Want your dogs at your wedding? Pawprints North East are the dog chaperone service who are about to change your big day for the better
Wedding dog sitters don’t get more adventurous than this.
Weddings are a time for family. So, it seems remiss that on this most special day, where all of your other nearest and dearest gather, your dog is expected to be left behind.
We live each and every day with our four-legged friends – why is it that we feel we can’t celebrate the extraordinary in amongst the ordinary with them, too? And that’s not to mention the actual logistics of attempting to include our dogs in our big day ourselves; the happy couple have got enough to worry about without thinking about feeding times and toilet breaks, while expecting someone you trust to stay at home to dog-sit seems like a big ask when you know they’d love to be at your wedding themselves.
But fortunately, this has all already occurred to Russ Britton. After having to leave his own gorgeous beagle, Darwin, behind for his wedding, Russ decided enough was enough for us dog-lovers in the world. That’s why he decided to set up Pawprints wedding chaperone service.
Now North Tyneside’s premier dog walking and adventure company, Pawprints is all about opening the region’s dogs up to a world of adventure, improved health and ultimate positivity, for happy dogs and happy owners. And let’s face it, what’s happier than a wedding where everyone you love is all together?
We caught up with Russ to find out what Pawprints is all about, how the wedding chaperone service actually works, and to discover all his dog-whispering secrets…
Tell us about Pawprints.
At PawPrints North East, we pride ourselves on providing friendly, reliable and professional dog walking and adventures across North Tyneside. We offer a full range of services for looking after dogs. All our services are tailored to suit each individual dog’s needs and we constantly monitor how a dog is enjoying their time with us.
Can you give us an overview of what you offer?
We offer puppy visits for the youngest members of our pack and these can be from as soon as a puppy is brought home. These visits include play time, mental stimulation games, smaller walks when they are ready to step outside and, of course, plenty of cuddles! As they grow, we increase the level of physical activity and use our own dogs to introduce them to being part of a group walk situation.
As they get older, we can offer group or one-on-one walks, depending on their needs. We keep our group walks to a maximum of five dogs so that we can monitor each dog properly. We travel all across the North Tyneside region to ensure the dogs get to explore lots of new places, including woodland, fields and beaches. We also offer hikes and adventures, where we will head off into the hills with a map and a backpack and really get some good miles in. These are perfect for the dogs that just can’t be tired out, the more adventurous pups, or for those needing to shift a few extra pounds.
And finally, we also offer our wedding chaperone service. The big day wouldn’t be complete without your big guest(s), so we offer a service which allows them to be there for whatever part (or all) of the day the owners want. We collect, look after and drop off the dog to the owners’ requests. We also ensure your dog stays clean and presentable, we work alongside the photographer to get those all-important snaps, and we allow guests to say hi.
This all sounds like a dreamy job! How did Pawprints begin?
I’ve always had dogs, and have always loved hiking and adventures. Me and my dog, Darwin (a 12-year-old beagle) would regularly disappear into the wilderness for hours on end, exploring as many places as we could find. When people would see how well behaved and how fit and healthy Darwin was, especially as beagles can be prone to weight issues, they asked me what my secret was. I would explain and they would inevitably ask if I could take their dog out some time. So, I started taking friends’ and family members’ dogs on our adventures and it all led from there. I grew up around lots of animals, so looking after multiple dogs at once didn’t present any difficulty and PawPrints was born.
I still operate the business on the principle of: ‘is this good enough for Darwin?’ If I wouldn’t do it with my own dog, I won’t do it with a customer’s dog. It was the fact that we couldn’t have Darwin at our own wedding that gave me the inspiration to offer the wedding chaperone service.
So tell us more about the wedding chaperone service – how does it all work?
With our wedding chaperone service, we follow a basic structure that tends to be pretty consistent. However, we will always work around the bride and groom‘s specific needs and wants to ensure they get the unique service they’re after.
