By Veronica Rigatti, VSA-CDT, Canine Behavior Specialist
As wedding season comes to a close this year, you may have noticed a growing trend – including your dog in the big day! Many pet parents want their four-legged friends to be involved on their wedding day and other special occasions, but there are many things to consider to make sure all involved including your dog, guests and the venue staff are safe and happy.
You will first want to check with the venue and your vendors to make sure dogs are allowed and if there are any restrictions. Other things that need to be considered are the amount of people, whether the event is indoors or outdoors, location, noise level, potential distractions, your dog’s behavior and more.
Make the most responsible choice for your dog no matter how enticing it may be to push the limits of their comfort zone. If your dog doesn’t do well in crowds or with a lot of noise it might not be best to have them included in your wedding. There are other ways you can honor your best friend without having them physically attend. You can have a signature drink named after them or share doggy bag favors filled with dog biscuits and treats that guests can take home for their own pups. Maybe they can be included on your cake topper … the possibilities are endless!
There is a lot going on the day of your wedding and you don’t want the extra stress of worrying that your dog is safe and sound. If you do include your dog make sure you have someone you trust assigned to look after them. This should not be someone that is meeting your dog for the first time that day, but instead should be a family member, pet sitter or even a trainer who knows your dog already so they are both comfortable.
If you do decide to include your dog in the big day, have a plan laid out beforehand. You can have them pose for pictures with you at a familiar location, including your home or a local park. If they will be part of the ceremony, you can have their handler walk them down the aisle on a leash. If you plan to have your dog included for most of the day, be sure they have a safe and quiet location to take breaks. You may want to consider working with a trainer during the months leading up to your wedding to have them help work toward any goals you may have for including your dog in the festivities. They may be able to provide guidance on the best plan for your dog.
If you plan to dress them up with a bow tie, flower collar or any other props, make sure they are comfortable with these things before the day. Practice several times beforehand and use positive reinforcement techniques, you don’t want to force them to wear something if they are not comfortable with it.
Your wedding day should be a special, happy time for everyone. No matter how you include your dog in the fun, make sure they are safe and well taken care of to eliminate any unnecessary stress on both you and your dog!