Before even starting, consider your dog’s personality. Is a birthday party something he’s going to enjoy, or will having a lot of dogs and people around stress him out? If he has issues interacting with other dogs and people, it might be better to scratch the idea. Remember – your dog’s comfort and happiness is more important than any party.
1. The same rule applies when inviting other dogs and their people to the party. Find out beforehand if the animals are going to be compatible with one another. If someone has a dog that’s anxious or aggressive around others of his kind, if might be best to cross them off the guest list and get together with them another time.
2. Consider whether the party will be indoors and/or outdoors, and how much space you’re going to need for games and activities. Decide what you’ll do if it’s wet out – set up a rain date or keep the celebrations inside?
3. Make sure there’s an easily accessible outdoor spot for the dogs to go potty in, and supply several water bowls in various locations, or invite guests to bring their own if they wish.
4. Plan some games and activities to keep everyone busy and having fun.
5. If you’re going to serve cake, cookies and/or other treats, make sure they’re healthy and dog-friendly, and check with your guests to see if any of their dogs have allergies or intolerances to particular foods. Canine bakeries have sprung up that offer sugar-free birthday cake and cookie options especially designed for canine palates and digestive systems. You can also bake your own doggie birthday treats, or simply cut up fresh fruit and veggies such as apples, carrots and broccoli, or bits of cheese, cooked chicken or beef.
Nina Ottosson of Dog Activity Toys and Puzzle Games in Sweden regularly hosts birthday parties for her dogs, and makes treats by cutting up small pieces of liver and drying them in the oven at a low temperature. “They’re perfect to use for rewards or when training,” she says. “All dogs absolutely love them.” It should go without saying that any party where dogs are present should not include chocolate in any form; the same applies to grapes and raisins.
6. If you’re giving your dog and his guests gifts, bags of healthy treats or safe dog toys are great options. “I wrap gifts in nice paper with small pieces of tape,” says Nina. “The dog gets to open the gift himself. Don’t use bows, strings or ribbons, as these can be harmful to dogs.” Another alternative: in lieu of having guests bring presents for your dog, Joann suggests asking them to donate to an animal rescue organization instead. “We also have raffles to raise money,” she says. “At our last party, we raised over $800 for Yorkie 911.”
7. Throughout the party, stay aware of your dog’s body language, and the body language of your canine guests. “When dogs get together and there’s food and toys involved, they’re sometimes like kids and don’t want to share the fun,” says Nina. “So be aware of your own dog’s signals, as well as the signals from others, so you can prevent possible fights. It’s important not to let other dogs get too close to the one opening a gift, especially when it comes to edible items.”