In the last 12 months, many of us have been bonding with our pooches at home, and as a result, new data shows an increasing number of couples now plan to make them part of their wedding day.
With over 7,854 posts on Instagram, the hashtag #dogringbearer is becoming increasingly popular, whilst Google data shows a 71% search increase for the term ‘dog ring bearer’ since lockdown began. Celebrities including Carrie Underwood, Ellen DeGeneres, and Joe Jonas have previously involved their pets on the big day, whilst bride-to-be, Stacey Solomon, also announced her dogs will wear suits at her upcoming wedding.
But how do you train your dog to be a wedding ring bearer? And what’s the best way to avoid a hiccup? We teamed with Certified Animal Behaviourist, Caroline Wilkinson, from digital pet coaching service, Barketplace, to reveal everything you need to know.
She said: “Choosing to have your dog as your ring bearer is a great way to include them on your wedding day. Your pet plays a huge role in your life and gives you a lifetime of love, so it’s no wonder you want to return the favour.”
“Any type of dog has the potential to be a great ring bearer, however you will need to do some training if they don’t know basic ques or are anxious around large crowds. As wedding restrictions are set to lift later this year, I expect more couples will want to involve their pets, after spending so much time bonding with them during lockdown.”
Which basic commands does your dog need to know?
If your dog doesn’t respond to basic commands or they’re known to pull on a lead, you’re probably going to need to spend some time on training before you brave the aisle.
Caroline reveals what commands to consider practicing a couple of months before the wedding.
Expert advice: “If you’re planning to keep your dog off the lead, teaching them to respond to “wait” will allow them to stay calmly at the end of the aisle away from you, until it’s time for them to perform. They will also need a good recall – so you can call them to you – or a “send away” cue – so that the person in charge of them for the day can ask them to go to you at the right time.
“A sit or a down might also be useful so that your dog can hold a static position while you unhook a pillow or box from their back. And finally, if you would like your dog to hold the ring box or basket, then you would also need a “hold”, “bring” and “drop” cue.”
If know your dog gets nervous with people staring at them, start practicing recall in busier locations where there are lots of people. This will help acclimate your dog and will give you a sense of their readiness.
Should you keep your dog on a lead?
If you know your pooch is too stubborn to learn new commands, then the alternative option is to keep them on their lead and have a bridesmaid or groomsman walk them down the aisle.
Expert advice: “Having your dog on a lead will be useful if they are unlikely to follow instruction and will get easily distracted. You might also want one of the wedding party to be responsible for walking the dog down the aisle, and a lead means that your dog will hopefully follow that person instead of stopping to say hello to each guest.”
How can you keep your dog calm if they get over-excited?
Your wedding is exciting for you, so imagine how exciting it must be for your pet. With extra guests comes extra attention, meaning if they’re not used to fuss and they’ve only been spending time with the people living in your household lately, there’s a chance they’ll jump up and run wild. The last thing you want is paw prints on your wedding dress, so how can you keep them calm?
Our expert said: “Remember that this event will be just as exciting for your dog as it will be for you, so ensuring that your dog is used to being around more people and feels comfortable ahead of the wedding will help them remain calm.
You can also prep some long-lasting chews for them to enjoy during any “waiting around” time – chewing is great for creating calm feelings for our dogs.
Having someone they trust on hand to be their carer for the day means they can step in and take the dog for a walk or some quiet time if needed – you might want to use a professional here who isn’t also a guest at the wedding, then they can be focused solely on your dog’s wellbeing.”
How can you stop them from barking?
Alongside wagging tails, with excitement comes barking. Barking is last thing you want your dog to do at your ceremony, but why does it happen? And how can you keep them quiet?
Our expert said: “Barking will usually present itself if the dog is feeling over-excited, frustrated or anxious. You need to ensure that your dog feels comfortable in the environment they’re in. To avoid barking, ask guests to allow your dog some space, instead of smothering them with strokes and attention.
“You can also ask the person who’s responsible for your dog on the day to have plenty of small treats ready to reward quiet moments and for scattering on the floor for your dog to sniff if they get overwhelmed.”
What is the safest way to secure the rings to the dog?
Once you’re feeling confident that your dog is ready to walk down the aisle, it’s time to think about how you’re going to secure your wedding rings to them. You don’t want them to irritate your pooch, or risk them becoming detached halfway down the aisle, so it’s vital you choose the best method.
Our expert says: “The easiest way to secure the rings to your dog would be to have them attached to the back of your dog’s harness.
“This will allow you to easily remove the rings when they reach you – and also means you don’t need to teach them to carry a basket or box to you. Just make sure there’s nothing hanging down from your dog’s neck that they can either trip over or potentially want to chew, which could risk swallow hazards.”
If you also want your dog to wear something cute, like a bowtie or dress, practice with them in the outfit and make sure they like it and are comfortable. By the big day they should be accustomed to whatever outfit they are wearing.
How can you stop them from peeing during the ceremony?
Regardless of how well behaved your dog is, there’s one thing you can’t control, and that’s the natural urge to mark their territory. So, is there a way to stop your dog from peeing at the altar? Or even worse, on your mother-in-law? Thankfully, our expert has some tips for managing this problem.
Our expert says: “If you know your dog likes to leave their scent behind when in new environments, it might be that they’re feeling a little overwhelmed. Scent-marking can make a dog feel more comfortable in situations they aren’t familiar with.
“Make sure your dog has had a short walk prior to the ceremony – and that they’ve been encouraged to pee a few times outside of the venue just beforehand too. If you can, allow your dog the chance to visit the venue in advance of the big day – so you can see how comfortable they are there. Whoever is walking your dog down the aisle, can also keep their nose focused with a handful of tasty treats so they’ve got something different to think about than marking on the nearest chair.
“Once your dog’s role is complete, ask the person in charge of them to take them back outside for a nice sniff around until it’s time for a few photos.”
If you’re thinking of tying the knot or are ready to propose, why not create your own wedding or engagement rings? Our design experts can create any shape or style to suit you. We can even create a ring that’s inspired by your pet.