Including your furry best friend in your wedding: the dos and don'ts

Including your furry best friend in your wedding: the dos and don'ts

Dog Behaviourist at Pooch & Mutt Dr Emma Scales-Theobald, PhD, shares the dos and don'ts of including your dog in your wedding, from making sure your dog is properly trained and socialised to creating a comfortable and safe space for them during the event.

By following these dos and don'ts, you can ensure your dog is a happy and well-behaved guest at your wedding. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can make your special day a family-friendly affair that includes your furry best friend:

1.    Make sure your dog is up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations and is in good health before bringing them to the wedding. "It's important to remember that large gatherings of people and other animals can increase the risk of disease transmission," says Dr Emma. "Make sure your dog is protected by keeping their vaccinations up to date and ensuring they are in good overall health."
2.    Consider your dog's temperament and personality when deciding whether to include them in your wedding. "Not all dogs are well-suited to loud, crowded events like weddings," cautions Dr Emma. "If your dog is anxious or easily overwhelmed, it may be best to leave them at home. It's important for dog owners to understand their dog's body language and behaviour cues. Signs of stress, anxiety, or discomfort in dogs can include panting, pacing, whining, lip licking, and avoidance behaviours. If a dog is showing these signs, it's important to remove them from the situation or provide them with a safe space to retreat to. Calming collars that release pheromones can help to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as calming treats.  
3.    Have a plan in place for managing your dog's behaviour during the wedding. "Dogs can become overwhelmed by crowds and noise, so it's important to have a strategy for managing their behaviour. Consider enlisting the help of a professional dog trainer or handler to assist with managing your dog during the wedding. They can also provide guidance on how to manage your dog's behaviour before the big day.”
4.    Make sure your dog is properly leash-trained and crate-trained before the wedding. "A well-trained dog is less likely to cause disruptions or become a distraction during the wedding. Make sure your dog is comfortable on a leash and is crate-trained if you plan to crate them during the event."
5.    Consider your dog's dietary needs and schedule when planning your wedding. "Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water and that they are fed at their usual times," recommends Dr Emma. "Bringing along some of their favourite treats can also help keep them calm and happy."
6.    Have a plan in place for potty breaks. “Make sure your dog has a designated potty area throughout the event. You can consider designating a responsible family member or friend to take your dog outside for potty breaks as needed.”
7.    Check with your wedding venue to see if they have any specific rules or regulations regarding dogs. "Some venues may require that dogs be kept on a leash at all times, for example, or may not allow dogs in certain areas of the property. Make sure you're aware of the rules and regulations so that you can plan accordingly."
8.    Keep a close eye on your dog when children are around. “Even the most well-behaved dog can become overwhelmed or anxious in these situations, leading to them accidentally knocking over or jumping on a child. In addition to keeping a close eye on them, educating any children attending on how to interact with dogs safely is important. This includes teaching them not to approach a dog showing signs of stress or anxiety, to ask permission before petting them, and to avoid approaching them while eating or drinking.”
9.    Make sure your dog is not allowed near any food or beverages during the wedding. Keep your dog away from potential hazards, such as food tables or decorations that may be tempting for your pup to explore. This will prevent your dog from ingesting harmful substances or foods and causing potential health problems.
10.    Provide plenty of exercise. “Make sure your dog has plenty of exercise and playtime before the wedding to help reduce their energy levels and prevent them from becoming restless or bored during the ceremony.”
11.    Bring familiar items. “Consider bringing familiar items, such as their favourite toy or blanket, to help your dog feel more comfortable and at ease during the event.”
12.    Have a backup plan. “Despite your best efforts, there is always a chance that your dog may become overwhelmed or behave unexpectedly during the wedding. Have a backup plan in place, such as a quiet room or a designated pet sitter, in case you need to remove your dog from the event.”

1.    Don't force your dog to participate or interact with guests if they seem unhappy or uncomfortable. "Remember that not all dogs enjoy being the centre of attention, and not all guests may be comfortable around dogs.  If your dog seems hesitant or uninterested in interacting with guests, don't force them to do so. Instead, provide them with a quiet and comfortable area to rest. Equally, if your dog seems unhappy or uncomfortable, it may be best to let them sit this one out.
2.    Don’t forget to dress them for success. “If you plan on dressing your dog up for the wedding, make sure the outfit is comfortable and properly fitted. Avoid any accessories that may be choking hazards or restrict their breathing or movement. Booking a grooming session ahead of the big day so your dog looks and feels their best will also prevent any muddy paw mishaps”
3.    Don't forget to bring plenty of poo bags and cleaning supplies to clean up after your dog during the wedding. "Accidents can happen, so it's important to be prepared. Bringing along extra waste bags and cleaning supplies can help ensure that your dog doesn't cause any disruptions or mess."
4.    Don't forget to designate a quiet area for your dog to rest during the wedding. "Weddings can be overwhelming for dogs, especially those unfamiliar with large crowds or noisy environments. Make sure to designate a cool and quiet area for your dog to rest, away from the hustle and bustle of the event, particularly on hot days.”
5.    Don't forget to communicate with your wedding planner and venue about your dog's presence. "Make sure to inform your wedding planner, venue and guests about your dog's presence and any special accommodations they may need. This can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that your dog is included in the wedding festivities safely and comfortably."
6.    Don't forget to have a plan for transporting your dog to and from the wedding. "Make sure your dog is safely secured during transport and that you have a plan in place for getting them home after the wedding. You may want to consider hiring a pet-friendly transportation service or enlisting the help of a friend or family member  to make things easier."

Alessandra Pacelli

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