How do I start?: Part 1 of 6
Why throw a birthday party for a person? A party is just a way to celebrate, a way for everyone who cares about the birthday boy or girl to get together and try to make it a special day. A dog is a part of your family. You want to make it special for them, too.
What if I don't know their birthday?
Families who adopted their pet from a shelter or other source don't always learn the dog's birth date. To substitute, you can celebrate your pampered puppy's “gotcha” date - the date that they became a part of your family.
Do dogs really enjoy birthday parties?
Sure! Dogs love attention, and birthday parties are like a smorgasbord of attention. Depending on what kind of party you have, they have lots of people (big or small) and/or other dogs to play with.
As well, if most dogs are anything like Merry, they love food. Give them a birthday dog cake to chomp on and maybe a cheese-filled Kong and they'll have the time of their lives.
How do I start?
Decide how much you want to spend and how much time you have to devote to it. The sky's the limit - literally - so it all depends on what you have to work with.
Once that's decided, let the planning begin!
Who to invite: Part 2 of 6
Guest lists can be as narrow as your immediate family, and as large as every dog on your block!
1. Who do I invite?
Anyone you like, and as many people as you can afford or fit into your location! Below are some ideas if you're stuck.
People: immediate family, extended family, friends, other dog lovers you know.
Dogs: friends from a play group or doggy day care center, dogs from your neighbourhood, other dogs your pooch plays with on a regular basis. This is not the best time to introduce a new dog to your pooch.
2. Ask yourself: how many dogs can I handle?
Be realistic about the number of dogs you can handle in a single place, as well as how well they play with others. You may want to think twice before inviting guests who don't get along well with other dogs or other people. Nothing can spoil a party faster than an overly aggressive dog trying to dominate the other canine party guests or small children who may be attending.
It's common to invite doggie owners along with their pooch, so this may affect your decision as well. Every dog may mean two mouths to feed, so work within your budget.
3. Ask yourself: will small children be invited?
While small children can make a wonderful addition to your celebration, you will need to ask yourself how many children you can handle. You may also want to observe the children around dogs before extending an invitation, as some younger kids can either be too rough with or frightened by dogs.
4. Being prepared
With all the excitement, expect accidents; keep bitter spray on hand to dissuade younger canine guests from nibbling where they're not supposed to and stock up on cleanup materials (baggies, cleaning spray, paper towels).
Make sure you always have on hand a good doggie first aid kit (depending on the number of doggie guests, you may want to double up on certain items) and the names and numbers of everyone's veterinarian.
For small casual get-togethers, a simple handwritten note should suffice. Many software programs exist as well if you wish to make a more stylish invitation yourself.
For larger or more formal birthday parties, you can look online for dog invitations or visit your local stationer.
Some great ideas for party themes: Part 3 of 6
Idea #1: Fancy evening affair
Linens, candlelight, crystal dishes from which your pooch can sip his bottled water. Soft music, lovely catered food for the human guests. A truly elegant affair.
For fancy evening parties, you'll likely want to host the event at a locale in your area. You could try renting a room at a local restaurant, a hotel, a convention centre, or (if you're lucky enough to live near water) even a yacht.
You'll want to be sure to book your location well in advance as these rooms are also used for office parties, weddings, and other people-only celebrations.
There are advantages to hosting the party in a rented space; most places would have catering menus available for your human guests.
The disadvantages, of course, is that you'll have to shop around to find a location willing to allow pets on the premises. Evening affairs held in a restaurant or hotel work better if there are only a few dogs, depending on the location's policies. There may also be size restrictions for the dogs (the pugs may be welcome; the huskies might not), so be sure to check with the location manager before booking.
Idea #2: Sunny Park Picnic
If your pooch loves to play, there's nothing better than an unfettered romp in the park with three or six or twelve of his closest doggie friends. A picnic can be a fun way to spend the afternoon, with lots of Frisbee and fetch thrown in for good measure.
Many off-leash parks will allow you to use the premises for a doggie birthday party. If your party has only a handful of guests, you may not even have to make a booking, but you will want to check with the park service before you send out the invitations.
Idea #3: Doggie Digs
No place in the world is more prepared to host a dog's birthday party than a place built for our pooches in the first place!
Many local doggie digs can host your dog's birthday party: the local dog bakery, doggy day care, pet resorts, certain pet stores. My personal favourite is the dog bakery, since the catering is already on site and easy to set up!
Idea #4: Backyard Barbecue
The perfect casual get-together for family, friends, and neighbours. Make it a potluck to help spread the costs if your budget is tight. Your backyard is also a perfect space for organizing races and other games and activities.
It's all about the food: Part 4 of 6
Make sure you have plenty of water on hand for all your guests. You can provide separate drinking bowls for each of your canine guests, and fill them with mineral or filtered water. You can even make these a take-home gift; stylish ceramic bowls for each of the guests make a nice gesture. You could even get them personalized for each pooch.
The best place to go for treats is to your local doggie bakery, or you can order from many places online. Treats available are nearly as varied as offerings at a human bakery (Merry loves Pupcakes from Three Dog Bakery). If you're creative in the kitchen, there are dozens of doggie cookbooks you can buy to help you make something homemade.
Having a backyard barbecue? Treat your doggie guests to an extra-special dinner with their own grilled boneless steaks!
Of course, a birthday cake is an absolute must; again, you can make this yourself or order one from a local or online bakery. Styles can range from simple slab cakes to three-tiered extravaganzas - you're only limited by your imagination and your pocketbook.
