If you have kids, yearly photos with Santa Clause is a holiday must. But now there’s another man in red. All over the country, Santa Paws is setting up shop in pet stores and malls, giving dog owners the opportunity to make some precious Christmas memories.

I have been taking my dogs to Santa Paws for nine years. Though it may seem like a simple task – take dog to see Santa, get amazingly cute photo – it’s a lot harder than it looks. As such, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help dog lovers make the most out of their Santa Paws experience while keeping Rover happy and safe.

BRING YOUR DOG’S FAVORITE TREATS

While you’re waiting in line, your dog may get nervous or start misbehaving. This is a great time to work on training. Training for treats keeps your dog focused on you and those amazing food stuffs in your hand. You can periodically ask your dog to sit, watch or spin. For first-timers and people with nervous dogs, this also helps you establish the Santa Paws activity as a positive experience.

DRESS YOUR DOG UP

You can go all out with a Santa outfit or reindeer antlers. Or, you can just add a little spice with a seasonal scarf. Oh, the options!

MIND YOUR MANNERS

No one likes a rude dog. Make sure your dog is behaving – this is where the training comes in handy.

WORK ON SIT/STAYS BEFORE YOU GO

There is usually a lot going on at Santa Paws events – barking, all sorts of smells, and people and dogs everywhere. That means it could be harder than usual for your pet to concentrate. Make both of your lives easier by rehearsing their sit/stay at home before you come to meet the big guy. This will make the process smoother when your dog is expected to behave during their photo op with Santa.

MAKE IT A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE

Praise your dog! Be positive! Squeak your dog’s favorite toy to perk them up for the picture!

BE PATIENT

For some dogs, sitting next to a random stranger in a red outfit is scary. Don’t force your dog to do something that he or she doesn’t want to do and don’t yell at your dog. If my dogs act nervous around Santa, I simply get in the photo with them. All of a sudden, a scared looking pup might brighten up for the camera. Plus, how fun is it to be in a Santa photo with your furry friend?

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