Should your dog be included in your special day or not?
These days, dogs are involved in our everyday lives more than ever. Venues and businesses recognise how important our dogs are and that they are a huge part of our family. More and more are open to receiving our four-legged friends, with specific dog cafes and bars popping up across the country, you can even take your dog to the cinema with all his furry friends.
So, it’s not unusual to have your fur baby involved in one of the biggest days of your life, after all dogs are family, so why shouldn’t they be involved?
Having your dog at your wedding can be wonderful. But attending a wedding, with all that it brings for a dog, no matter what size, age or breed, can be very exciting but also quite an overwhelming experience. That’s why I spend so much time talking to clients about their dog as part of the decision-making process.
How do you decide what’s best for them?
It’s important to really think about your dog. I know this may sound silly as you know your dog inside out right!! But have you really thought about how they may feel and how they could potentially respond on the day given this is not any usual day?
Dogs are sentient beings and feel emotions just like us, so you can imagine, a dog experiencing all the love, joy and happiness that surrounds them at a wedding is fantastic for a dog!! They soak up the atmosphere like little sponges and can feed on all that excitement.
Therefore, taking time to consider how they may respond will help to manage all expectations and build a clear picture of your pooch for anyone expected to take care of them on the day.
Start with the basics
First, and before any further decisions are taken, really think about your dog’s personality and especially what experiences they have been exposed to in their life already How did/do they handle different situations?
Factors such as their age, personality, their likes, and dislikes, how socialised are they? Are they easily excited, vocal, a jumper? Do they like children and people or being carried or fussed over? Can they adapt quickly to new environments? How is their general health? How far will they be expected to travel and how, in a crated vehicle or secured in a car seat?
Some dogs, especially those that were born during lockdown may have not yet experienced being with large groups of people or visited many places. Taking time to let your dog experience these things leading up to your wedding day will help.
Take them for regular walks in more busier areas giving them time to meet and greet people, dogs and children. Introduce them to as many family members that will be attending the wedding and let them spend time together.
Take them out for trips in the car. If you’ve booked your dog-friendly wedding venue, take them there and let them have a sniff and walk about so the place can start to feel familiar to them.
For those very energetic, excited pupsters that find it hard to stand still or keep 4 paws on the ground, it may be worth investing in a little training. By investing, we don’t always mean money, it could be your time and utilising some of the free reputable training videos and advice out there. Remember, all our dogs are not born knowing naturally what to do and how to behave, like babies, we must invest our time and patience into teaching them good manners.
Most people will have booked the wedding date well in advance so hopefully you can plan in as many activities as you feel necessary to help your pooch as you will have time
Next – How do you want to include them?
Then think about how you potentially want them included in the day and how will they cope. Will they be expected to meet and greet the wedding party? Will they be expected to wear something different than usual and for how long? Will they have responsibility for the rings and if so, how? Are they used to having their photo taken? Has your photographer worked with animals before? Do they respond well to basic commands? Who will and how will they take care of them pre, during and post-wedding?
I get asked for dogs to be involved in weddings in so many ways. From ushers to bridesmaids, ring bearers to best man. Most things are possible if your dog feels happy and confident.
Helping them to get wedding ready is the best wedding prep you and more importantly, they need. I mentioned earlier about taking them to the venue to familiarise themselves, well this is the same for new attire. Whether it’s just a new collar or harness to a dickie bow or full-blown outfit, letting them wear it little and often leading up to the big day helps. They get use to the feel and smell which can help to reduce stress.
If they are participating in the ceremony, who will walk them down the aisle, are they familiar with your dog, can they handle them well and keep them under control and more importantly, do they get on/like each other?
Keep the ring-bearing device simple and easy to access. Not only do you not want either the best man or groom to be struggling and stressing to get the rings out, the fussing around your dog’s collar or harness could also cause them to become stressed or worried. There are lots of good, safe, and simple devices now available on the market and to be honest, even a new, bright, shiny, and simple carabiner clip does the job extremely well.
Check if your photographer has worked with dogs before or has experience of dogs.
It’s not a deal-breaker if they haven’t, however, you will need to discuss with them how you would like your dog involved in the photography and I suggest you stress that the photographer will have to have realistic expectations. For example, asking a dog to sit for 2-3 mins whilst they set the shot up will not necessarily work. The action of sitting is not a natural one for any dog and is a performance, so asking them to sit quietly then do something else after a prolonged period will be too much and you/the photographer won’t get the desired result.
Decide who will take care of your pooch
Friends and family members who you know and trust with your dog can help, but if they’re at the wedding wouldn’t you prefer them to relax and enjoy yours and their family day too?
Having a professional pet care Chaperone to take care of pooch can have enormous benefits, least of all it can provide you with a complete solution that is stress, worry and hassle-free.
I spend time getting to know clients and their dogs, not only to help manage their expectations but to ensure that the health and welfare of their precious pooch is the priority, hence asking lots of questions about each individual dog.
In addition, in the lead-up to the wedding, I get to know you and your pooch. From the initial consultation to our familiarisations sessions where we look to assess each dog based on the information you provide and our own experience. I monitor and record your dog’s body language and how they respond directly to me by trialing some of our tried and tested methods to engage, relax and build a bond with your dog that helps both of us.
If at any time I feel that your dog would just not cope with attending your wedding we can talk through the concerns and we may decide that they do not attend however, we could look to involve them in other ways and we will always provide advice on this.
So, as we said earlier, having your dog at your wedding can be a wonderful experience but please think it through and plan in any potential activities to help make the day the best it can be for you and more importantly your fur baby! Happy planning folks!