Luxury Dog Birthday Parties Are a Trend — but Here’s How to Throw One on a Budget
Pickles was quite the diva for her first birthday party. She had a leopard-print theme with splashes of pink. Everything matched — the cake, the tablecloth, even her party dress.
But this was a little different from your average 1-year-old’s party. The birthday girl was a Bulldog.
Kristina Robertson, president of Barkley Square Pets in Alexandria, Virginia, planned the custom celebration. Robertson and others who offer birthday parties for dogs have seen an increase in business lately — in the number of parties and the extravagance of them.
Taking It to the Next Level
If you’re on a budget, you can go with Barkley Square’s Birthday Bash in a Box, which ranges from $75 for five dogs to $125 for 15 dogs, and includes a dog birthday cake; party favor bags; popsicles on rawhide sticks; a hat for the birthday dog and wrapped, birthday-themed toys.
Though she’s offered birthday options since 2003, Robertson said she’s really started embellishing her parties in the last year — offering different themes, toys and cakes.
“The demand has changed since the beginning,” she says. “It was just the cake, then, ‘Can you host it?’ We’ve done some high-end ones where someone spent up to $5,000.”
Expert Planning Tips
If you’re planning a posh party for your pooch, here are some tips from the experts we talked with.
1. Choose a theme based on your birthday dog’s personality. Popular with some of the planners we talked to were sports, superheroes, divas and princesses.
2. Pick the right guests. Just like with kids, you want to invite dogs you know your dog plays well with.
3. Check on your canine guests’ dietary needs. Nothing shuts down the party like a sick pup, Robertson warns. Make sure the owners of the other dogs know what foods will be served at the party.
4. Plan activities for the dogs. During Robertson’s two-hour parties, the planners and pet owners usually play games with the dogs, like Red Rover or musical chairs. “The dog has to sit on the chair — not the human,” she says. “When the music stops, they have to get [the dogs] on the chairs without picking them up. It’s quite comical!”
5. Don’t forget about the humans. Robertson says she focuses all of her attention on the canines, but her clients often match what she’s doing for the dog owners. She once held a Hawaiian-themed party with virgin piña coladas for the pups while the host provided the real thing for the pet owners.
All in Good Fun
Hiring a planner is just one option; there are also pet service companies around the country that offer parties. Unleashed by Petco, for example, has different types of parties at many of its 128 locations.
Riverview, Florida-based Canine Cabana offers doggie day care and lodging — and having a birthday party is one of the extra activities owners can select for their dogs.
The $195 price tag includes the birthday dog’s day care, invitations, the cake, a photographer and two additional staff members for the party, decorations, party supplies and goodie bags. The photographer even puts the pictures on the owner’s Facebook page.
“We try to handpick the guest list based on whom the dog enjoys playing with,” says co-owner Angela Frazier, who met her fellow co-owner while they were zookeepers at Busch Gardens. The staff handles the RSVPs for the 10 friends the birthday dog can invite. The guests are all also there for day care when they attend.
“It’s gotten definitely more popular lately — we’ve had at least one a week,” Frazier says about the parties.
Toby, an Australian Shepherd, celebrated his third birthday last month with his third Canine Cabana party. Frazier says Toby is the “popular kid on the block” who gets invited to everyone else’s birthday parties, too.
His owner, Michael LeCuyer, works from home and takes Toby to day care a couple of times a week so he can focus on work. “I know the dogs have fun,” LeCuyer says. “For me, I don’t care about the price. Other people might be cringing. They make a cake, they do party favors. Last year I had one dog that couldn’t make it but sent a gift along! They’re very serious about their parties.”
LeCuyer figures Toby is now about 21 in dog years, so this was likely his last big birthday party. But his younger sister, Elle, turns 1 in November, so Toby will be passing on the party hat for her birthday bash.
Although dogs have parties at all ages, Barkley Square’s Robertson says the biggest parties she’s planned have been for puppies turning 1, followed by seniors turning 10.
No matter the age of your dog or the size of your budget, the entertainment the parties provide seems priceless.
“It’s something fun to do that brings people together,” Robertson says. “It’s really a happy environment all around. It’s a dog’s party, but honestly, the humans are having quite a bit of fun themselves.”
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