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Dog weddings and dog at weddings—your idea of fun could be torturous for your pet

Having a pet at a marriage ceremony is a trend, but owners need to consider if their pets enjoy being a part of weddings or would rather be at home.

Most dogs do not like wearing prickly clothes. (Unsplash)

By Riddhi Doshi

LAST PUBLISHED 22.06.2023  |  01:00 PM IST

My heart skipped a beat, from shock, when I saw an Instagram reel of a Beagle’s wedding baraat. A woman dressed in a heavy lehenga, jewellery and makeup was carrying the pup, also dressed in what looked like a dog sherwani, to the mandap, while other humans, dressed in wedding outfits, were dancing to a loud, live brass band behind them. The video then showed glimpses of the Beagle’s wedding ceremony. The humans of the male and the female dogs raised the two pups on their hind legs and forced them to put garlands on one another.

Now that made me squirm. 

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The human congregation celebrating their dogs’ wedding either believed that dogs have human emotions or saw them as toys. Remember, when we used to take our lifeless dolls and get them married, just for fun? But dogs are different. They are living, breathing creatures with feelings. “I can’t stress enough to my clients that dogs are not their toys, and certainly do not think or feel like humans. They are a different species with different needs and behavior and likes and dislikes," says canine trainer and behaviourist, Akash Shukla. Forget liking or enjoying the wedding—in all possibility, the Beagles would have been the most scared and uncomfortable they would have ever been in their lives at that event.

Most dogs are petrified of loud sounds, hate prickly zari clothes, are uncomfortable in crowded spaces, do not like being lifted and forced on their hind legs to do things like putting garlands on each other, which for them is nothing less than torture. They are then forced to sit through the ceremony and even pose for pictures with random people. “All of these is so stressful that it can cause behavioural issues or impact a dog’s mental health," adds Shukla. 

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My heart goes out to smaller dogs. They are often subjected to weird Instagram and TikTok trending reels—weddings, fashion shoots, pyjama parties, dress-up days—just because they are easy to handle. That’s the unfortunate bit. Because they are smaller and physically weaker than people, most small dog owners never bother to train their dog or study their behaviour. This means the dog doesn’t know what is expected of it and the human doesn’t know what the dog is trying to tell them either. The miscommunication can cause behavioural and mental health issues in a dog. 

I have seen so many small dog owners simply lift their dogs and walk away when they are barking, kicking their hind legs (usually a sign of establishing dominance over other dogs) or even doing the most natural doggie thing, which is to sniff different objects. Whereas, a big dog’s parent will have to try and understand what is making the dog behave the way he is and find ways to calm him or train the unwanted, aggressive behaviour out of him, making life easier for them and the dog, thus establishing a stronger bond and a healthy dog with a good temperament. I say this in all my articles and will repeat here again—please train your dog, no matter the size.

The bigger ones are, however, not totally unscathed from the wedding drama. It may not be easy to get them to wear a sherwani and pose pretty, but they are still appointed as a flower girl or best man, walking down the aisle, carrying flowers or rings tied to their collars, or called in join the couple for their first dance. In fact, pets at a marriage ceremony was one of the biggest wedding trends of last year and is only growing more popular.

I certainly get the sentiment behind having your furry baby around on your special day. I find it endearing and would definitely want my Dogo Argentino, Khal Dogo to be at my family events, even if my large, scary looking dog’s mere presence would scare away half of my guests. 

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But I would ask myself—will he be comfortable there or would he rather be at home, his safe space, and sleep the day off?

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Though it’s easier said than done, and I get that. If Khal would do what he usually does while we leave home—wag his tail in excitement, circle around us non-stop, run out of the house as soon as the door opens—I would take him to my family event as well. Though, I would do as many things as possible to ensure that he is comfortable and not tortured.

  1. There would be no crackers, not harsh lights and definitely no dhols at the event. He is okay with the loudspeakers, though. But I would try to avoid that as well.
  2. He would be taken to the venue an hour before the event so he can sniff the whole place and get comfortable there.
  3. He would always be with me or my husband or his trainer—the humans he is most comfortable with and listens to and behaves around.
  4. I would exercise him at the venue before the guests come, so that he is tired and calm, which also translates to happy, in the case of dogs.
  5. No human would be allowed to pet him or snuggle with him without my husband’s or my permission. We know our dog well, can read his body language and know when he will be up for some human affection and when not. This is also for the safety of the humans.
  6. He would be taken out for short walks every hour, which would serve like a break time from all the hoopla at the event.
  7. I would carry his bedding. Dogs feel secure when they smell familiar things, which would also help him relax and even go off to sleep if he is tired.
  8. I would definitely carry treats and his water and food.
  9. I would certainly not force him to dance or put garlands on anyone or pose with my guests.
  10. Lastly, I would not make him wear any prickly clothes.

Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based independent journalist, Kathak student, and first-time pet parent