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Whether it's a wedding or a celebratory ceremony of another sort, having your dog share in your big day is important for many people. Some unions are formed between people by sharing a dog together. Others invite their dog into a new relationship, and the dog becomes part of a family as they join forces together. Having your dog on your special day will bring your dog not only into this union and where the celebration is but also into the ceremony, making him a big part of the event. Your dog could carry a ring box in his mouth or have rings attached to his collar should he be walking down an aisle at a wedding. Your dog could also escort someone down an aisle such as a child who is being celebrated. For this feat and to create a beautiful event with your dog, you could even dress your dog up for the occasion and have him be apart of a glorious celebration in your life.
Before your dog can walk down an aisle to celebrate the event that is so special in your life, he will need to know a few things first. Your dog will need to understand how to get from a starting point to an endpoint without stopping in between and without distraction. He will need to have a handler or a caregiver to be on hand to care for him before his big moment down the aisle and ensure he goes potty and has lots of love and treats. Your dog will need to rehearse several times in his attire and with his props, should he have any. If you are planning a huge ceremony such as wedding and would like your dog to walk down the aisle, plan this ahead well in advance. It could take up to six months to make this a perfect walk. Including your dog in this ceremony won't be a difficult thing. It will just be time-consuming, taking little steps at a time. Be sure to try to replicate as much as you can so your dog is as prepared as he can be.
As you are training your dog to walk down aisle, your training may evolve. You may start just teaching your dog to walk in a straight line on a leash and then off a leash. Then you may create aisles out of furniture, chairs, or even ropes to create these lines he is not to cross as he walks from his starting point to his endpoint. Be sure to have lots of high-value treats to make your dog want to complete this training and do well. If you plan to have your dog dressed up wearing any attire or carrying any props, be sure to do several dress rehearsals with as much of a crowd as you can gather so your dog can practice with potential distractions he may see in the real event. Be patient with your dog and have fun. It might be a big day, but if you're fun enough to include your dog in it, trust that it will be a fun event as well.
The Individual Commands Method
Before your dog can learn to walk down the aisle, be sure he understands basic obedience commands. He will need to know to 'sit', 'stay', and to 'come' just to make it from one end of the aisle to the other.
Your dog will also need to know advanced commands such as 'leave it' and 'take it' to get down the aisle carrying an item such as a ring box without distractions.
Once you have taught your dog these individual commands, take him to a public space such as a dog park where there are distractions and practice these commands.
Your dog will need to be acclimated to a crowd so be sure you're practicing commands with other people around. Put yourself on one end of a small crowd and ask your dog to come. Be sure to have a tasty treat ready for him when he gets there. Practice this several times with people and distractions in between the two of you. If your dog is distracted and stops to sniff someone or plays with something, encourage him by showing him a treat and using the 'leave it' command.
If you plan to dress your dog up for your ceremony, be sure he is used to his outfit well in advance of his big walk down the aisle.
Practice several times with your dog in attire going up and down the aisle. If you can place people in the pews or chairs at the venue, it will be beneficial in keeping your dog from becoming distracted and help him understand what the big day will look like. If you cannot replicate exactly what the venue will look like, practice this in your yard, creating an aisle with people standing on either side.
The day of
Be sure you have a guest in charge of your dog should anything go awry. If your dog has any anxieties, needs to go potty, or needs a handler or someone to simply give him commands, be sure to have someone assigned. This person in charge of your dog should be separate from your ceremonial party.
The Practice to Perfect Method
Begin to place your dog in as many situations as you can that resemble the ceremony where he will be walking down an aisle. This could mean bringing your dog to work with you or bringing your dog to school with lots of children. It could also mean taking your dog to public places. He needs to be used to being around people with noise and distractions.
Put your dog on a leash and practice walking in a straight line from point A to point B. With lots of enthusiasm, practice with this particular walk several times, rewarding your dog at the end each time. As you are practicing on leash, offer your dog lots of verbal praise and excitement so he understands this is a really cool thing to do.
As you are practicing walking down the aisle together, begin to use words that you may use the day of your ceremony. These words may include 'aisle' or 'wedding' or 'ceremony.' You want your dog to be familiar with these words the day of the ceremony so that he understands and connects your training of walking down the aisle together with what he is supposed to do that day.
Practice what your dog has learned walking up and down an aisle in a straight line from one point to an endpoint off-leash. If your dog understands the command 'heel,' you can walk with your dog using this command. For these first few times your dog is off-leash, be sure you are walking with him so he understands the starting point and the endpoint.
Once your dog has mastered walking down the aisle a few times off-leash with you next to him, have him practice alone. If you don't have a partner to help, place your dog at one end of the aisle. You can put your dog in a 'sit and stay' position at one end while you walk to the opposite end. Once you are at the opposite end, use commands such as 'come' or call his name, expecting your dog to come to you.
Because you may not want someone at the end of the aisle using commands such as 'come' or calling your dog by name, you want to begin to use hand signals to tell your dog when it's time to start his walk down the aisle. Once he has mastered the aisle all alone, stand at the opposite end and just pat your side, encouraging him to come with you.
Be sure to offer your dog lots of rewards in the form of high-value treats, love, and praise once he gets to the other end of the aisle. On the day of your ceremony, you may want to have someone on hand to give him a reward once he gets to the end as well.
Practice this walk as much as you can, replicating the scene the closest you can so your dog has expectations of the big day. As you practice, be sure your dog is not distracted or stopping to mark anything along the route.
The day of your event, be sure to have someone in charge of your dog to take him to go potty before his big walk down the aisle. This person should also be in charge of your dog should anything go awry or he become distracted.
The Create Aisles Method
In your backyard or in a public place, create an aisle the best you can. This could mean placing chairs or it could mean using boxes or even toys or ropes to create a long, straight path for your dog to walk.
Once you have created a practice aisle, with your dog off leash, walk up and down the aisle.
Walk next to your dog, offering him a high-value treat every few steps as the two of you walk from one end to the next.
Place your dog at the end of the aisle, ask him to stay, and then walk to the opposite end of the aisle. With a hand signal, ask your dog to come and show him the high-value treat he is to earn at the end of his walk down the aisle.
Practice this several times, offering your dog a treat at the end of the aisle if he can make it from start to finish without stopping and without being distracted.
Ask as many friends and family as you can to gather around and create an aisle replicating what your dog may see at the ceremony. Have your guests sit either in chairs or on the ground on either side of the aisle and practice the steps above having your dog start at one end and walk to you at the other end.
If your dog is wearing a special outfit or in charge of anything such as carrying rings or a flower in his mouth, practice with these items and the outfit on your dog as much as you can before the big day.
The big day
The day of the ceremony, be sure someone is in charge of your dog to take him for a nice walk to go potty before the ceremony. You also want to make sure your dog is not sleepy but is also able to rest before his big moment. Have your dog handler nearby, either in the front row or in one of the aisles where he could jump in quickly if needed.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 11/21/2017, edited: 01/08/2021
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