Recently, I received my first invitation to a doggy birthday party. It came by mail in a bright yellow envelope and said, “Come to a dog-gone good party!” It was from Daisy Fuentes, an adopted yellow Labrador, who was celebrating her first birthday by inviting some of her doggy friends over for an afternoon of fun and games.
There’s a growing trend among pet lovers who consider themselves pet parents to spoil their furry kids by celebrating birthdays, obedience school graduation, and other special occasions. Parties are a fun way for both pets and pet parents to socialize. And as dog owners well know, every dog has their favorite doggy pals.
While most dogs don’t really need a good excuse to scarf down cake (especially when it’s a special canine confectionery made with peanut butter and yogurt) or indulge in extra treats, there is nevertheless a formula to holding a successful event that’s guaranteed to make your pup popular in the dog park.
For starters, it’s a nice idea to have a theme. You can buy special doggy party packs from pet stores that include brightly colored paw-printed invitations, hats, balloons, and a bandana for the doggy guest of honor. Themed party supplies featuring popular cartoon characters are also fun and will be appreciated by kids taking part in the festivities. If it is summer, a swimming party using kids’ plastic pools can add to the entertainment after food has been served.
Throwing a Beauty Bash
Daisy celebrated her big day with a beauty bash. On arrival, the pups were immediately whisked off and treated to pedicures by a professional groomer who clipped nails and applied paw balm to cracked paw pads and noses. Next the dogs lined up for a blueberry facial. If you’re like other dog owners, you may be hesitant to wash your dog’s face with shampoo for fear of getting soap in their eyes. The “facial” is a masque-like product that tastes of blueberries and is specially designed to cleanse and refresh the areas around your dog’s eyes. On some breeds, the masque even lightens tearstains.
Such beautifying activities can work up canine appetites though, so food has to follow speedily. Otherwise even the best-behaved guests may start drooling. A door propped up on bricks makes a perfect doggy-height table, or, for puppy picnics, backyard grass will do!
Bring on the Food
It goes without saying that you should never serve people food to dogs – even for a special occasion. Fortunately, there is a wonderful selection of doggy confectionary – like delicious donuts and postman-shaped biscuits – now available at pet bakeries and other specialty stores. You can also buy wholesome biscuits and treats from your favorite pet food company at the local supermarket.
On a hot summer day, you may want to pick up some doggy ice creams and yogurts at your favorite pet store or consider making homemade frozen suckers. Just fill some sucker molds with chicken broth, add a little biscuit for the stick, and freeze.
You can also have a birthday cake made to order. Popular ingredients include peanut butter, carob, yogurt and bananas. If you are planning to bake one yourself, remember that baking for your dog is like baking for diabetics – no sugar. And of course, no chocolate, which can be poisonous to dogs. Use whole-wheat flour and substitute carob for chocolate. Keep the cake aside until you are ready to sing and serve.
Make sure there are plenty of water bowls placed everywhere. Partying is thirsty work! This is the perfect time to crack open specially flavored vitamin-enriched water with doggy appealing names like “Toilet Water” and “Stagnant Pond.” Remember to feed pet parents separately to avoid food issues. (I indulged in a small sliver of Daisy’s birthday cake, but passed on the Toilet Water…)
You will know when the dogs are done eating because they will wander away from the table and start sniffing one another. That’s when game time begins.
Fun and Games
Dogs enjoy a lot of the same games kids do. Games are also a great way to find out if your dog is practicing what she learned at training school. To win she must listen to your commands!
Musical chairs played to the song “Who let the dogs out?” is great fun to get things started. Let everyone run around to the music. When it stops, both pet and owner have to sit on demand.
A game of “Fetch!” is always fun. Put down tape or a ribbon to create a line, setting the distance according to the size and running abilities of the doggy participants. In unison, owners throw tennis balls or Frisbees over the line and shout “Fetch!”. The first dog to retrieve an item and bring it back is the winner.
Trick and treat is another amusing activity. You’ll be amazed by the variety of tricks your guests will demonstrate! Dogs also love to bob for apples from a shallow water-filled tub.
If you don’t have a nice spacious yard or playroom to accommodate exuberant four-legged guests, the local park or dog friendly beach with lots of umbrellas is a good alternative. (Of course, leash laws must be obeyed—you don’t want the long arm of the Law busting up the celebration!) Many pet stores will happily allow pet parents to hold events in stores, even offering their services as party planners.
It’s a great idea to hand out disposable cameras and let everyone take lots of candid shots. Posed party shots have to be taken early in the proceedings while the dogs are still listening to commands.
When it is time for all to go home, yogurt-coated bones individually wrapped in cellophane make great good-bye gifts. Otherwise prepare your own goody bags with biscuits and a fun toy.
One last thought. You could actually turn your pal’s special event into a good deed by collecting presents and donating them to an animal shelter. Holding a party is an excellent fundraising event guaranteed to draw a large crowd of dog lovers all bent on mixing and mingling and having a dog-gone good time.