Dog party

There are parties — and then there are paw-ties.

I should know. As the creator of National Dog Party Day, I've staged doggie get-togethers for groups as large as 800 from Maine to Kauai.

When done right, dog parties harness the power of play in canines — and can save owners from having to make awkward small talk. After all, it's the pups who take center stage at these parties.

The second annual National Dog Party Day takes place on June 22 in Miami, San Diego and New York City. All net proceeds from the events will benefit three pet charities: Paws 4 You Rescue, Spay Neuter Action Project and Bideawee.

Come if you can, but if you can't make the festivities, here are seven ways to stage a successful pup party of your own:

Pick the Perfect Location

Before you announce your party, size up site options, factoring in your budget, time availability, theme and number of guests. Cozy affairs with fewer than five dogs can usually take place in your home or in a fenced-in backyard. Parties of 10 or more pets require additional supervision, so a dog-training center or a dog park might be a good fit. Just be sure to inquire ahead of time about any necessary permits or advance reservations.

Craft Your Invite List Carefully

It's OK to be picky about the pooches you invite. Dog parties are intended to be fun and safe, and you don’t need to worry about breaking up fights. If your best friend has a dog who loves people but not other dogs, save her pup from unwanted stress and kindly ask that she leave her pet at home.

Enforce Party Rules

At National Dog Party Day events, all canine attendees must be up to date on their vaccinations, well-socialized and leashed, unless otherwise instructed. Do not confuse well-run dog parties with yappy hours where people enjoy libations while their canines race around uncontrollably. The purpose of a dog party is to bring people and their pets together.

Serve Healthy Refreshments

Dogs possess powerful noses, so ensure that the people food served at your party is safe for dogs in case there are spills. That means substituting carob for chocolate, ousting any dish with onions and avoiding grapes and raisins. Ask guests in advance if their dogs have food allergies, and avoid those ingredients in any canine snacks or cakes.

Designate Different Party Zones

Identify a corner area for canine bathroom breaks (and provide plenty of poop bags!), as well as a game area and a refreshment station that's accessible to people but out of paw’s reach.

Stage Creative Games

For a one-hour party, aim for two games. For parties that last more than two hours, offer four to five games. One of my favorites: canine musical chairs, which tests the power of sit among dog contestants. Music plays as people walk their leashed dogs around a line of hula hoops spaced three feet apart on the ground. (There should be one fewer hula hoop for the number of teams.) When the music stops, people must get their canines to sit in a hula hoop. Too-slow dogs are eliminated. Remove a hula hoop for each round until you have two teams competing for access to one hula hoop.

Give Out Goody Bags

Consider gift certificates for wellness checkups at veterinary clinics or a local doggie wash, pet picture frames, healthy treats and safe toys.

Bottom line: Dogs learn best in a fun setting. Plus, pup parties give you a chance to live in the moment and truly connect with your dog.