Capturing Timeless Memories: Photographing Senior Dogs

You know that age old saying “time flies when you’re having fun”? Well, I think that time spent with the special dog in your life must go at lightening speed: one minute you have a crazy ball of puppy fluff, then you blink and suddenly your puppy has turned 12 years old, with a greying muzzle and a lifetime of memories etched in thier soulful eyes. I definitely feel that way with my boy, Dexter. He turned 13 last month – I just can’t believe how fast those years have gone by. But I’m incredibly grateful for all the memories we’ve created and shared, and for the huge catalogue of photographs I’ve taken of him over the years.

Dexter at 13, 11 and 10 years old

With that said, this brings me on to a niche aspect of pet photography which holds profound significance – capturing the essence of senior dogs.

What is a Senior Dog?

The term can vary depending on breed and size, but generally a dog is considered a senior around the age of seven or eight years old (which I do honestly find quite shocking – I still thought of Dexter as relatively young when he was seven). With advancing age, senior dogs may exhibit changes in physical appearance, health, and behavior, but their spirits remain as vibrant as ever.

We’ve definitely noticed in his later years that Dexter is taking a slower approach to life – his walks are now more of a gentle amble, and are more about getting all the good quality sniffs in, instead of running around like a lunatic. He’s also now very hard of hearing, which poses its own quirks when I photograph him.

Why is it important to photograph your senior dog?

I feel like this question doesn’t really need an answer. It’s important because it’s important. You’ve shared your life with this special soul: they’re your constant companion, ever by your side. And they’ve changed throughout those years of companionship, but they’ve also changed you because they’ve found their way into your heart and your very being.

I hate to say it, because I feel like it’s constantly on my mind with each birthday that passes, but their lives are cruelly short. They have such a profoundly large impact on our lives in the relatively short space of time that they share with us – they really are a gift, and one that should be honoured.

So, photographing dogs in their senior years is about honouring their journey. Each grey hair that used to be black is part of their story, a part of your story. There’s so much soul, wisdom (and also a little bit of sass) in an older dog, and they deserve to have their stories told, and their milestones recorded. And you, as the human to an older dog, deserve to have those precious memories captured and preserved for a lifetime.

What to consider when photographing an older dog…

No two dogs are the same. Some senior dogs may still be full of energy, while others may be slowing down and suffering from aches and pains. There are important things to consider at any dog photography session, but sessions for older dogs who may have mobility issues, require a bit more forethought:

  1. Physical Limitations. Older dogs generally have a slower pace of life. They may also have mobility or health issues which mean they can tire easily. The most important thing to consider when photographing senior dogs is to make sure that they are comfortable and happy. So, when we arrange a session for an older dog, things like mobility, general health and well-being are at the forefront of my mind and we will discuss in depth what will be the best approach for your pup.
  2. Accessibility. If we shoot out on location for your senior dog, locations that are easily accessible are a must. So this might mean that photography sessions for older dogs may take place at home, or an easily accessible green space. Smaller dogs can be carried when they tire, but for bigger dogs, it’s really important to get the location right.
  3. Comfort. Older dogs with mobility issues may struggle in certain positions, so there is never any expectation for an older dog to pose in a particular way. If standing up is more comfortable for them, then the photos will be of them standing up. If they’re more comfortable lying down, then they’ll be lying down. At this stage of their life, I most certainly employ the mindset of “humanity over vanity” – I 100% want to provide you with beautiful photographs of your older dog, but this will not be at the expense of their comfort.
  4. Patience is key. I’ve been told so many times that I have a bottomless supply of patience, which I feel is a must when working with animals. It’s so important to let older dogs dictate the pace of the session – this way we’ll capture the most natural moments, while ensuring that your dog is content and relaxed.
  5. Just as important as patience, is knowing when enough is enough. This applies to any dog photography session, not just for older dogs. It’s so important to recognise when a dog is geting bored or fed up. I always make sure to include breaks for play, rest, water, etc. and will make the sessions as interesting as possible with plenty of treats. But for older dogs who tire easily, I feel it’s important to recognise when they’re telling me that they’ve had enough, and it’s incredibly important for me to respect that.

I’ll end by saying that photographing an older dog really is a privilege. There’s something incredibly special about capturing the essence of an old soul, and I’ve been lucky enough to photograph many (my own boy included).

So, if you have an older pup and you’d like to talk about arranging a session for them, please do get in touch.