Should My Dog Be In My Wedding?

7 Ways To Do It, 7 Things To Consider

Including a couple’s beloved dog or dogs in their wedding arrangements seems to be on trend these days.  Here are my thoughts and advice!

7 Ways to Do It

1.  Wedding party trios.

Can’t you just picture a trio of bridesmaid and groomsman with a beautifully groomed dog tucked in between them as they make their way down the aisle?  If you have more than one dog or friends with some easy going, chill dogs this would be a sight to behold

2.   Have your dog walk you down the aisle.

You could be the one walking your dog down the aisle, or the special family member or friend who is walking you down the aisle could do double duty and have one of you in each arm/hand.

3.  Have their very own special role.

If you have a particularly clever dog, perhaps she or he could learn to carry a basket of flowers (flower “girl”) or rings (ring “bearer”) and walk down the aisle all by themselves.  This would definitely get the phones flashing!

4.  Be present at the vows.

That would be a lovely picture! Instead of holding hands, you can be sharing the end of the leash with your beloved dog in between the 2 of you.  He can listen to your vows and maybe adding a special brand of approval if you happen to have taught a good “Speak” cue!

5.  Make a guest appearance at the reception.

After everyone is seated and before all the festivities get going, you could bring your dog out in a special wedding outfit to give his blessing and maybe even share in on the first dance with the newlyweds (another phone flashing moment!).

6.  Take part in the wedding pictures.

Perhaps the easiest thing to set up and make comfortable for your dog would be to have him or her included in the wedding photos.  There’s nothing like the addition of a dog to make a wedding photo great!  Keep Fido’s outfit simple – perhaps a tasteful bowtie or jeweled collar.  I would recommend something that doesn’t overshadow the bride but adds that nice touch of doggy-class and whimsy to the usual wedding-photo arrangement.

7.  Fido-cam honeymoon send off!

There are many dogs who would find any kind of participation in a wedding far too stressful for them, so an in-person appearance may not be ideal.  Perhaps they can still be involved in a more comfortable way.  How about a pre-taped (or even live from the pet sitters) send off with your dog’s happy smiling face, waggy body and maybe even a happy bark or two up on the big screen?

7 Things to Consider

1.  Is your dog friendly with people and children?

Your dog doesn’t have all the stress that you do: making sure everything is perfect, getting things done on schedule and being “on stage” at the wedding. However, the occasion could still be very stressful for your dog in other ways.  If you want to include your dog in-person, please ensure your dog is friendly and extremely comfortable in the size of gathering you plan to have for your wedding. 

I would say that “how friendly is he really?” is the primary thing to know for sure about your dog if he’s about to be a guest of honor at your wedding. Friendly isn’t good enough, though. Friendly in crowds is an entirely different skill set for any dog.

If your wedding is fairly small and you’ve only invited friends and family known to your dog, it might be pretty comfortable.  However if you’re going for the full big scene, it might be better to leave Fido at home or make select guest appearances that are within his comfort zone.

If your dog is notfriendly with allpeople – big and small – then don’t even think about it.  He can make a guest appearance on camera and call it a good day for your dog.

2.  Take your time and get it right.

If you’re hoping to have your dog in any particular role for the wedding then practice, practice, practice.  He might walk fine on leash and that might be his only role, but the context is very different in the presence of people on both sides of a long walkway who are seated in a venue he has never been in before.  Consider also that he might not be comfortable with someone else walking him, or walking him toward you especially if you are standing in an elevated spot. That might just be too weird for him that day without some pre-training!

3.  Turn down the sound.

Keep noise levels in mind.  Whether it’s the music in the wedding venue or the reception venue or even the microphone levels, remember that dogs have sensitive hearing and some even more than others.  If he checks all the other comfort boxes, then consider turning down the volume of the music and holding off using the microphone until Fido has made his appearance and left the building.

4.  The clothes make the dog.

If you’re hoping to have your dog dressed up for his special appearance, then you need to make sure he’s comfortable wearing any and all pieces of his outfit. This means introducing each piece thoughtfully and gradually during multiple training sessions very much like you would positively desensitize a muzzle, collar, harness or any piece of clothing. 

 Chirag Patel has a very good training video teaching a puppy to be more comfortable getting her collar on.  Check it out here and imagine how this could be a bowtie or special tuxedo vest going around your dog’s neck or over your dog’s head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkbXxSR760g&feature=youtu.be

5.  Who’s in charge?

If your dog will be making more than a single guest appearance, ensure you have someone in charge of your dog with the primary maintenance goal being your dog’s comfort level.  This should not be a guest at your wedding; this is someone who is only in charge of your dog and their welfare.

A comfy station should be set up so your dog (with minder present or close by) can take breaks and be unmolested by passers by.  This can be a rest and break location and should be full of great treat dispensing items and lots of water.

Pre-planning should be done well in advance of the big day so you have an emergency plan for early removal if necessary.  Final plan of the day is where and when Fido will be taken once his role is complete.

6.  More than one dog?

If you are planning on involving multiple dogs, ensure that they are friendly with each other and all of the above is well thought out for each dog. 

Keep in mind that stress can affect situations quite dramatically – even good, excited stress.  If your dog could only be rated as “usually good with other dogs” I would consider reducing or eliminating his role.  I would be looking for some pretty bomb-proof dog-friendly dogs in this type of situation!

7.  What’s the weather doing?

Last, but definitely not least, how warm or cool is the venue or areas where your dog will be?  Keep very careful watch over your dog and have cooling mats, water, cooling coats or the opposite available depending on the general needs of your particular dog and the time of year of your wedding.

Your dog minder should add this at the top of his or her list of duties!  Keep in mind, too, that stress can affect weather tolerance.

So what’s your conclusion?  Is your dog ready to be part of your wedding?  If it’s a go, send in your photos so we can post the wedding successes!

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