The Dog in the Wedding

Ring “Bear”er adds to the ceremony
By Karen B. London PhD, October 2014

Even at a wedding filled with happy moments, the presence of a dog during the ceremony adds a whole new level of joy. When “Bear” walked down the aisle, the guests, the families and the wedding party all smiled and laughed just a little more. Part of it was the dog’s dashing good looks enhanced by a neck garland of wedding flowers, though the way he sniffed at some of the people on his way was charming, too. Clearly, the best part was when he found the groom—his guardian, Stephen—and wagged his biggest wag of the day.

I love seeing dogs in weddings, although it has to be the right dog and there has to be a solid plan to make it work out. At this wedding of my friends Meredith and Stephen, they did things right to make having Bear’s participation in their special day a positive experience for all. Here are some of the reasons that it worked out so well for them.

Bear is a social, well-behaved, well-trained dog. He could handle the crowd, the music, the flowers, the new setting and the general bustling of activity of a wedding. For many dogs, this would all be too much, and they would be stressed and unlikely to exhibit their best behavior as a result. You could see in the video that Bear was able to lie down and relax during the ceremony, and was perfectly content to do so.

Somebody who could handle him was in charge of Bear at all times. Throughout the afternoon, various people were in charge of Bear so that the bride and groom could attend to all of their duties. On a related note, Bear walked down the aisle with an adult rather than with the flower girl, so that in his enthusiasm to reach his guardian, he was still under control.

Bear was an honorary ring bearer, but a person was the true bearer of the rings. I’ve seen people struggle to remove the rings from a dog’s collar, and I heard of a case in which the dog ran off while the rings were still attached to him. Having the dog carry the rings is often the cause of glitches, and it’s wise to avoid potential problems by keeping the dog’s role as simple as possible.

The dog went home after ceremony. The wedding was a good environment for Bear, but the reception would not have been fun for him. Between the toasts and announcements over the microphone, the DJ, the loud music and all that off-limits food, the party would have been too much for most dogs, even a happy-go-lucky, well-behaved, stable one like Bear.

Have you been to a wedding with a dog where it was a positive experience all around (as in this case), or one in which it was not so great?

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.