Thinking about throwing a party for your pooch? You are not alone. Pets are part of the family and their birthdays or gotcha days should be celebrated too. We have thrown a party or two ourselves and thought it would be fun to share some ideas for simple activities to make your party extra special and extra memorable. Get your camera ready!
A few years ago (pre-pandemic), Scalawags co-hosted a Scalawags & Salty Dogs party at the Kennebunkport Marina as part of our local Chamber of Commerce's annual Launch Festival. Held in June, the event celebrates the maritime history of our coastal community and is a fun kick-off to the summer season.
Our pet-friendly event included three unique games:
- Walk the Plank– We placed a wooden plank over a kiddie pool filled with water (and a few plastic shark toys) and dogs had to “walk the plank” to get to the other side. The plank was supported with lobster traps too, to make it stable and safe. Some dogs just ran across the plank like it was no big deal while others gingerly “tippy pawed” across looking down at the sharks the whole time.
- Dig for Buried Treasure– In keeping with our theme, we set up a small treasure chest and filled it with play sand and numbered tennis balls. Dogs took turns digging for tennis balls and redeemed them for a prize. Needless to say, most of the dogs wanted to keep the ball too.
- Message in a Bottle– We filled empty plastic bottles with messages and treats and put them in a kiddie pool filled with water. Dogs “bobbed” for a bottle. They got to keep the treats and mom got a coupon!
This is just one example of how to create unique, themed party games for dogs. We know you can do it too! Here are a few more ideas to get you started.
Set Up an Agility Course
- If you think this might be an activity you and your pup would enjoy beyond the party, consider investing in a dog agility kit. Prices and quality vary so do your research. Your local training facility may have some suggestions or even sell equipment.
- If not, you can use many household items like hula hoops, cones, rope, and garden stakes to make your own challenges. In these days of Google and Pinterest, you are sure to find many easy and fun DIY ideas. Don't forget to raid your neighbors' garages for equipment; you'd be surprised what you can find if you just ask.
Throw a Pool Party
- Don't have a pool? Set up a couple of kiddie pools and fresh water and watch the splashing begin. Pools are also a party must-have on super hot days to keep dogs cool.
- Set up a couple of sprinklers. Most dogs enjoy running through them and they will keep them cool.
- Toss a bunch of floating dog toys into the play zone and consider including them in your take-home goody bags.
- We recommend containing the splash zone to a designated area for everyone's safety and to keep non-splashers dry.
- Most importantly, do not forget the towels!
Learn a New Party Trick
- If you have ever been to a dog training class, you know how entertaining they can be. Why not invite your guests to learn a new command or trick?
- Ask a local trainer if he/she would come to your event and do a half hour training session? You could even barter the networking opportunity and include some of the trainer's information in the goody bags. Better yet, maybe a trainer from your local shelter will donate time in exchange for a monetary donation to the shelter.
- Another option would be to teach the trick yourself. Be sure to practice before the party with your own pup to boost your confidence.
- Make sure you have lots of training treats on hand to "encourage" learning. We recommend soft treats, so the dogs are focused on you and not on the biscuit.
- Set up a circuit of 2-4 games which can be played during the party at your guests’ leisure. This eliminates a lot of “waiting in line” boredom and let’s dogs go at their own pace.
- Not sure what types of games to play? You can probably take any children’s’ party game and “dogify” it. Here are some thought starters to get your creative wheels turning:
- Hide & Fetch – Hide scented toys around your property for dogs to fetch and keep!
- Spot Says – Call out commands such as “sit” and “paw” and watch dogs try to outshine each other for prizes.
- Musical Mutts – Leash dogs and walk in a circle. When the music stops, say “sit” and whoever sits first wins!
- Have a Ball - Fill a kiddie pool with plastic balls and hide a couple of treats. Time dogs to see how fast they can find the treat and the dog with the best time wins.
- Roly Poly – Each dog parent is given a dog ball and on the count of three, everyone throws the ball down the hill. The first dog to fetch the ball and bring it back wins! This game can be played anywhere, we just happen to think it’s more fun with a hill.
- Keep it simple!
- We have all been to those kids’ birthday parties where there are so many activities the guests are overwhelmed. It is no different for dogs. Schedule two to four "things to do" and then let your guests (human and canine) mingle freely.
- Keep it separate!
- Set up "zones" for play, refreshments and potty time and space them as far apart as possible. You do not want your guests playing and eating and pooping all in the same area.
- Give pups plenty of space within zones to minimize distractions and stress on them, and you.
- Keep it clean!
- Have an "oops" kit handy just in case. Paper towels, trash bags, pet-safe disinfectant, hand sanitizer, etc. can help you keep the play area clean and address any oopsies which may happen along the way. Keep in mind they are dogs and slobber happens.
The most important thing to remember is to have FUN! It's a celebration of one of the most treasured members of your family and as long as your scalawags are happy, the rest is icing on the cake.
We'd love to see your party animals and any ideas you have for pet party games.