For many people, pets are not just pets; they are our family members, our best friends, and an integral part of our support system. We want them to be happy and enjoy their lives, and for many of our canine companions, having their own network of canine friends is a part of that enjoyment. Socially inclined dogs often appreciate a good party as much as socially inclined people do, and many pet parents are starting to indulge their pup with birthday parties, gotcha day parties, or parties for other special occasions. Planning a party for pups is similar in many ways to planning a party for people, with a few canine considerations.
Indoors or Outdoors
One of the first things that you will want to decide is whether you are hosting the party indoors or outdoors. Hosting the party outdoors helps to ensure that any mess also remains outdoors, it gives the dogs plenty of room to run around and play. It provides you with the opportunity to include activities such as sprinkler play and fetch type games that might be prohibitive indoors. The weather in Florida can be somewhat unpredictable, however, and many people prefer to avoid the uncertainty by having the party indoors.
A large number of pet parents opt to host the party in their own homes, where they have greater control of the environment. Those that choose to have the party outdoors should ensure that the festivities take place in an enclosed area that has a sturdy fence, and those that have the party inside their homes will find that things go more smoothly if the celebration is confined to only a room or two in the house. In either situation, a quiet or calm area should be established so that dogs that are getting anxious or overwhelmed have a space to relax for a few minutes and regain their equilibrium.
While themes are not strictly needed to host a good party, many pet parents who are planning a party find it easier to do so if they have a central theme to work with. Choosing a theme can look very different from one person to another. Some may choose to embrace a theme revolving around costumes or pet photography, while others may prefer a theme that is specific to the pet that they are celebrating, such as a pool party for dogs that love to swim. Pet parents can sometimes look to the dog’s name for inspiration as well, particularly dogs named after familiar characters or celebrities, such as Snoopy, Toto, or Tinkerbell. One alternative could include hosting a party that revolves around dogs in general, with paw- and bone-shaped treats and trinkets. Or how about one that focuses on a charitable organization, perhaps honoring the shelter a rescue dog came from or a non-profit that helps train and place dogs for specific jobs, such as rescue or therapy work.
When choosing who to invite to your party, it is generally best to pick socially adept dogs that your canine companion is already familiar with. Canines that tend to get anxious when presented with groups of other dogs are not as likely to enjoy themselves and may act out instead of having fun. Keep the number of guests reasonably low, between about three and ten, and get as close as you can to a balance between male and female dogs as dogs of the opposite sex tend to be more tolerant of one another. Any important guidelines should be included in the invitations, for instance:
- Drop-offs are not allowed; owners must be present with their dogs.
- Leashes should be brought along to help manage any conflicts that may arise.
- Canines that are ill or in heat should not attend
- All dogs who are attending the party should be up to date on their vaccinations.
Send out your invitations well in advance, so your guests have plenty of time to RSVP, and be sure to mention and follow the theme if you have chosen to utilize one.
Well organized activities will help to increase enjoyment for both the pups and people and will help to ensure that your canine guests are sent home happily worn out. There are several types of activities that you can choose from. If you are having the party outdoors on a reasonably warm day, you may want to include some water play. Many dogs enjoy running through sprinklers or splashing in kiddie pools; even a simple hose can provide cooling entertainment. Indoors, the kiddie pool can be filled with balls as a makeshift ball pit. To make it extra fun, put some tasty dog treats in the bottom of the pit and let each dog take turns searching for tidbits.
Setting up an obstacle or agility course can be a fun way to engage both pets and people in the festivities, and with a little care and creativity, it can be set up indoors or out. Another activity that can be set up either indoors or out is a photo booth spot. You can either design the photo booth area yourself or purchase a kit designed for this purpose. Remember to place several bowls of fresh water around the edges of the party area, with plenty of room between each of them to avoid misunderstandings or skirmishes. If your party is outdoors in the heat, you may want to add a few ice cubes to each bowl as well.
For many people, snacks, particularly cake, is an integral part of any party. It’s no surprise to most pet parents that their dogs tend to enjoy many of the same treats and snacks that people do, but the types of cakes and treats that we make for ourselves are often too sweet for our pets, and may have ingredients that are unsafe for canines, such as chocolate or raisins. Also, many pet parents have found that their dogs are much happier and healthier if they remove grains from their diet altogether, a key ingredient in traditional cakes and cookies.
This does not mean that you have to go without snacks for your canine guests, however, as there are several wonderful recipes available developed specifically for dogs. Many of these pupcakes include sweet, dog-safe fruits and honey instead of sugar to add sweetness. Fruits such as apples, bananas, and blueberries can add sweetness to your canine confections, and there are many types of flour available that are made with ingredients such as coconut, chickpeas, and almonds, which can be used to keep your pupcakes grain-free.
Party favors are not strictly required in order to have a good party, but many people that are throwing a party enjoy sending their guests home with small trinkets and treasures. To make both your human and canine guests happy, it is best to put together useful party favors, rather than the kind of trinket that will wind up sitting on a shelf. There are several canine-centered items that can be both fun and useful, such as:
- Poopbags with bright colors or decorations
- Small picture frames (particularly if you have a photo booth)
- Tennis balls or chew toys
- Dog safe treats
- Canine sunblock
- Personalized bandanas
- Pet-centric gift certificates, like one from Space Coast Pet Services
Planning a celebration for your canine can be just as enjoyable as planning one for your human friends. Your canine guests will enjoy the opportunity to socialize with their own kind, and your human guests will be delighted to take home a happy and exhausted pup.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, in 2016 she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, bonded, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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