog is young, this will be the only year you can take this photo. Tiny dogs are also adorable hung in a stocking on the mantel. Tip: For safety, hang the stockings low to the ground and crop the photo to give the illusion that they’re on the mantel.

Santa, elves, and reindeer: These classic outfits are easy to find at any pet store or online during the holiday season. Perfect if you have multiple dogs. Bonus points if you can get your dogs to hold a Sit while a plate of cookie-shaped dog treats and a glass of milk are nearby.

ADVANCED

Wrapped in Christmas tree lights: This photo can be magical. Imagine a dog loosely wrapped in or lying inside of a tangle of lit (but not hot), glowing Christmas tree lights in a dim room, perhaps with the lit tree in the background. A dog that will tolerate this is confident and can hold a Sit or Down.

The manger scene: If you have three or more dogs, you can recreate a very cute manger scene. This card takes some creativity and preparation, and it’s important that all dogs can hold a solid Sit.

  • Capture the right expression
  • Your dog should be looking directly into the camera. Use a squeaky toy to get his attention. Squeak it and then toss it up in the air, and take a burst of photos as it drops.
  • Your dog’s ears should be forward, not pinned back.
  • His mouth should be closed (not panting), or he may have his tongue out slightly.
  • Your dog should look curious and alert.
  • He should not look frightened. He can look exasperated, tired, or annoyed if that’s part of the card’s theme, but he should never look miserable.
  • Lighting is everything — make sure your photo is well lit.
  • Remember, you may have to take hundreds of photos before you get one that you can use.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect. A yawning, squinting, or sleeping dog can make for a funny card.

Dog-themed holiday sentiments for the front of your card

  • Happy Howlidays
  • Happy Pawlidays
  • Have a Pawsitively Happy Holiday
  • Happy Holidogs
  • Happy Howl-lakkah
  • Santa Paws is Coming to Town
  •  Fleas Navidad
  • Feliz Naughty Dog
  • Deck the Paws with Bones of Holly
  • Santa’s Little Helper
  • Have a Doggone Great Christmas
  • Seasons Grrreetings
  • Bark, Humbug

Top photo: Vasi Siedman.