Ahhh weddings! What a beautiful occasion to celebrate love with family and close friends. Often times when we think of family, that also includes our pets. If you want your pup pal involved on your special day, it can feel daunting to think of the training needed on top of all the other wedding planning. However, it can make the day even more special if it’s meaningful to you that they are included. And honestly, who doesn’t love watching a doggie walk down the aisle?
First and foremost, it’s important to realize that not all dogs can handle the “pressure” of walking down the aisle. It depends on the dog. Before making your decision, take the following into consideration:
- Can my dog handle this?
- Is my dog okay being separated from its owner?
- Is my dog sociable or do they get nervous?
- Can they handle being housed elsewhere for most of the party?
- Does my dog tend to bark a lot when around groups of people?
If based on these factors you feel confident in your dog, then you can begin training! Give yourself at least 4-6 months for the training process.
If your pup is going to be the ring bearer or flower girl, Shelby Semel of Shelby’s Dog Training recommends using using a gift baggy, a box with a handle, or a light basket, to carry the rings or flowers. You want to avoid using wicker or anything that could hurt your dog’s mouth. Begin training with something that has a handle and practice “take it” and “hold it”. Once those two commands have been mastered, you can start training on the “come” command.
If you’re planning to have the rings or flowers tied to your dog’s collar in some way (on a small pillow, in a little basket, in a tiny box, etc.) you can skip the “take it” and “hold it” command training.
If people staring at your dog makes them nervous, start practicing “come” in an enclosed location such as a backyard with a crowd of people watching. This will help acclimate them so they feel comfortable while crowds of people line the aisles. It will also give you insight into their readiness. To assist with this, you can also begin walking your dog in large crowds, such as busy streets.
Leash It If Needed
Not all dogs will feel comfortable walking down the aisle all by themselves, and that’s okay! A human flower girl and/or ring bearer could hold the dog on a leash and walk down with them. If there’s a chance of the dog running off without the child being able to stay in control, having the dog walk down with a bridesmaid or groomsman works as well.
Once the ceremony has ended or after your pup walks down the aisle, have someone who is not a wedding guest, but knows your dog well (dog walker, dog sitter, friend) be in charge of keeping your dog company throughout the reception if they stay the whole time. If you plan on having your dog leave after the ceremony or photos, have a doggie exit plan in place.
Make sure to have treats to reward your dog for all their hard work!