Guest Author - Debra Kelly
Dogs aren't just pets, they're family. And they're not just a fixture in our daily life, they are our confidants, our moral support and our steadfast rocks. Oftentimes there are events that we would love to include them with, from wedding ceremonies to birthday parties. While bringing your dog along to share in life-changing events like your wedding day might seem like a good idea, it's not a decision that should be made lightly.
While there are undoubtedly a number of dogs that will remain perfectly calm in a crowd of unfamiliar people, that will perform more flawlessly under pressure than a human flower girl and revel in the glory of being fawned over, this isn't a task for every dog. Even a dog that is well-behaved when in the company of a small crowd of familiar friends and family can be overwhelmed by the large number of strangers that will be present at a wedding.
Keep in mind that unless you're having the wedding in your backyard, the territory will also be unfamiliar. Don't expect the dog to walk nicely down the aisle unescorted, when sniffing around and exploring this new place will undoubtedly be much more entertaining. Assigning a handler to walk with the dog can prevent these problems, but make sure the person isn't just comfortable with dogs, but that your dog knows and trusts them.
Beware of potential problems, and keep these in mind when setting up that day. Keep in mind that the dog may be more interested in stopping to eat the flower petals instead of continuing down the aisle, or may be distracted by children reaching out to pet him as he's fulfilling his desired role.
While it might seem like an adorable idea to have your dog carrying a pillow and serving as a ringbearer, there are other ways to allow your pets to be included in the ceremony without the stress of playing that active a role.
Consider including them in the wedding party itself. Hand the leash to a bridesmaid or groomsman, and allow the dog to escort them down the aisle. (This can be particularly effective if there is an odd number of bridesmaids and groomsmen, both preventing one from being unescorted and allowing for the inclusion of a treasured family member that might otherwise be left out.) Or, wait until the receiving line to bring them out. This way, they can greet guests while standing at your side, comfortable in the presence of their people.
There's plenty of planning and work that goes into setting up a wedding, so make obedience training part of that planning. A dog who isn't well-behaved at home can cause havoc at a wedding, and the last thing a bride and groom want on their big day is to have to stop to control an unruly dog.
Just because your dog is a troublemaker who's going to be an insufferable handful or a shy animal who might be petrified by the sheer number of guests doesn't mean he can't be a part of the wedding, but his place might be at home throughout. Make sure he's around before the start of the ceremony, especially if the bride or groom is getting ready at home. Many photographers will start documenting the day first thing in the morning, so there will be plenty of opportunities for photos of the dog with the wedding party. Meet with the photographer ahead of time, and let them know that you want your dog to be included. This is the perfect time to stage some photos; consider getting shots of the dog bringing the bride her garter, or peeking over the counter at the bouquet.
When it comes to including your canine friend in your special day, be sure to think of what's best for him -- and if that means thinking outside the box, it can result in some truly special memories.