Imagine your perfect wedding day: all your friends and family in attendance, and even your best friend, your pooch, participating in the ceremony as the ring bearer. How cute will he look trotting down the aisle, carrying the rings, with everyone oohing and awwing! Having your dog included in your wedding ceremony can be both fun and meaningful for many couples. But there are a few things you need to be aware of, some preparations you will need to make, and some training you will need to do, in order to have your furry friend be a member of your wedding party and not the runaway ring thief!
Before you decide to have your dog be a ring bearer at your wedding, you should determine whether he is up for it. A very young dog, an anxious or aggressive dog, or one that gets overexcited in crowds and new situations, may not be up to the task, even with extensive training. Asking them to complete a task that they will not be comfortable performing in a strange environment is unfair to the dog. If your dog is happy, comfortable around lots of people, and calm and friendly, there are several different strategies for having your dog bring your wedding rings successfully down the aisle. You can have your dog come down the aisle walking beside a handler or another member of the wedding party, such as a flower girl, groomsman or bridesmaid, or you can teach your dog to walk down the aisle solo. If you are teaching your dog to walk solo you will have to teach him to come to you down the aisle, on command, at the appropriate speed. If your dog is walking with another member of the wedding party, he will need to have good manners on a lead and walk quietly next to his handler. Also, you will need to determine how your dog is going to carry the rings. Some dogs are trained to hold a basket in their mouth with the rings, others are fitted with a special pillow on a harness on their backs, or a pouch can be affixed to a collar containing the rings. If your dog is going to use a basket or another container that he holds in his mouth, you will need to teach him to be comfortable carrying the object down the aisle in his mouth.
Determine what special equipment you will be using for carrying the rings: a basket, a harness with a pillow attached, a pouch attached to his collar? Also, what will your dog be wearing, a bow tie, a top hat, a doggy tux? Make sure that you train and practice with all the clothing and equipment you will be using on the big day. Start working, training your dog several weeks or months before the wedding, so you don't run out of time as the wedding day approaches and other demands crop up, and to ensure your dog has lots of time to become comfortable with what is required of him. Ensure your dog is comfortable with lots of people and crowds; try to find a way to simulate the experience and expose your dog to a similar environment ahead of time. Be sure to include your dog in the wedding rehearsal. Consider having a handler available, that can step in if things go wrong and to take custody of your dog after his delivery of the rings, to keep him happy for the duration of the ceremony, and take him home or to another venue if he is not going to be part of the reception.