The wedding day is an opportunity to celebrate your love with everyone you care about—and for many couples, that includes a four-legged friend or two. These days, more and more couples are posing with their pets in wedding photos, dressing them up for the big day, or even incorporating their pets into the celebration. A popular way to work a dog into the ceremony is to have them carry the wedding rings down the aisle.
But what do you do if your furry friend’s behavior is not up to snuff? It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks! With time and dedication, your dog can be the best ring bearer your guests have ever seen. If you’re up to the challenge, these tips will get you and your pup ready to go!
Make a Plan for Your Pup
You’ve had your dog for years. You love them. You care for them. And, let’s face it, you know what they can and can’t handle. Before you begin any training for your wedding day, it’s important to consider what exactly you want your dog to do.
Does your pup get nervous around large groups? If so, maybe you shouldn’t have him walk down the aisle surrounded by cooing strangers. Do they struggle to keep quiet if you aren’t constantly petting them? Let them walk down the aisle, but have someone usher them off so they won’t howl during the “I do’s.” Do they eat everything, including non-food items, in sight? Don’t give them the rings! Setting expectations early will prevent frustration during training.
Allow Time to Train
As any bride or groom will tell you, weddings are no walk in the park. They may be lots of fun, but plenty of work goes into making sure everything runs smoothly. That goes double for your dog! Your fur baby doesn’t understand all the pomp and circumstance, so you need to make sure they’re well-trained and ready to perform.
Begin training your dog for their walk down the aisle two to four months before your wedding day (or more if you think they need it). This will give them time to practice walking, sitting still, keeping quiet, and (gulp) carrying your wedding rings. Remember, this is a part of your wedding preparations, so make sure you schedule this important time.
Break it Down
Think about the way you’d explain the ring bearer role to a child. You’d break down every step: when to start down the aisle, how quickly or slowly they should walk, where to stand, and when to hand the rings to your best man or officiant.
Unfortunately, your pup can’t talk, so you may not know what they need help to understand. For this reason, you need to break down everything, and I mean everything. Don’t just teach them to give your best man the rings; teach them to hold the rings in their mouth (presumably in a basket), to walk with them, and to let them go on command. By going over every minute detail of the task, you’ll ensure a smoother performance.
Have Treats Handy
Every dog owner knows that good boys and treats go hand in hand. In fact, treats can be an excellent motivator for dogs learning new tricks. If you want a well-behaved dog on your wedding day, it’s wise to have a treat or two with you during the ceremony. Not only will the treats encourage good behavior, but they will make the wedding more fun for your pet.
Of course, not every couple wants to have a handful of treats at the altar with them. Think of some creative ways to reward your dog. Have the groomsmen or bridesmaids carry some treats in their pockets, ask a family member in the first pew to take care of the dog after they walk down the aisle, or discreetly place a treat-dispensing toy at the foot of the altar.
It’s easy to get swept up in the fantasy of your wedding day. However, it’s important to keep realistic expectations—particularly when you’re dealing with other personalities. Everyone from your maid of honor to your doggy ring bearer has their own unique temperament, and it’s important to respect that.
If you have guests or members of your bridal party that are afraid of or allergic to dogs, seat them away from where your dog will be and don’t let your dog wander freely. Also, try to be flexible and accommodate your pup’s needs. If they’re a wanderer, have them walk down the aisle on a leash. If they’re scared of crowds, have a member of your bridal party hold them or invest in a ThunderShirt to ease anxiety. While the final result may not be exactly what you envisioned, a calm and content dog will help make your wedding day that much happier (and cuter)!