Are you looking for tips on how to train your dog to walk down the aisle? WOOF, you’ve set your paws in the right place. Whether you have a bossy Yorkie like me or a sweet mutt (btw, rescues rock), you can train your beloved dog to make a grand entrance as the cutest Ring Bearer, prettiest Dog of Honor, or any VID (VERY IMPORTANT DOG) wedding role. To ensure a smooth wedding ceremony with your dog, preparation is KEY and I’m here to help!
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If you’ve already asked yourself these crucial questions and ultimately decided to include your dog in your wedding, sniff out my exclusive tips and tricks on How to Train Your Dog to Walk Down the Aisle below:
#1 Like any Dog Training, Use ONLY Positive Reinforcement to Train Your Dog to Walk Down the Aisle
ARF, dogs don’t read minds (neither do you)! However, through the rewards-based positive reinforcement, you can effectively train dogs; it’s simple – reward your dog (verbal praise, treats) every single time he or she does something that YOU want. Through positive reinforcement training, dogs will then associate a specific action with treats (something positive). The most effective and humane way to teach a dog a new trick or to “behave” is to continuously reward the “desired” behavior or action while ignoring the “undesired” behavior. When you ignore the “undesired” behavior, you are signaling to your dog that such behavior yields NO result – no attention, no treats, no praise, NOTHING! Negative reinforcement (such as hitting, kicking, yelling, screaming, starving, punishing, etc.) is ineffective, outdated, INHUMANE, generating fear and confusion for your dog.
So how does this translate in training your Yorkie or dog to walk down the aisle?
One word – TREATS! Even an ultra bossy Yorkie like me will give into chops-lickin’ treats. GRR, I just can’t get enough of treats! Always have a pack of treats in your hand during training sessions with your dog. Use a leash and choke-free harness (collars are just bad for dogs) and have your dog walk next to you down the aisle or “pretend” aisle. Praise and reward with treats when your Yorkie or dog every single time for a job well done. Every time your dog does something you do not want (such as not walking in straight down the aisle, walking too fast, stopping to play, etc.), you should stop, say “NO” (confidently, but don’t scream), and start over. Again, do NOT yell or hit your dog for not understanding what YOU want him or her to do.
#2 START Training in Advance
Training your Yorkie or dog to walk down the aisle should begin at least 2 months before the wedding day. Depending on your dedication along with your dog’s temperament, you may want to start earlier, say 3 or 4 months in advance.
#3 Practice, Practice, PRACTICE!
Practice with your dog as often as possible! The more familiar your dog is with walking down the aisle, the more relaxed he or she will be on the wedding day.
Unless you are having a backyard wedding, it’s not realistic to expect access to the ceremony venue before the rehearsal. And, unless you can replicate the ceremony “atmosphere,” your best bet is to train your dog to walk down the aisle both indoors and outdoors. Line up some chairs on both sides to create the aisle. Throw some petals or fake flowers on the floor to familiarize your dog with the typical aisle decor. You can buy a small, cheap bouquet or petals from the market and reuse the petals after they’ve dried. An alternative is to adorn small, torn pieces of paper throughout the aisle. The point is to familiarize your dog with petals and/or decorations. Observe how he or she reacts! You may need to invest more time in training if your dog loves messing with the rose petals.
#4 Practice with the Ceremony MUSIC
Familiarize your Yorkie or dog with the ceremony music! Don’t blast the music, but keep it in the background on repeat as you practice walking down the aisle with your dog. The more you do this, the easier it will be for your dog to make a positive affiliation among music, walk, and treats. On the wedding day, be sure to keep the ceremony music low. A dog’s ears are about 4X as sensitive as humans! With highly sensitive ears, dogs may feel both fear and pain when exposed to loud music.
#5 Put TREATS on the Aisle
If you are having trouble training your dog to walk down the aisle, you can try sprinkling treats on the aisle to entice your dog to follow the straight path. Just make sure you keep treats away from the petals or flowers (you wouldn’t want your dog swallowing rose petals by accident).
#6 Do NOT have a Child Walk Your Dog down the Aisle
I know it’s hard to give up the “adorable” images of a little flower girl walking out with a flower dog in matching headgear or outfits, but please don’t do it! Save the headache by having a responsible adult escort or handle your dog. I recommend 14-years-old as the minimum age for a child to responsibly walk or escort a dog. The only exception I would make is if the child is extremely familiar with your dog AND knows how to respect a dog’s boundaries; with that said, I still strongly advise AGAINST it. The presence of loud and obnoxious children can be very stressful for many dogs, especially ones who they don’t know well, carry them around (mishandle without knowing), treat them like toys, or mess with them for fun.
