How to make your wedding day dog-friendly

bride and groom holding a dog on lead on their wedding day Credit: Vasylyna Kucherepa via Unsplash

For many, dogs are considered to be a key member of the family, so when it comes to one of the most important days of a couple's lives, their wedding day, it's only natural that they want their four-legged friends to be involved in the celebrations. That being said, lots of strangers, loud noises and the unfamiliar location of a wedding can prove quite overwhelming for our canine companions, so if you want to include your dog in your big day, there are a couple of things you need to be aware of.

Below, Carolyn Menteith, Behaviourist at tails.com has offered her top tips and advice on how to throw the 'paw-fect' wedding that will ensure both humans and dogs remain happy at all times. 

1. Consider if your dog would actually enjoy being there
While having your furry friend by your side on your wedding day is as key as any other member of the family, one thing you have to consider is whether your dog would actually enjoy being there. Not all dogs are social by nature, and the disruption to their normal routine alongside the attention from countless people they don't know, could be overwhelming. In fact, it may be their kind of doggy-hell and could cause them to be fearful, anxious or even aggressive towards your guests. If you have any suspicion in your mind that your dog might find your wedding day too much, it's best to leave them out of the main event.

2. Check your wedding venue is dog-friendly
Once you've decided whether your dog is going to be part of your big day, you need to consider whether the location for your wedding is suitable for your furry friend. This doesn't mean just checking with the venue hosts that they allow dogs. You should also ensure that there are plenty of places for walks, toilet opportunities that your canine companion will need throughout the day.

3. Give them a place to retreat away from guests
As well as making sure that your venue is pet friendly, you should also consider whether there is somewhere they can retreat away from guests throughout the day, for a much-needed break. Even dogs that love being around new people can become overwhelmed in a new environment or when they are overtired, which means they might display unwanted or even unfriendly behaviour around guests. Therefore, it is important to provide your dog with a safe haven away from the celebrations that will give them a chance to relax and catch up on some sleep. Make sure that your dog can access this area whenever they please, as well as have the option to join the party again when they are feeling more comfortable. Feeling like they are locked away from you could lead to frustration and anxiety.

4. Task a guest to be on dog duty
If you think your dog will enjoy being part of your wedding celebration, it will be important to put someone your pup knows well on 'dog duty' for the day. While our furry friends might be just as important as the guests on your wedding day, when you are getting married you'll have a lot more on your mind than whether your dog is happy or behaving. By giving someone the task of looking after your canine companion it means that they will get the love, care and attention they need throughout the day, and can be safely removed from situations they find too stressful without feeling 'locked away' from you or left out.

5. Make sure to rehearse with your dog
Just like us humans, rehearsing how the wedding day will play out is important for dogs too - even if they aren't part of the proceedings. Not only will attending the venue give them a chance to familiarise themselves with the surroundings, so it's not as big of a shock to them on the big day, it will also make them feel more at ease and comfortable if they've done it once before when it comes to the real thing! Practise isn't just for the wedding rehearsal though... Walking on a loose lead when you are in a long dress, formal wear or high heels, is very different for both you and your dog than your usual walks! Do a few training sessions at home in similar clothing to your wedding outfit long before the big day so your wedding videos don't end up on social media for all the wrong reasons!

6. Think carefully about wedding attire
If you want to involve your pup in your big day, it's important to think carefully about the theme and their involvement, and forget about notions of having a well-dressed doggy-best man or bride pup. While we might love the idea of fancy wedding attire for our dog, they likely won't agree! Dogs communicate with each other (and us) using body language, and wearing a costume can mask all this 'dog talk' and can easily lead to misunderstandings. Not only that but wearing clothes is totally unnatural for dogs, who can find it both stressful and worrying. Most dogs are used to wearing a collar, however, so if you really want them to have some wedding attire, consider a bandana in the same colour the groomsmen or bridesmaids are wearing, or even a dog collar with a bow tie.

7. Don't assume they'll want to be part of the ceremony
Just because your dog might enjoy being around people, doesn't automatically mean they should be part of the ceremony and tasked with a role as important as bringing you the rings. Our dogs are very attuned to us and how we are feeling - and they will know that this is a big day and that for some reason, their people are not behaving the way they usually do! So even if they normally behave impeccably and are used to showing off their tricks in an unusual environment that they don't know, the stress or the excitement of the occasion can get to even the best trained pup. It is far better to feature them as a special and beloved canine guest. After all, when you are getting married, the last thing you want is to be running around trying to grab the rings from your canine.

Check out tails.com

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