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Tips for Winning our Cover Dog Search, with a Gallery of Past Winners


As you have likely heard, our 2016 Nashville Paw Magazine Cover Dog Search is set for Saturday, May 14!

A lot of people have been asking me what we look for in a Cover Dog winner, so I wanted to share some of the things we want to see. Because, as adorable as EVERY pup is and we wish we could pick them all, there can only be one cover winner and so we have to make sure he or she really stands out in a variety of ways!

Here are some of the things we look for, and some tips for helping your dog have the best day!

Cocoa, our 2015 Cover Dog Winner, on the cover of our August 2015 issue


Happy Dog, Happy Judges! We look for a dog that is comfortable and happy in front of the camera and around us at the event in general. If your pup is super nervous around the camera or crowds, that means your pup is not having fun. And because we love our pup pals, we want them to have fun -- not to be scared! If your dog is nervous in crowds or around photo lights and camera, it may be best to let her sit this one out. We don't like stressing any dogs out. But, if your pup likes to ham it up for the camera, or is just chill and goes with the flow, he might be a great candidate! As you can see in Cocoa's cover photo, she was always happy to be in front of the camera, so her winning personality could shine through!

This was Cocoa's shot from the contest day. It was clear she was a cover girl!

A Pup Who Poses Well. We look for a dog that will look at or toward the camera, and have a happiness about them. A dog that will pose or sit/stay long enough for us to get a great shot is a big plus! That said, don't stress if your pup is excited and won't settle right away. We'll give them a moment to relax into the situation and we'll get the shot! But we need to get a feeling that during our cover shoot, your pup is going to let us get the right shot.

Cooper, our 2014 Cover Dog Winner

Something Special... All of the pups who audition for us are adorable, and we love every one of them! But there are some dogs who have something special that just grabs us -- whether it is a quirky little smile, gorgeous eyes and such a unique, beautiful coat and coloring (all qualities of our 2015 winner, Cocoa) or a pooch with a really spunky, cute personality (like our 2014 winner, Cooper)... or really adorable and unique markings paired with a sweet smile  (like our 2013 winner, NolaMae)... there is always a little something extra that grabs our attention in some dogs, and you can just see that personality and uniqueness coming through on camera.

A Loving Bond Between Dog and Guardian. We also enjoy seeing the loving, genuine bond between a dog and his guardian. From time to time we get dog parents who come on stage, boss their dog around, yell at the dog and get all stressed out -- thereby stressing out their poor pup, too! This never works out. The goal of this event is to celebrate our bond with our dogs and our love for them. We want to see a genuine, loving connection between a dog and his human that we can feel good about supporting, and we want all dogs to be treated with love, patience and kindness. 

Bring Favorite Things. While your dog does not need to perform any tricks or routines, we do need her to sit, stand or lie and stay long enough to capture a good photo. If your pup has a favorite squeaky toy, treat or ball, please bring it and we can use that to help get her attention if she becomes distracted -- which is easy to do with all the excitement at this event!

Tell your Dog's Story. On the entry form, you'll notice there is a place to tell us about what makes your dog special, and why you think she or he is right for the cover of our magazine. This is your place to let us know all the things that make your dog so special in your eyes, so we can see it, too! We read every one of these forms, and we do take these stories into account during the judging rounds. Make good use of it!

I hope these tips help you prepare for the big day! We can't wait to meet your best pooch pals, and to find our next cover star!

For more details on our event, visit And join the conversation on social media at #NashvilleCoverDog and #NashvillePaw!

NolaMae, our 2013 Cover Dog Winner


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