Pet Pointers: How to Include Your Dog

victoria stillwell train your dog positively One of the sweetest things about weddings today is having man’s (and woman’s) best friend take part in the ceremony. Who doesn’t ooh and aah when they spot a furry friend walking down the aisle with tail wagging and looking their wedding best?

But, as fun and photo-op cute as it is, including your pet in the wedding does require some thought, so we asked renowned dog trainer Victoria Stilwell for a few tips. Victoria, best known for her role as the star of Animal Planet’s hit TV series It’s Me or the Dog, is not only CEO of Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training but also a best-selling book author. Her most recent, Train Your Dog Positively, will be available on March 19th at stores nationwide and online at

Here, Victoria’s advice on what to consider when having your pet in the wedding:

bride and groom with their two dogs
Photo Credit: Ashley Rose Photography on The Vines Leaf via
1. Ask if your dog has what it takes. Weddings can be stressful and overwhelming for a dog that does not adapt well to new environments or is uncomfortable around strangers. Sociable dogs that are outgoing and friendly often cope better with the extra attention they are likely to receive. If your dog is shy and uncomfortable around people, leave him at home where he is safe and secure.

2. Decide what part of the ceremony you would like your dog(s) to attend. Involve your dog in the ceremony but not the reception, as receptions tend to be overwhelming — especially those with an extensive guest list and loud music.

3. Check first to make sure that the venues you choose for your wedding allow dogs. Many have a strict no pet policy.

4. Make sure that you tell your bridesmaids or groomsmen of your intentions before the day. Many people are allergic to dogs, so giving them ample warning will help them prepare if they suffer from allergies.

5. What role is your dog going to play at your wedding? Whether she is the ring bearer or the hound of honor, start preparing early for the tasks she is going to do during the ceremony.

6. Designate a handler that will be with your dog at all times throughout the ceremony. This will relieve any pressure you might feel to make sure that your dog behaves properly.

7. Rehearse as much as you can with your dog before the big day and leave ample time to practice during the actual rehearsal so that your dog (and his or her handler) knows exactly what to do and when to do it.

8. Take a trip to the grooming parlor or wash and groom your dog at home so that he looks and smells good on the big day.

9. Ensure that your dog is well-controlled around your guests. A jumping dog will not be appreciated. If your dog has a tendency to jump up, take time well before the day to teach him an alternative behavior, such as greeting a person by sitting and giving his paw rather than jumping up. If his excitement level is too high, he might find it hard to control his impulses — in which case, keep him leashed and controlled at all times.

10. Do not forget to include your dog in some wedding pictures!
Need ideas? Enjoy these fab photos of couples’ adorable pets all decked out on the big day.

flower girl walking dog down the aisle
Photo Credit: Ira Lippke Studios on Inspired by This via

three dogs in suits at wedding
Photo Credit: CarmargoCreations on Etsy via

bulldog in suit with bride and groom kissing in the background

bride and groom with dog
Photo Credit: Jason and Anna Photography on Bridal Musings via
Photo Credit: Michael Gomez Photography on Wedding Chicks via

flower girl with dog
Photo Credit: Danielle Capito Photography on Wedding Chicks via

bride with her golden retriever carmargo creations
Photo Credit: Lynne Brubaker Photography on Easton Events via
Photo Credit: Carmango Creations on Etsy via

bride and groom sitting with their dogs
Photo Credit: Spindle Photography on Southern Weddings via

bride with her dog man's best friend
Photo Credit: Focus Photography on Every Last Detail via
Photo Credit: Craig Paulson Photography via

bride and groom with two dogs in tuxedos dogs being wheeled down the aisle wearing mini tuxedos
Photo Credit: Engaged and Inspried via

For more fantastic tips on caring for your pooch check out Victoria’s website,

—Diane Forden