We collect the dog about an hour or so before they’re required at the venue, (depending on travel time to the venue). We take them out for a walk to burn off some energy and to make sure they have a toilet break. We then get the dog clean and tidy and put on any attire that the owners’ have given us. We usually aim to arrive around 30 mins before the ceremony, so that guests can say hello to the dog and they can be part of the groomsmen’s photos. We can also take the dogs to go and say hello to the bride if they wish.
We then keep the dog entertained and watered whilst the ceremony takes place, and are in position if the dog is required at all. Depending on the rules of the venue, we keep the dog as close to proceedings as we can, as long as the dog is comfortable. A lot of owners like their dog to join them for the walk down the aisle after the ceremony, so they leave as a family. If this is the case, I bring the dog to them at the appropriate time and make sure the dog is happy and not getting stressed.
We then make sure the dog is ready and in the right place at the right time for the photoshoots and the post-ceremony celebrations. We work with the bride, groom and photographer to get the best photos possible. My main efforts are usually to get the dog to: 1) look at the camera, and 2) not jump on the bride’s dress!
When the time the owners have wanted their dog to be present at the wedding is complete, we can then return them to where they are to be left – either handing over to a family member at the venue, returning them home, or taking them to a third person, such as kennels or a dog boarder.
We offer different packages which allow the dog to be at the wedding for 3, 5 or 8 hours.
Do you meet with the dog(s) before the big day?
If I can, I will. I definitely prefer to, but people can be living all over the country and still come to the North East for their wedding (that’s exactly what we did), so it isn’t always possible. I have done some meets over Zoom, but obviously this doesn’t offer any meaningful interaction with the dogs.
How would you describe your style of care?
Positivity all the way. Dogs generally want to please their humans, they just don’t always understand what it is that would please them. By making the desired behaviour the best experience for them, they soon understand what you’re asking of them.
Does your service include puppies and/or multiple dogs?
Absolutely! I will never shy away from what some may think would be a difficult or challenging event. We just modify, adapt and personalise the service to suit. I’ve done a wedding with three dogs, all non-people and non-dog friendly, and we all had a great day.
I always have my fully fitted dog van with me, so there is always a safe and secure space for us to retire to if needed. This can also offer shade, heat or shelter depending on the weather, too.
What about excitable and/or anxious dogs?
Yes, just the same. It just takes a little more effort to ensure the dogs don’t get overwhelmed or stressed. Having that quiet space where we can go for some chill out time can be the difference between a happy and an unhappy dog. Again, it goes back to being a positive, calming, steady companion for the dog. I try and establish a good relationship as soon as possible, and having the pre-wedding walk definitely helps with this. Letting the dog know that everything is going to be ok by being calm and confident can really reassure them. I also won’t be shy in telling guests that they have to keep a distance if the dog isn’t too happy, which can be something that family may be worried about doing with people they know.
Do you have any advice for a couple who would like their dog to be with them for their full wedding day?
If it’s possible – if the venue they have chosen allows dogs, even in a limited capacity (such as outside only) – then go for it. It’s nearly eight years on from our wedding now and we still wish Darwin could’ve been there with us. People may not think its doable, as all their loved ones (and, therefore, the people they would trust with their dog) are guests at the wedding, but by using a service like ours you can have the dog present at the biggest day for your family.
The advantage of using us is that I won’t feel like I’m missing anything if I have to take the dog away for some quiet time, or if I have to stay outside while the ceremony is going on. I don’t know of anyone who has included their dog in their wedding day and regretted it.
What’s some of the funniest stories you have from weddings where you’ve dog-chaperoned?
The usual one is the dog’s first reaction when seeing their mum for the first time, where they try and jump up – not good with a wedding dress! The efforts to keep the dog close enough for a cuddle, but keeping paws away from the dress is always a laugh. We’ve had a few brides who didn’t care at all and happily added paw prints to their wedding ensemble.
I did have one wedding with a lot of Scots present and so, naturally, there was a bagpiper playing throughout the day. The dog I was looking after just couldn’t help but sing along, much to the amusement of everyone – including the piper, who thought it was brilliant!
For more information about Pawprints North East and their wedding chaperone service, visit their website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram