Puppy parties are almost as popular as kids’ ones these days. Caroline Zambrano finds out how to throw the perfect dog birthday party for your pampered pooch.
Whether it’s your dog’s first birthday or it’s headed into double digits, throwing your pooch a dog birthday party with your best doggy mates can be a wonderful way to celebrate! To make it a special day to remember, it’s important to get organised in advance, says Jeanette Farren, who has been running parties for dogs and their owners at Diggidydoggydaycare in Victoria for several years.
“It’s best to invite no more than 10 dogs, otherwise your party can become too crowded and out of control,” says Farren. “All doggy guests at any dog birthday party need to be well-socialised and trained, and the owners need to be trustworthy as well as ensure their dog is under their command at all times.”
Make sure you have adequate human supervision at the party. If you’re worried about canine conflict or if you have a shy dog and you’re not sure how he will handle other dogs raiding his home, just invite your dog’s two-legged friends. He’ll enjoy being centre of attention.
Where’s the party?
“You first need to have a secure environment where the dogs can’t get out, get lost or injured. And make sure all dogs enter on a lead and their owners have good control on and off lead,” says advises Farren.
If you’re planning on having an indoor party at your home, ensure all dogs are toilet trained. If you’re worried about the mess, and if the weather permits, consider having your dog birthday party in your backyard. Make sure the fences are secure with no escape routes and your yard is clean from any rubbish or garden tools that could cause injury. Also, don’t forget to fence off any areas you don’t want paws all over.
It would also be a good idea to notify your neighbours about the party. You don’t want the ‘noise police’ knocking at your door in the middle of the fun.
If you don’t have a yard or if it’s too small, how about having the party at the park? Investigate which parks allow dogs on or off lead and contact the park authorities to make sure you can have a party there and if you can reserve space for the day. Some beaches are dog friendly — call the appropriate authorities and find out what rules apply.
Invitations & decorations
Make a list of all the dogs/owners you’d like to invite and prepare your invitations. You can order special dog birthday party invitations or design your own. A zillion design ideas are available at your fingertips online.
It might be a good idea to add a note to the invitations for owners to be responsible and leave their dog/s at home if they have aggressive tendencies or are not desexed. This is especially important if you haven’t met your friend’s dog yet. You want to avoid overstimulation and the potential for competition or conflict between dogs.
As for decorations, you can decorate tables with doggy-themed covers (plastic or cloth) and buy doggy-themed balloons or draw paw marks on them. You might also want to ask your guests to get dressed up.
“Some dog owners really get into the spirit, dressing up with their dogs — Superman, Batman, tutus … it’s all fun!” says Farren.
Food glorious food!
Probably the most important part of the party for your pooch is the food. You can fill up your dog-goodie bags with homemade treats, pig ears, stuffed hooves or gourmet biscuits from the ‘barkery’. Have some liver treats on the table for owners to reward their pooches for good behaviour.
As for the cake, you can order a ‘pawlicious’ dog-friendly cake online. Just Google ‘dog birthday cake’ and paw through the many quality choices available. Or bake your own cake or cupcakes if you can — just don’t include chocolate or raisins! If in doubt about the safety of the ingredients for dogs, check with your vet.
Some cool cake decorating ideas to toy with: the fire hydrant, dog house, puppy paws, dog bones, wagging tail, collar and lead, and dog kibble.
Activities for play
No party is as fun without activities and there are so many games that will keep your doggy guests’ tails wagging.
“We once had a party with a Melbourne Cup theme last year and had a race that some of the dogs were involved in,” says Farren.
You can bring along a frisbee and a ball to play fetch or organise other, more elaborate games, which also involve the owners, such as:
- Musical statues — the dogs form a large circle while on lead, they walk to music and then sit on command.
- A variation of the game Simon Says — the dogs and owners form a line and follow the commands.
- Agility-type games — which dog can jump over the equipment or run through the tunnel fastest?
- Search-and-find games — could be a variation of an Easter egg hunt but with treats!
Judy Small from Victoria celebrates the birthdays of her Australian Cattle Dogs every year and also attends a few doggy parties in between. One of her favourite games involves putting bowls of a few treats on the ground and the dog owners stand behind their bowl. Someone then takes the dogs a distance away and releases the dogs on command. The dogs race to their owner’s bowl and eat the treats. When their dogs finish, the owners raise their hand. First dog to finish wins.
Another fun game is musical hats, a variation of musical chairs. When the music stops, you run into the middle with your dog to grab a witch’s hat and run out again, explains Small.
You can also have a sand pit or doggy pool — ideal for a beach party during the hot summer months. Best to set the pool away from the human guests (and arm them with some towels!) so that they won’t get drenched when the dogs shake off.
With all the tail wagging and excitement, it’s only natural to have a wee accident or two. Keep cleaning materials and a doggy first-aid kit at arm’s reach.
Other points to consider
Dr Joanne Sillince, managing director of Pets Australia, has attended a few dog birthday parties for her pooch over the years and has highlighted the importance of planning the location.
“Large open spaces are best and make sure the dogs are compatible. Watch for resource protection over food and toys. You need to have more food/bowls and toys than the number of dogs and they must be well spaced so everybody gets a turn,” she advises. “Actually, the best dog birthday parties are those without food and toys at all — so no resource protection issues — just people and animals running, jumping, playing …”
And remember, each adult remains responsible for their dog, she adds.
With all this advice, your pooch and friends are sure to be barking mad about your party!
Things you need for a doggy party
- Secure environment
- Poo bags
- Water bowls
- Toys and food to keep dogs and guests entertained
Party tips from animal behaviourist Dr Joanne Righetti
- Guard the human food! Dogs can’t distinguish what is for them, especially at parties where the dogs are served at tables.
- Feed your dog a little less at dinner time if they have been to a party.
- Parties can be a little frightening for the unaccustomed, especially if there is a lot of noise. Dogs may need a little time-out during the celebrations.
- Watch out for birthday toy-guarding aggression. Remove the toys if you see the warning signs.