3. Safety and Allergies
Regardless of whether you're planning a sit-down meal, buffet- style, or just snacks and treats, you'll need to think about making appropriate choices that are safe for the people and the dogs at the party. You don't want to have too many chocolate goodies available for the people if there's a chance the dogs could get into them. Make sure all people food, particularly onions and chocolate, is out of reach of all your doggy guests.
Planning for allergies and other food considerations for both human and canine guests will help to save surprises on the day of the party; be sure to discuss these considerations with parents of small children and owners of canine guests.
4. Other considerations
Check with the other doggy guests' owners to make sure you know what their normal food intake is so you can gauge how much food to have available; you don't want to starve your guests but you also don't want to make them sick.
As well, with the delicious array of dog treats now available from many doggie bakeries, you may want to make sure you label the food appropriately at a buffet-style meal to ensure that no people accidentally bite into a dog treat!
Keeping everyone entertained: Part 5 of 6
While the adult party guests may be content to simply sit around and chat, it's better if think ahead about structuring the party time for the canine guests and even small children who may be attending. Plan some fun party games, rent a couple of videos for the adults or children to watch.
Indoor party entertainment
If you're planning an indoor party, you're more limited in what you can do, depending on venue. Here are a couple of ideas:
Bring big Kong toys filled with cheese or peanut butter, one for each guest.
Have lots of training treats on hand and throw contests for best sit, stay, roll over, shake a paw...
Pick up some rope toys so the dogs (and the humans too, if they like) can play tug of war!
Have each doggie guest come in costume and have a mini-fashion show! You might want to pick up some small toys to use as prizes for best costume, most original, funniest, etc.
Outdoor party entertainment
If you're planning an outdoor event, you have a lot more room to move. A few ideas for games:
Bring enough balls so there are at least one ball per doggy guest and play free-for-all fetch.
Rent or buy agility equipment like a tunnel for the dogs to race through; make sure you have lots of training bits or other treats to offer them when they run through successfully!
Bobbing for biscuits. Fill a small tub or child's pool with water, throw some biscuits in, he who gets them out fastest wins!
Regardless of your venue, remember to involve the children at the party! Kids have a lot of fun participating in the games and doling out treats to the winners.
Don't forget to ensure you have a way of capturing the day on film! This will be a memory you'll want to look back on and laugh about later. When deciding on photography, you have a few different options.
The truly pampered pooch might have a professional photographer stop by for a while to take photos of the event, and perhaps even portraits of each of the canine guests! This would make a lovely gift for doggie guests and their owners.
Get everyone in on the act! If you're looking for a less expensive alternative, pick up enough one-time-use cameras so that each guest can have his or her own, and let your guests document the day themselves! You'll be sure to end up with a lot of great memories.
Web sites to check out: Part 6 of 6
Dog birthday cakes and other treats
Big Bark Bakery in Dallas, Texas has a full selection of dog birthday cakes - from simple round cakes covered with biscuits to a three-tiered extravaganza - is available, and a variety of cake flavours including banana nut, apple cinnamon and honey almond make it easy to customize for your pampered pooch and his friends.
Canine Café in Pineville, North Carolina also offers more elaborate cakes including a three-tiered version and one shaped like a dog house! Available in Carrot, Carob Chip, Apple Oatmeal & Peanut Butter Banana flavours.
Three Dog Bakery has a variety of stores throughout North America and offers a personalized round cake with their trademark “creamy dreamy frosting” in the following flavours: Apple Cinnamon, Carob Chip, Peanut Butter, and (even better for those poochies with allergies) Wheat-free.
Luxury Dog sells beautifully presented bottles of their Doggie Champ Pagne (bottled water) to add a classy touch to the birthday feast.
Dog birthday clothing
Doggie Duds has several different birthday outfits available, some of which can be customized with your dog's name as well. All outfits include a dog hat (of course!).
Park Avenue Paws has just the thing if you have a little girl without a party dress! Have a fancy birthday party in this satin and chiffon dress with rhinestone trimming on the waist.
Rag Dog also has a pretty red party dress available for your little miss; if you have a boy poochie, they offer an adorable tuxedo to keep him in style.
Bone Appetit Bakery sells birthday bandanas for those more active birthday boys and girls.
Throwing a canine birthday party
Barking Hound Village Lofts in Atlanta, Georgia offer Barking Birthday Party services, including a “houndmade” birthday cake, balloons, and plenty of room for canine and human guests.
Smiling Dog Bakery offers a Smiling Dog Party Kit that provides a party planner, party hats, bone cake mold, treats and treat bags for guests.
Petsmart sells “Party Pooch” bowls and Happy Birthday dog placemats.
Merrick Deli's Birthday Party Pack that has it all - doggie treats, birthday party horns, favour bags, and a planning guide full of game and refreshment tips for the party planner.
Pawprints n Whiskers also sells a Birthday Greeting Box that includes balloons, toys, treats, and party favours for canine guests.
Litterature sells a variety of birthday and gotcha-day cards; these would make excellent birthday party invitations as well!
Affordable Agility has many different types of agility equipment available for purchase.
Rocket Tunnels also sells a variety of agility tunnels.
Creative Pet Products carries a complete line of dog first aid kits.
San Francisco Music Box Company sells an adorable Happy Birthday Puppy Party music box to commemorate this special day.
Pawprints n Whiskers sells many doggie gift baskets including a fabulous Bow Wow Gourmet sampler basket.
Three Dog Bakery features a huge gift box of their handmade goodies called Gracie's Gargantuan Gift Boxer; your dog just may love you forever!
Amazon sells a charming clothbound journal (similar to a “baby book”) to keep track of your loved one's little life - if you don't yet have one, this is a great time to pick one up and start recording those tender and hilarious moments for posterity.