How to Throw the Best-Ever Dog Birthday Party

Dog birthday parties, once rare, are becoming commonplace as people aim to shower furry family members with extra love. We gathered a litter of ideas to help you host a fetching bash for your best friend

Stephanie Granada
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Pick a Theme

Pet parties call for an extra dose of playfulness, and a good theme will always amplify the fun factor. Pun lovers can look to pop culture for inspiration—think Pug Wars for a birthday pug’s stellar Star Wars-inspired bash, Barkingham Palace to treat canine friends like royalty, or Wizard of Paws for a whimsical celebration.
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Work the Guest List

Normally, we’d say “the more the merrier,” but in this case, it’s wise to be more selective with your invites. Big crowds are harder to control when four-legged guests are involved. If you’re hosting at a beach or park where pups have plenty of room to roam, you can go bigger; but smaller, backyard celebrations should be capped at five to seven dogs. The dogs attending should all already know each other to avoid territory scuffles. If your furry friend is less than social, you can pawty on anyway—just invite fans only (ahem, human friends). Your bud will love being the center of attention.
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Send Invitations

Just like for any other celebration, a good dog birthday party invitation sets the stage for what guests can expect at the event. It also gives you the opportunity to deliver key information to those who may not be familiar with dog parties. Stress the importance of plus-ones (dog parents) sticking around, rather than dropping off the kids for a few hours. When it comes time to choose stationery, don’t settle for human-grade invitations. Plenty of makers now design invites specifically for furry fiestas. Some favorites include Washington’s Little Lemon Designs, Arizona’s Love Babble, and San Diego’s Paper Kite Designs.
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Set Some Ground Rules

First thing’s first: expect things to get a little crazy. Even well-behaved pups can get rowdy in a new, exciting setting. Your best bet is to have the party outside—you’ll avoid accident-related headaches. Whether the gathering is in your own backyard or a public park, be sure the space is secured with gates and doors that lock properly. The last thing you want is any pooch running off on his or her own. Keep the space neat by handing parents waste bags at the beginning of the party or setting up baggy stations throughout. It might not be a bad idea to designate a specific relief station, too. Set up food in a high area where eager canines can’t reach up and snatch anything. Though you can invite friends to linger as long as you’d like, plan for the official party to last about two hours. By then, pups (and their parents) will be tuckered out—and so will you.
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Get a Canine-Friendly Cake

You haven’t witnessed true joy until you’ve seen a dog go to town on a cake. Human sweets—even those without toxic elements—aren’t good for dogs though (too much sugar!). You need a Fido-friendly alternative. Get a mix, like those from Puppy Cake, which use healthy ingredients, such as beet powder, carob powder, and bananas, to make substitutes for human favorites (hello, red velvet!). Suggestion for ease of serving: make portion-controlled cupcakes, so every pup can have their own. Chances are owners will have already fed their pets, so just set up plenty of water bowls to keep everyone hydrated, and stock up on other healthy treats.
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Make a Pup-Approved Menu for Humans

The truth is, you can serve up the same kind of eats you’d have at your own party, but it’s way more fun to ham it up with some dog-themed snacks. A DIY hot dog station (with a vegetarian option), bowls of puppy chow, and pre-sorted bags of pupcorn are all good options. You can also get festive serving ware, like a paw-shaped veggie platter or spotted napkins. For drinks, stock the bar with all the fixings to mix boozy and virgin Salty Dogs and Greyhounds. Wherever there is food, place signs to warn people not to feed anyone else’s dog without permission. It’s hard to resist those big, begging eyes, but you never know who might have an allergy or special diet.
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Ham It Up with the Decor

Your theme will mostly dictate the decor, but the trick is to differentiate it from a human party: add cardboard doggy ears to balloons, get a paw-shaped piñata, make a photo booth that’s reminiscent of a doghouse, put up posters and signs with festive dog puns. Got a box of large Milk Bone biscuits lying around? Grab 15 or so bones, pierce both ends, and thread them together to design a paw-approved garland. Your fur baby should be tricked out as well. Look to Arizona-based The Pawty Animals, which makes adorable party hats and bowties for the special day.
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Play Games

Like at a kid’s birthday party, you want to keep guests busy. Competitive games can be hard to manage, but if you have the patience they can be a great deal of fun. Older, trained dogs can enjoy a few rounds of Fido Says, in which dogs stand in a line in front of a designated person who doles out commands like “sit,” “down,” and “stay”—the last one to follow the order is out. For an energetic bunch, try a game of fetch. Parents stand with their pups behind them and a toy, ball, frisbee, or stick in hand. At the command, everyone throws their item and whichever dog brings something back first wins. If you’re in a small space, grab your leashes and head out for a walk around the neighborhood. Downtime is important too, so set aside a secluded, shady area where worn out hounds can get a break from the commotion.
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Set Up a Photo Booth

The pictures you get out of a puppy photo booth are priceless. You’ll just need lots of patience and treats to make it happen. If you have a dog-loving photographer friend, see if they will volunteer to take the pictures. Buy a booth or set up the area to fit your party’s theme. The hardest part is getting the dogs’ attention. Have the photographer dangle a treat right above the camera while the owner, standing beside the photog, doles out the commands. It’s also perfectly fine to set up the space and have guests snap pics on their phones at their leisure. Just make sure to have a box full of props—canines in glasses, hats, and boas are extra adorable. Invest in a mini photo printer to print images onsite and send visitors off with a sweet memento.
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Round up a big selection of toys to have on-hand during the party, but put away any of your dog’s favorites—you don’t want those to get chewed up. Find affordable tennis balls, stuffed animals, and other chew-friendly toys at the thrift store to keep everyone happy. In lieu of gifts, suggest guests bring a monetary, food, or toy donation for your local animal shelter. Favors are a nice way to thank everyone for coming, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to send folks home with something special. Bandanas are a stylish accessory dog owners are loving right now. Crafty types can sew their own, or you can buy a bundle from Cooper and Slinkys, which has a set of 10 starting at $17.