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edited collar on dog

The Best Collars and Leads to use during your Dog Portrait Session

There are a number of collars on the market. Each can serve a different purpose, so you might find that you own a number of different collars over the years and utilize them for different things. Your dog may walk in the woods fine with a flat collar, but walk him in the neighborhood with all the different dogs and activity, he might need a harness to reign his energy in.

Before we go any further, I must say that my favorite collar hands down for walking my dog is the gentle leader. I have used them for my last three dogs. It is designed with two loops, one to sit over the muzzle and the other just behind the ears. It does not go over the lower neck and choke the dog when he moves in the forward direction. Rather it turns his head toward you to to give his attention to you instead of the forward direction.


I want photos of my dog! Who wants an image with a collar around his nose? I must agree there. Even though it is a great collar for walking a dog, I have some preferred collars for photo sessions. The number one thing is safety though. If you feel your dog needs a gentle leader or harness, there are a number of things we can do to ensure his safety. Options may include a Double leash, or we can discuss private fenced in areas.

Martingale collar

While the gentle leader has my vote for walking my dog, the martingale collar has my vote for Portrait sessions. The martingale consists of one loop of fabric that goes around the neck and attaches to a smaller loop that attaches to the lead. The design is such that if a dog pulls in the lead, it tightens up the smaller loop, which in turn tightens the bigger loop around the dogs neck. The benefit of this is that it prevents your dog from getting out of collar that may be loose. While it still tightens around the dogs neck, the materials are such that with proper training as soon as the dog releases his tension, it loosens the collar.

From the front the collar looks like a flat collar, it is only in the back where the lead attaches to the collar, that you see both loops. The single collar make for a more clean portrait. If you prefer to not have the collar in your final images, it can be removed more easily in post production. I have found that I prefer the martingales that use a a chain for the smaller loop as they seem to glide more easily than the fabric loops.

The Flat collar

The flat collar is made out of a single length of fabric. It encircles the dogs neck and may either buckle or have a plastic snap for closing. This does make a clean line for photographic images. The one draw back with flat collars is that if not properly sized to the dogs head, the dog may be able to slip out.

flat collar on dog
flat collar


I recommend bringing a 6 foot and 30 foot lead. The 6 foot leads enable you to hold the dog at a short distance while the 30 foot leads are great for keeping your dog safe during action shots. It also comes in handy if we want some extra security and decide it is best to double leash your dog. I do not recommend retractable leads. My two main reasons for not recommending them is that people and dogs have gotten hurt on the suddenly retracting line. Rope burns, or neck injuries to the dog can result. The other reason is that the dog tend to lead the owner rather than the other way around. This type of lead actually teaches the dog to pull so that he can get more line. it is best to train your dog to walk by your side.

The photo session

We will talk about your dogs behaviors and your needs during our pre-consultation appointment. The safety of your dog is number One. Martingale collars, flat collars and leads can all be minimized /or omitted in your final images if that is your choice. (See the double lead above. Black lead also tied to tree behind for increased safety)

Whatever collars, leads you choose to use, once you arrive to the photo session, I want you just to enjoy your experience and have fun with your dog. I will worry about the rest.

This post is part of circular blog with other Professional Pet Photographers. Our goal is to focus on a particular topic/assignment each week and put our own spin on it. There are photographers from all over the world participating.  Follow the next link to view how the next amazing photographer tackles this weeks challenge.  Follow each link at the end of each blog until you return to me. Then you have successfully completed our blog circle. Enjoy!

+++++ NOW head over to:

Holly Cook talks about utilizing long leashes during a portrait session and why she loves them

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Second Chance has a unique program near Syracuse N.Y. where inmates train the rescued dogs. This program gives both the dogs and the inmates a second chance in life.  Appointments currently required related to Covid-19 protocols.

Chewy the little dog

CHEWY is waiting for his forever home.

Please contact Friends of Second Chance.

Friends of Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter
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Jamesville, NY 13078

Capture your journey with your pet. Nancy Kieffer is a pet and nature photographer serving  Central New York, the Adirondacks and Beyond.  Capture how you share your life with your pet! It may be a vacation adventure or curled up on the couch. Travel assignments welcomed.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jessica

    So very important to always emphasize safety first!

  2. Tammy Snyder

    I did not think about a martingale collar! And too cringe about retractable leashes.

  3. Nicole

    Oh my gosh, I agree with you on retractables. Those make me cringe for so many reasons. Awesome edit on the martingale removal.

  4. Elaine

    Nancy, your blog reminds me that I only use harnesses to walk my own dogs, but I don’t advise use of them for photo sessions, because I will not remove them in post. I also totally agree about retractable leashes. I wuv the wuv photo!

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