Naturally, kids and Yorkies are NOT a good mix unless the kids are old or mature enough to respect a dog’s boundaries. Arrgggh, like most Yorkies, I do NOT mesh well with children. Children can easily stress me out. Seemingly “innocent” play for children may be nightmares for dogs, particularly small dogs like Yorkies. I am NOT a toy! I hate being carried, hugged, chased, and teased. It’s imperative to warn children at the wedding ahead of time to respect a dog’s boundaries to avoid any mishap or added stress during an already chaotic day. Find out 16 things children do that dogs HATE + Prevention Tips, including how to properly approach a dog.
#7 Involve OTHER PEOPLE in the Training
All the unfamiliar people and noise on a typical wedding day can easily stress out any dog! If your dog isn’t used to being around a lot of people, you may want to ask your friends to come over to help replicate a similar atmosphere as a wedding day. For me, I love being a part of PAWTIES with my humans because I have a bad case of FOMO. GRR, I MUST know what’s going on! However, I’ll hide from obnoxious children or people who want to carry me around like I’m some toy. I know I have a cute Yorkie face, but I have feelings too!
Also, if you aren’t walking your dog down the aisle on the wedding day, then you MUST also involve your dog’s wedding day escort (a.k.a. person designated to walk your dog) in these training/practice sessions. No matter how much you’ve trained your dog to walk down the aisle, such progress can be in vain if your dog isn’t familiar with his or her escort. Even if this person is not available for all the training sessions with your dog, he or she should be someone with whom your dog likes and feels comfortable. To ensure comfort and reliability, your dog and the designated person should rehearse at least four times before the wedding day.
#8 Always Walk Your Dog on a LOOSE Leash
When traininh your dog to walk down the aisle, please do so on a loose leash. As all dogs are intelligent beings, they can usually sense the tension and stress when being walked on a tight leash or consistently pulled back. Keep your cool and relax! When I sense my humans relaxed, I tend to relax too. 🙂
#9 Arrange for POTTY BREAKS Before the Ceremony
OH NO! Dogs commonly relieve themselves due to fear and stress. Hence, make sure your dog gets plenty of potty breaks right before the ceremony. For my Auntie’s wedding, my last potty break before my grand entrance was about 15-minutes before the gorgeous lakeview ceremony.
#10 EXERCISE Your Dog before the Ceremony
Make sure your dog releases most of his or her energy before the ceremony for a more calming walk down the aisle, especially if he or she is hyperactive. However, don’t over exercise him up to a point where you have to interrupt your dog from a nap.
#11 Take ACCOUNTABILITY
Take accountability for your actions instead of blaming your dog for being “stubborn” or “difficult to train,” which sounds like a cop out. Ask yourself: Are you spending enough time training your dog? How can you improve your communication with your dog? Do you understand your dog’s behavioral signs?
#12 Bring Your Dog to the REHEARSAL
Yes, DO bring your dog to the rehearsal to help familiarize your dog with the location and environment, reducing stress on the actual wedding day. If your dog can’t join for dinner, arrange to have someone take him or her back to home or the hotel room. As for me, I pawtied it up the wedding party and licked all my plates clean at the rehearsal dinner!
#13 Embrace the IMPERFECTIONS
OK, bridezillas – yea, I’m barking at YOU! Don’t strive for perfection on your wedding day because it’s NOT going to happen! Nothing will ever be perfect – consider it wedding day bliss as long as nothing goes terribly wrong. Remember, dogs are NOT robots – we are unique individuals with feelings. Like yourself, your dog may feel overwhelmed and confused with all the wedding day chaos so don’t expect him or her to behave “perfectly.”
No time or patience to train your Yorkie or dog? If your dog is small enough like myself, you can use a wedding-themed wagon to wheel him or her out! For a comfortable ride, add soft cushions and pillows inside the wagon. Your dog’s comfort and safety should always come first. Nevertheless, you should introduce your dog to the wagon at least a week or two in advance. Going back to positive reinforcement – put some treats in there each time so your dog affiliates the wagon with something positive!
Do you have any tips on how to train your Yorkie or dog to walk down the aisle? BARK AT ME. Click HERE to get your paws on all my Dog Wedding Tips!
Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob