There are a million reasons to throw a party, and throwing a party in your dog’s honor is certainly one of them. The food, the fun, the socialization — what’s not to love about a party? And when you add dogs to the mix, it’s even better.
You know you want to throw your dog a party, but where do you start? Professional dog party planner Suzi West of Orange County, Calif., has a few suggestions to keep in mind when planning your dog party.
Do Some Pre-planning
“Plan ahead, and make sure you have enough food and water for both humans and dogs,” West says. “Pick a theme, and make sure you have enough helpers for setting up and cleaning up. If you’re going to give doggie bags, make sure they’re size appropriate: don’t give a little dog a large biscuit or chew toy. Also, send out invitations with plenty of time.”
To help you along, it’s good to think about the the five “Ws” when planning a dog party: who, what, when, where and why.
Who: Decide who to invite. To ensure that everyone (canine and human alike) has a good time, you will want to invite only friendly, well-behaved dogs. Nothing throws a wrench in everyone’s fun than an aggressive dog who is bullying the other dogs.
What: What will you do at your party? Yes, there will be lots of running around and playing, but it might also be fun to plan a few activities and games, such as agility courses, or even just setting out a bunch of balls to chase. If you’re celebrating your dog’s birthday, you’ll also want to factor in time to sing “happy birthday,” cut cake and open presents.
When: Pick a day and time that is convenient for your dog and your guests. On your invitations, be sure to specify an end time, too. Usually, an hour or two is more than enough party time for dogs.
Where: If your back yard is fenced and ready for a dog party, then great! If not, there are always other places seek out for your dog party, including dog-friendly parks, beaches or lakes, indoor dog playgrounds, and many other venues.
Why: Why are you celebrating? It can be anything, from your dog’s birthday, to completing obedience class, to throwing a fun and festive holiday fete. Let’s be honest: You can just throw a party for your dog because it’s Tuesday!
West recalls a party she planned for a good friend of hers who had just lost her dog to cancer. “She was totally devastated,” West says. “I suggested that we invite all her dog’s doggie friends and celebrate her dog’s life, so that her last memories of her dog would be loving ones. We had a specially made dog cake, along with mini cupcakes and lots of other dog-friendly foods. I had a fruit and vegetable platter for the human guests so no one would feel rushed to leave. We had balloons, played on the mini agility set, played tug of war. The entire party was based on everyone interacting with everyone else, dogs and humans. It was a very happy occasion.”
Set Up Your Space
Your invitations have been sent, your guest list is finalized (or close to finalized), and the big day is here! Now it’s time to get your place ready for a dog party. Of course, you’ll want to be sure that your party venue is big enough to allow your doggie friends to run around and play. If you’re hosting your party outdoors, be sure there are plenty of shady, cool places for dogs and people to rest in. Throwing a few comfy cushions here and there would also be a nice touch (your doggie friends would love to have places to relax!). Other good things to have around would be poop bags, bowls of water and lots of toys.
Serve Canine- and People-friendly Food
Whatever food you serve to your doggie guests, be sure it is safe for them to eat. (Here are a list of dog-safe fruits and vegetables and other safe recipes for dogs) If you’re celebrating your dog’s birthday, it would be fun to include a birthday cake, which you can make yourself or purchase from a pet bakery.
Don’t forget your human guests, too! This is the time to bring out the small bites, such as appetizers that you can eat with one hand. Most likely, your guests will be playing with the dogs and won’t have the time or attention span for a full sit-down meal. You can also try whipping up a delicious dog-themed cocktail (or mock-tail.)
Avoid Trouble, If Possible
Try as you might, even the friendliest dogs sometimes get into squabbles when in a group situation. Here are a few tips to prevent party woes, and to help your guests feel comfortable.
1. Make introductions on neutral territory, if possible. If you’re inviting everyone to your house, try to introduce your dog to the other dogs down the street, then walk into the yard together. This could help prevent territorial issues from arising.
2. Expect accidents to happen, and be prepared. Where there are dogs, there will be poop. Have poop bags on hand so your guests can deal with it quickly. A few bottles of hand sanitizer might also be welcome!
3. Just say no to leashes. Dogs tend to react more aggressively with each other when they are on a leash. Make your guest remove their leads when they step into the party area.
4. Make it hard for your canine guests to leave before the end of the party. Make sure that exits, such as gates and fences, are secure to prevent unexpected doggie dashers. If you’re having the party indoors, be sure to close off any rooms you don’t want your canine guests to enter.
Have you ever thrown a party for your dog? Tell us about it in the comments!
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