{Advice} Dogs in the Wedding: Four-Legged Family Members Are Invited, Too

We had some "dogs at weddings" advice come our way that we felt was worth the share for our lovely readers. We've featured a handful of weddings with beloved four legged pups, and we seem to see this becoming more and more frequent.  So, here is some insight on the topic.  Please enjoy!

Event planner Anna Pohl puts together about 30 weddings per year in the Sarasota, Fla. area. Of these 30 weddings, approximately two include the pets (mostly dogs) of the couple.

Creative Canine Roles

Flower Girl- A cute way to include a female dog is to make her the flower girl, complete with pretty petals on her collar. Just make sure to choose carefully because some common wedding flowers such as lilies are toxic to dogs. The ASPCA maintains a list of toxic and non-toxic plants that can be used to choose safe flowers.

Ringbearer- Your dog can serve as the ringbearer with a little bit of ingenuity. A small pillow sewn on to the back of a doggie tuxedo is a popular way for Fido to carry the rings. Swapping faux rings at the altar can remove some concern about a canine ringbearer.

Groomsman or Bridesmaid- Dogs taking on the role of bridesmaid or groomsman can walk down the aisle with a human member of the wedding party and wait with them during the ceremony. A cute dress or doggie tuxedo is an adorable choice. Or a simpler option is a fancy collar and lead.

Honored Guest- A seat in the front row can be a special gesture of how important your canine family member is. One advantage of this role is that the dog can be rewarded for good behavior with something tasty. Positive reinforcement is one of the best methods for obtaining good behavior in dogs.

One of Many- A whole wedding set up for dogs can be a lot of work but also a lot of fun. Providing dog treats, mats and clean-up baggies can make the whole endeavor doggie-friendly. Just be sure to outline the rules clearly.

Choosing a Designated Handler

Whatever role your dog plays in the big day, he or she should have a designated handler because the bride and groom are likely to be too busy to attend to all of their dog's needs. Familiar people reduce stress in dogs during stressful encounters, so it is best to choose someone that the dog has a relationship with. Hiring a familiar sitter or dog walker can help ensure that someone has complete focus on Fido's needs.

Is it the Right Choice?
Not all dogs are suited to being in a wedding. Some dogs suffer from problems such as neophobia, the fear of new things. Putting these types of dogs into situations full of new people, new expectations and new surroundings, such as a wedding, could be a real recipe for disaster.

Setting Up for Success
At least a certain minimum of training is required, such as a "wait" or "settle" command. The ASPCA outlines how to teach this command here. Specific issues should also be addressed prior to the wedding. For example, a dog that tends to be overly vocal can be trained to be quiet at the wedding if training starts sufficiently early. There are a number of tools available to aid in this training, such as the bark collars for dogs at petsafe.net, calming methods and positive reinforcement.

Great advice! Are you planning to include your precious pups at your wedding? Please share with us!

Images via Meet the Burks, Simply Bliss Photography