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Thinking of inviting your pooch to walk down the aisle?
Consider the dos and don’ts of including dogs in your wedding
by Adrienne van der Valk
When Mary Martinez and her husband decided to tie the knot, there was no question that Samson, their 3-year-old corgi, would be at the top of the invite list.
“We just love him so much, we really wanted him to be there,” Martinez says. “I would feel bad having this special experience and leaving him home alone. We even had him in our engagement photo.”
|Samson. Photo: Dennis Overlandmiller
Martinez and fiancé Rob Bullard chose the White House Bed and Breakfast in Cottage Grove, a wedding location that suited their personal style, the size of their nuptials and the needs of their four-legged companion. According to trainer Jennifer Biglan of Dog & Cat Training and Behavior Modification, choosing a location based on the comfort and safety of the “best dog” is key to successfully integrating mutts into marriage. But even before scoping pet-friendly wedding sites, the first step should be an honest assessment of a dog’s temperament and personality.
“Is it going to be fun for your pet, or is it going to be scary?” Biglan encourages future brides and grooms to ask themselves. “Have they been around large groups of people? Is your dog confident and outgoing, or do you have a fearful dog?” Owners of timid canines may need to face the fact that leaving their pet with a sitter for the weekend might really be kinder than forcing him or her into the spotlight for cuteness’ sake. Acclimating the dog to the location prior to guests arriving is also recommended for stress-prone animals. And asking a pal or relative who knows and loves Fido to act as a “date” may also alleviate anxiety, both for the dog and for the happy couple, as Biglan can attest.
“I wish I had planned a little more,” she says of including not one but two dogs in her wedding at the Wayfarer Resort in Vida. “I was definitely glad to have them there, but it added to the stress because I always wanted to make sure they were OK. It’s important to know where they are going to be before, during and after the ceremony, especially while you’re getting ready.”
Martinez and Bullard designated a friend to give keep and eye on Samson and give him breaks from the festivities (especially when there was food around), but because of his small size and friendly personality, he was free to run and play throughout most their wedding weekend. However, even trained and socialized dogs can present unexpected problems.
“My mom did almost trip over him,” Martinez says. “And he kept our camping friends up all night. He’s a herder, so he considers it his job to be on watch. He was barking at sounds most of the night, and we had no idea because we were in a hotel.”
Biglan’s final recommendation to couples is to practice any staging involving the dog prior to the big day, using positive reinforcement as a tool to garner cooperation. Above all, she says, keep the dog’s part as simple as possible and avoid becoming too invested in a flawless performance.
Martinez says she and her husband opted out of including Samson in the ceremony based on his “independent” personality, but watching him romp at the reception made having him involved completely worth it. Looking back, she says, “It wouldn’t have been the same without him.”