A Holiday Party for Your Dog and Guests

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The cold weather may have resulted in less time at the dog run, but that’s the perfect excuse to give your pet and its friends their own little holiday shindig.

We enlisted the help of Ada Nieves, a pet party planner based in New York City, for some ideas to put together a memorable canine winter gathering.

Location
If you’re wary of bringing too many four-legged friends into your own living space, ask local animal organizations about using their facilities as inexpensive alternatives to renting a party spot. Some shelter or rescue groups have locations where owners can have parties; instead of getting gifts for the pets, people bring a donation for the place -- a benefit for everyone. Another idea is to check with local pet-friendly bars or coffee shops.

The Guest List
“It’s impossible to invite everyone, but you don’t want to hurt feelings,” says Nieves. Nieves’ client Rachel Passaretti experienced this dilemma. “The most important thing was to create a safe and fun environment for the animals, and by hand-selecting each four-legged guest, we were able to accomplish that goal,” recalls Passaretti. “This was often hard, as we had a few people who even tried to snag invites.”

Nieves thinks the key is to invite dogs that you know will be friendly to other dogs and that are not territorial or protective about food. For friends whose feelings are likely to be hurt, she suggests sending their dog a gift bag of treats and toys to let them know they’re thought of and appreciated.

Canine Attire
Encourage your guests to dress their dogs in seasonal garb. Inexpensive costumes such as elves and reindeer are easy to find these days, and some guests might get creative with homemade getups. For dogs that dislike clothing, Nieves recommends a red ribbon loosely tied like a bow around the neck, or a simple sleigh bell on the collar.

Doggy Gift Exchange
This is just like a traditional grab-bag-style exchange, but the gifts are for the dogs. Have each guest bring a wrapped doggy gift. It’s a good idea to set a price range. Then put all the presents in one location. Nieves says that at her parties, the owners take turns letting their dog sniff around the packages, and whichever package they seem to like most is the one they “choose” and get from the gift exchange.

Pictures With “Santa Paws”
Have someone dress up as St. Nick and pose for pictures with each dog. “People love using those pictures for next year’s Christmas card to send out to all their friends,” says Nieves. Ambitious hosts can even arrange to have the photos printed on-site and handed out at the end of the party.

Doggy Caroling
This can be a hit-or-miss moment, but it’s true that dogs are instinctively wired to howl. If you get all the dogs together and their owners start to howl, often enough, the dogs will follow suit. Before you know it, the whole room is howling together (think of the dog pound scene in Lady and the Tramp).

Of course, over-scheduling such dogtivities can be cumbersome, and some hosts prefer to mostly let the pups enjoy an unexpected day of “free play” while the humans mingle. Regardless of how many of the above ideas you put to use, the important thing is to make everyone happy.