7 Bone-A-Fide Steps for a Memorable Canine Birthday Bash!
One of the best things I ever did for my best friend Buck, a yellow Labrador mix, was throw him a birthday party. Buck was turning 13 and, given his health issues, we were pretty sure it might be the last birthday we would celebrate with him. He was part of our family, so my husband Paul and I decided to throw an outdoor birthday party in his honor.
A personalized e-vite, complete with Buck’s smiling mug shot, was emailed to 15 of his best beasty friends and their owners. We prepared healthy fare for our canine guests which consisted of Frosty Paws and "bobbing for hot dogs," while the humans enjoyed barbeque. Instead of gifts, we had a donation jar for the SPCA, where Buck was adopted. The three-hour party window provided a loose schedule so that people could come and go as they pleased. Those with dogs who tired easily could just stay for a bit, while those with energetic dogs could stay longer. We had plenty of toys for all the dogs and areas for time out in case dogs became overwhelmed. We even invited our veterinarian in case of any emergencies and a pet photographer to capture the memories.
I'll never forget how happy Buck looked during his party - and I have a ton of photos to remind me of that wonderful tribute to my canine soul mate. Therefore I wasn’t surprised to read a Reuters’ report earlier this yearabout pet parties becoming the newest party trend. Polls actually show that around 40 percent of dog owners celebrate their dogs' birthdays. And why wouldn’t we? Dog parties are a great way to bring pets, friends and family together for a bit of socialization, exercise and plenty of birthday treats.
It was November of 2009 when we celebrated with Buck at his party, and while he has passed on, we are excited to continue the tradition with the newest member of our pet family, Chilly, a black lab mix. Chilly will be three years old in 2013, and we are just starting to plan his birthday celebration. I'm pretty sure we'll serve chili to the humans - or maybe chili dogs! While I will be sure to share photos of Chilly’s big hurrah with BISSELL readers, I would first like to help you plan a birthday celebration that your furry best friend will not soon forget. Here are seven helpful hints to ensure your pet’s birthday bash is a doggone good time.
Plan your pup’s party on his or her birthday or a surrounding day that works best for you. If you have an adopted dog and aren’t sure of an actual birth date, celebrate on the day you first took him or her home from the shelter. Because we adopted Chilly, we are not certain of his actual birth date, so we celebrate on January 16th, his official adoption day.
The Pet List
If you’re throwing a pooch party, invite your pet’s doggie pals as well as their owners. Consider keeping the guest list small and the party time to less than two hours so the party animals don’t get stressed out with too many other pets around.
Be sure that all of the guests play well with the birthday dog as well as the other guests be they two- or four-legged. Make sure that every pet you invite is neutered or spayed, up-to-date on vaccinations and well-socialized. It’s also important to invite enough humans to manage the number of doggie guests so that they are well-supervised at all times
Buy dog birthday invitations online or from a nearby pet supply store, or send an email invitation to the human owners of the canine guests. You can even get creative by making your own invitations using a favorite photo of the birthday dog along with the date, time and location of the party. Make sure to note any special directions such as things to bring, tricks to practice or costumes to consider inside the invitation.
Location. Location. Location.
Hold the party in your fenced-in backyard or at a nearby dog park or dog-friendly watering hole. A nice grassy spot with plenty of room for the dogs to safely romp on- or off-leash with a shaded area for resting is perfect. Be sure to plan a back-up location or alternate date in case of bad weather, and also keep plenty of pooch poop bags (which can also double as useful pup party favors) on hand for any presents your pals’ pet may leave behind.
Doggone Good Décor
Fido-friendly festivities might coordinate with your dog’s breed, breed mix or special interests. For example, if you have a Chihuahua, throw a fiesta complete with a dog-treat-filled piñata. A Great Dane, on the other hand, might model his birthday bash after a famous dog like Scooby-Doo.
Lead your guest to the front door by drawing paw prints with sidewalk chalk or cut pet-appropriate shapes such as bones, fire hydrants or dog houses out of poster board and hang them from the ceiling or trees.
And don’t forget to decorate the pets themselves. If your dog digs a bit of dress-up, a party hat or tiara, tuxedo shirt or tutu, or simply a fancy new collar will help the birthday dog look their birthday-best.
Puppy Party Favors
While Chilly and his dog pals will don birthday hats and receive gift bags full of a variety of dog biscuits and treats, I may also throw in a toy or ball into the bag. You might take pictures at the party and email them out to guests after the event as well.
Not Just Your Ordinary Kibble
Keep your top dog in mind when planning the birthday menu with their favorite dog biscuits and other treats from the pet store. Homemade “pup-cakes” or doggie delicacies from specialty pet bakeries are bound to make your four-legged guests drool. Be sure to keep the pooch food on a separate table from the people food, since some dog treats can be easily confused with - and often look just as yummy as - the human ones.
While the human food should be off-limits to the canine guests, there’s no reason you shouldn’t create a menu that the two-legged party animals won’t enjoy. Serve genuine “puppy chow” (or, as Chex calls it, Muddy Buddies), the snack food that tastes better to humans than Purina’s famous brand, in small dog bowls personalized with each pup’s name in paint pen so their owners can take them home later. Add hot dogs with all the fixin’s and a bone-shaped birthday cake and you’re all set for human food.
And be sure to offer pups and people plenty of cool, clean water refreshments. The dog bowls that once held human treats can later be used to water individual canine guests, keeping everyone hydrated and happy.
Plan Some Tail-Waggin’ Fun
Be prepared to let party time become playtime! Tails will start wagging with a game of fetch or tug-of-war - just make sure there are plenty of balls and tug-ropes to go around. If your party’s during the dog days of summer, fill a kiddie pool with water and let the water-loving guests go for a dip. If Fido’s party has a theme and the guests are invited to come in costume, plan a pet parade in the form of a brisk walk around the neighborhood. You might also hold a talent show for older dogs who have deep bags of tricks.
Don’t forget about your two-legged guests. If there will be kids at your dog’s party, paint their faces to look like a puppy’s. Human guests can also woof, bark and sing “Happy Birthday” to your pet in his or her own dog language.
When the party’s all over, be sure to give the birthday dog the thing that was at the top of his or her gift list - time with their favorite human(s). Take time to just sit and pet the birthday dog, give a good, long belly rub or play with your pet’s new presents with him or her.
I hope you’ll find my party tips useful in planning your pet’s next birthday celebration. Have you ever thrown a birthday bash for your buddy? If so, what did you do? Let us know on our Facebook page!
Photo Credit: Photography by Danette