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Holiday Traditions With Dogs

This weekend I spent considerable time transforming this…


into our annual Christmas Card. The finished product does not very much resemble the original. This required all the best photo editing skills I’ve accumulated through work on this very blog.

I do this every year. Not so much the editing, but the card. I’ve done it every year for nigh on 7 years or more. I’d have to pull out all the cards to count. I love these cards as documents of our life with pack o’ mutts. The conversations behind such and such year’s idea. The pictures taken in our former house vs. the new. The years we managed to include a transient resident. Our friends and family love them (so they say). Although, it may put us firmly in ‘crazy dog people’ category. I’m ok with that. Yes, I have 6 (or so) dogs! Look how damn cute they are!

This process had humble beginnings.


A slightly blurry, impromptu group shot, snapped on a couch they weren’t supposed to be on. I don’t think Rocco was even officially part of our family then. A foster dog interloper, who apparently knew what was up while we were still on the fence.

Over the years, we got better.


Oh, the humanity. Yet, I’ve never put them in Elf Hats, Reindeer Antlers, or the like. My dogs have never met Santa. I always consider it during my brainstorming process. Even I have my limits.

I love the tradition. Let me repeat that. I love the tradition. An important reminder. Because I find the process nerve wracking. Every. Year. My dogs are well versed at this. They know the drill. As do I. Still, it is incredibly difficult to get 6 ADD canine faces looking the appropriate direction, in some semblance of order for long enough to take a damn picture. Let alone come up with a composition ever so slightly different than last year’s. Minus costumes, 5 or 6 dogs only have so many versions of ‘sit there and look cute’.

This is to say, if you are amazed with these pictures, don’t be. It involves plenty of this…


and this


Bribery. Failed attempts. In spades.

The Dogs or Dollars Guide to taking a group picture:
1. A really, really, really good wait. (Another reason why it’s on my list of top 5 behaviors).
2. Really, really, really, really good treats to reinforce that wait. We bust out the organic hot dogs or the turkey breast.
3. Plenty of time. Start early! If you are planning to make this a Holiday Card start the process right after Thanksgiving, if not right before. It can take several rounds to get THE picture.
4. Patience. Every year one of my dogs will not cooperate. Often Jaime. This year Abbey. It’s always someone. Someday I will learn to roll with it. Now I just expect it, and refer to item #3.
5. A hidden squeaky toy. To be pulled out at the last second for the all important attention grab. Hold it next to the camera, so it looks like your dogs are at rapt attention. (They won’t be.) A solid repertoire of obnoxious noises you don’t often make also helps.
6. Don’t be afraid of photo editing. I’ve come to rely on this more and more in recent years. Probably the most this year. I should have cultivated these skills years ago.

Since I subject my dogs and my family to this yearly song and dance, one might suspect me of being a present wrapping, dog stocking, anthropomorphizing Holiday aficionado. I’m not. My dogs don’t have presents under the tree. The generic paw print stockings on the mantle are for decoration only. There is no canine Christmas feast. Not that I’m judging if you do. My dogs have just never shown a particular proclivity for the Christmas Spirit. So they’ll get a new bed this month (that I’ve been itching to buy anyway), delivered with little pomp, circumstance and nary a ribbon in sight. Christmas Eve or Christmas proper will find them temporarily awash in Himalayan Dog Chews, a chew they don’t often get. My motivations there are also selfish. I’m buying myself a quiet Holiday. Christmas evening usually involves a dog walk as a good excuse to digest and look at lights. And uhm,… yep. That’s it. Dogs are done.

During this Season, I take the opportunity to impose my dogs on others (via the Postal Service). However, I don’t impose the Season on my dogs. Our traditions are undoubtably going to change (along with everything else). As our last year with ‘this family’, I’m questioning those traditions. What do I want to keep? What will I let go? I know I’ll always keep these pictures. If my photography skills hold out, they’ll include a baby in the future. I’m happy with the gifts our dogs receive (and don’t). How will that evolve?

Do you have Holiday Traditions that involve your pets? How and why do you include them in your Holiday?

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Tracy Warren

Big smile on my face looking at those pics. I can’t even imagine getting my 3 to sit long enough for a nice pic like that even with you tips. We don’t do the dog holiday stuff either but it is funny to look back at Christmas past and see that the dogs are always in the middle of everything. I think if I hadn’t had children so young I would have done the gifts/stockings for the dogs but I just don’t know. I may just have to try this and send out cards – never did it with the children :)


There’s something extra ridiculous about Holiday Cards with dogs. Just look at all the ones you can buy. And I think people are extra forgiving of poor photo quality if you even attempt to capture your dogs. That first year picture? I got so many compliments on it! I think that’s what spurred the tradition. Looking at it now, I can’t imagine why. HA!


i better be on that christmas card list this year!!!


Its like naughty or nice. 😉


I love them! What a feat to get them all to sit still long enough together that it only takes a little photo editing to make a presentable Christmas card. This year I probably will try to get one with the dog and the kid… They have a good enough relationship now that it’s probably doable without too much ado.

For you next year, I envision Baby Dogs or Dollars surrounded by a pack of well-behaved, doting dogs. That would be an excellent Christmas card. You might have to start earlier than Thanksgiving to get that shot, though.


I may have to start it when the baby shows up in late spring! I’m actually already considering bringing in the professionals for that one, which is something I’ve only done one other time.


I only have 3 dogs and there is NO WAY I could attempt a photo op like this. I’m super impressed. My Jack Russell would never agree to posing any where close to her hound dog mutt step brother. I don’t dress my dogs in Christmas garb, we don’t visit Santa and they don’t have stockings. They do get a new Christmas toy and they ALWAYS get walked on Christmas because that is what they really love best.


Toys and a walk. Perfect. That’s putting your energy and $$ where it counts. You could always do a montage card with pictures of the individuals. I’ve always considered that as a backup option if my efforts completely fail.


I just love your dogs. I know those photos were hard to get, but WOW! They are so sweet. I don’t care what it took, it was worth it.

My poor dogs don’t get anything for Christmas, but I think I’m a good enough dog keeper that they are given ample love every day to make up for it. I hug them. I play with them. I scratch tummies, ears, & backs. I talk to them. I give them treats. Constantly. Currently, one is curled up on the bed, and the other is stretched out on the floor by my feet. The antique poodle is sleeping in an old kitchen drawer (kitchen was remodeled) in the kitchen.


You need a picture of the antique poodle in the dresser drawer. Perfect card fodder!

And it sounds like the dog priorities are just right, all year round.

Erica / Northwest Edible Life

Next year I want to see all of them in reindeer ears harnessed up and pulling a jingle-bell covered sleigh in which is sitting your little bean, dressed up in a tiny Santa suit.

Do it. Seriously. Exploitation-Schemecsploitation. Think of the Pinterest traffic.


Are we already capitalizing on my kid for blog purposes? It was only a matter of time. Keep your eye out for the Santa suit second hand.

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