Tips RE: Black Poodle
Set your in-camera metering to "spot" metering, and take your meter readings off just your dog (i.e. for most cameras, point your focus point at the dog and do a half-press of your shutter button). This will slightly over-expose your background but you can bring that back when you process your images.
You can also bring the dog's exposure up during processing.
Recommend shooting in RAW for this.
Also, getting light in his eyes will help define his face. I.E. you don't want the light behind him or off to the side, but coming more from the front, angled.
If you post an example and let us know what software you're using, then I can give you a few more tips. It's basically something every wedding photographer has to master because of shooting a white dress and black tux together...difficult at first but once you know what to do, not too hard.