Your pet is your fur child, so, of course, a photo of your critter with Santa is a must-have this year. But before you pack up your little one and head to the mall, you'll need to do some planning, like finding out exactly where you can take your pet for Santa photos and making sure they can handle crowds, among other considerations. Find out where Santa will let your pet sit on their lap, and follow these tips to ensure your pet has a stress-free experience, so you and your pet go home with a great photo keepsake.
Tips to Get the Best Pet Photo With Santa
Make Sure Your Pet Is Used to Crowds
There's always chaos in stores around the holidays, which can be a huge shock for pets who rarely leave the house. Make sure your pet has the personality, socialization, and training to handle crowds before heading out on picture day. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, get them used to strangers, people in costume, loud noises, and children. You'll want to do this gradually to avoid stressing them out.
Tire Them Out Beforehand
A tired pet will "Sit" and "Stay" for a lot longer than a pet who is brimming with energy, so give them a chance to shake their sillies out beforehand. Go to the dog park, head out on a long walk, or spend some time indoors chasing a laser pointer.
Be Merry and Festive
Why not get your pet dressed up in their Christmas best for the photoshoot? Choose some reindeer antlers, a Santa hat, or a full festive costume. Just make sure to get your pet used to the outfit beforehand. For pets that won't tolerate a costume, you could tie a festive bandana around their collar or just let their natural beauty shine through.
Keep All Pets Secured on a Leash
For your pet's safety, it's important to keep all pets (yes, even cats and small pets) on a leash. No matter how calm or well-behaved your pet is, there's a chance they could become spooked while out of their carrier and in Santa's arms. A secure leash will prevent them from scurrying off.
Bring Their Favorite Treats
Tasty treats will come in handy when rewarding your pet after their photo is taken. Bring something you know your pet goes crazy over.
Call Ahead to Learn Their Policies
Each event is different, so learn the details before arriving to avoid surprises. Find out if they'll accommodate your pet's species or size (some only work with cats and dogs, whereas others will allow all types of pets), if you can stay with your pet while their photo is taken (some places have pet parents wait in a separate room), if their Santa is male or female (a few pet Christmas events specifically use female Santas because some dogs are fearful of men), and whether Santa will hold your pet or if you'll hold them next to Santa (which can impact your decision to be camera ready).
Figure Out Where Your Pet Can Sit
Where your pet can sit on Santa's lap depends heavily on each Santa's preference, and what your pet will tolerate. Many Santas who take pics with pets are comfortable holding your pet in their lap, though some prefer to have your pet lay down at their feet, or for you to hold your pet next to Santa. Ask your Santa where they prefer to position your pet, and describe what your pet will tolerate.
Stay Home if Your Pet Is Unvaccinated or Sick
There's a good chance Santa will pass germs from pet to pet along with their holiday cheer. If your pet is not up-to-date on vaccines, a public area with other animals isn't a safe place for them. Highly contagious diseases like feline leukemia virus, parvovirus, and kennel cough are easily transmitted through saliva or feces particles, which can go unnoticed on Santa's coat. Likewise, if your pet isn't feeling well, leave them at home so they don't infect other animals.
Take Your Own Photos
Whether this is your dog's first visit with Santa or their fifteenth, you'll want to remember the day. So while the photographer is snapping a photo, pull out your phone and take a few of your own. You're bound to get some sweet or hysterical candid pictures. Then pair them with a clever caption and post them on the 'gram.
Places to Take Your Pet for Pictures With Santa Claus
If you think your pet is ready to meet Santa Claus, there are a few places you can go for photos. Always reach out to the store or mall for specific details around reservations and to confirm pets are allowed.
Most PetSmart locations offer photos with Santa Claus entirely free of charge! Depending on the store, you can either make an appointment or just pop in during the event hours. They'll accept nearly all domesticated species (dogs, cats, pot-bellied pigs, birds, non-venomous reptiles, and any other small pets sold in PetSmart stores) so long as they're leashed or confined. After your pet poses with Kris Kringle, you'll receive a digital copy of the photo via email.
Pets can sit on Santa's lap at most Petco locations, too! These events are often held on December weekends leading up to Christmas and require a $9.95 donation, which goes directly to Petco Love (previously known as The Petco Foundation). You'll get a digital copy of the photo emailed to you to show off to friends and cherish for years to come.
Local Pet Stores
Many privately owned and local pet supply stores also offer pet photos with Santa. Some have a set fee, whereas others might have a suggested donation, often to benefit a local rescue organization or cause. Contact these stores directly to find out if they'll have a Santa Claus on site this holiday season. But don't just stop at pet stores -- reach out to feed stores, doggy day cares, boarding kennels, dog bakeries, or groomers to see if they put on similar events.
Malls are the traditional place where humans go to have photos taken with Santa, and some are now allowing fur children to participate. Contact your mall to see if it's OK to bring your dog or cat along; your chances are usually better with outdoor malls because indoor malls might not allow animals inside unless they're service animals. You can also use the Where Is Santa? search tool to find Pet Nights, where all (with the exception of exotic pets) are welcome to sit on Santa's lap. These events benefit The Humane Society of the United States.
It's not uncommon for shelters to throw Santa photo events. This can be an opportunity to collect donations for pets in need and even find homes for their adoptable dogs. Contact local rescue organizations or shelters to find out if they host a photoshoot fundraiser.
Have Fun With Pet Santa Photos
This type of outing is meant to be a fun experience for you and your pet to share. If you think it'll be too much for them or you can't find a pet-friendly Santa event near you, you're not out of luck. Why not create a dog Christmas photoshoot in your own home? Decorate the tree, dress up as Santa, place your pet on your lap, then snap away. You can even turn it into a pawty by inviting friends over so their pets can pose with Santa, too! Or skip the Santa suit and use a digital Christmas pet frame to capture a fun picture of your pet at home. Whichever route you choose, the end result with be a great photo you can share with friends and reflect on with fondness.