By Mitu Paul*

If you’re a proud pet parent, you treat your animals like family, so, what better way to honor them than to include them in one of the happiest days of your life? While some couples choose to bring their pets along to the wedding as guests (some brides and grooms even go so far as to have them walk down the aisle or sit by their pheras), others choose to incorporate their pets in other ways. Whichever route you go, know that there are so many ways to highlight your two- or four-legged friend on the big day. Organizing a dog-friendly event or even a community get-together like weddings or baby showers, can be fun and rewarding, but with lots to consider it can also be a little overwhelming.

Dog friendly events can be very popular, so it’s good to get an idea of how many dogs will be coming to your event ahead of time, so you can put a plan in place. You’ll need to make sure there’s enough room for the dogs to have their own space by putting up barriers or fences to divide up areas, or by creating quiet places for the dogs to relax.

It’s best to avoid having lots of dogs in queues or large crowds, as this can be stressful for the doggies. To do this, you might need to provide people with arrival times and space out facilities, such as food/drink stands and toilets, to prevent bottlenecks. It’s also important to make sure that all dog owners know to bring their pooches on a short lead, and to keep them under control at all times so everyone can stay safe and have fun!

I hope some of my tips here, help to make your pet-friendly celebration party a barking success.

Choose the Right Venue : Like any party, the right venue is essential for event success. Depending on the climate zone, outdoor venues such as dog parks, backyards and rooftop terraces are ideal. In colder areas, indoor venues like basements or rooms without carpeting can be easily adapted for pet-friendly gatherings. Before you finalize your plans, be sure to check with your venue to see if there are any animal restrictions—and make sure your pet has everything he or she needs (including a diligent pet-sitter!) at the event. Keeping them comfortable will only make you appreciate their (well-behaved) presence even more. As any animal-loving couple knows, there’s no better comfort than having your pet by your side.

Set the Guest List With Care: As most pet-parents would know, it’s preferable to not invite cats to a doggy party or dogs to a kitty party. Plan to only invite one or the other. A dog party is not the ideal time to bring a new dog into the social mix, and it’s definitely not a good place for an aggressive dog or any dog you’re unsure about. Also be careful of other human guests who you might want to invite. Not everyone is a animal friendly person and it can cause anguish to both, your pet as well as your guest.

Create Pet-Friendly Foods : Like people, dogs love to be treated to homemade goodies. But dogs can’t eat many ingredients that people enjoy, like cheese, chocolate, onion, macadamia nuts, walnuts, raisins, grapes or artificial flavorings. Generally, use good-quality ingredients and avoid excessive amounts of sugar and salt. As you would with human parties, ask pet-parents well in advance of any special dietary requirements or allergies. 

There are so many gourmet options available at most pet stores, but why not mix it up by making some of your own? Not only are homemade treats fresher, healthier options, they also allow to limit the quantity of sugar and salt intake. Have plenty of fresh cool water available in several bowls around the space.

Clear Away Breakables: Clear away any breakable or fragile items from the space. When decorating for a dog-focused event, opt for shatterproof materials and simple ornaments. For a simple centerpiece, plant a rosemary / Christmas “tree” in a steel bucket and add pebbles to keep it secure in the center of the table. Place non-edible decorations well above the reach of your tallest guests.

Plan Party Activities : Don’t forget to include activities to keep pets busy during the party. Pick up a few rope toys for a quality game of tug of war. Have several balls available so there is at least one ball per guest and play free-for-all fetch. Hide treats around the space and declare the dog who finds most the winner.

Create Doggie (or Kitty) Bags : No party is complete without party favors. Purchase or create doggie bags for your guests to take home a share of custom treats. Something as simple as a strip of craft paper brushed with gold glitter lets you personalize each bag. Don’t forget wearable favors, too, like clip-on bow-ties or personalized collars.

If an illustration of your beloved pet doesn’t feel like big enough of a way to honor them during the big day, that might be a sign you need to take the plunge and bring them along. Before you finalize your plans make sure your pet has everything he or she needs (including a diligent pet-sitter!) at the event. Keeping them comfortable will only make you appreciate their (well-behaved) presence even more. As any animal-loving couple knows, there’s no better comfort than having your pet by your side.

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