Top Ten Party Planning Tips for Families with Dogs

Party planning can be stressful under the best of circumstances, but trying to plan for a party that doesn’t include your dog jumping on your guests or eating the party food can be a real nerve-wracking experience. Besides providing ambiance, food, music, and decorations, your job as party planner also includes keeping your dog calm and safe, in spite of the noise, extra people, and open fence gates that may accompany your soiree. Here are our top ten tips for planning a party when you have a dog in the family.

Guard dog on duty
Even the most well behaived dogs can become stressed from too much attention.
10. Remember that your dog probably won’t know all of the people you’ve invited.

A large crowd of unfamiliar people creates a situation that is likely to be stressful to your dog, which can lead to bad behavior, including in the worst case, biting. Hopefully, you have spent some time socializing your dog throughout his or her life, making the animal at least a little more comfortable with strangers.

However, even the best socialization and training may not be enough to keep your dog calm during a rowdy party. Unless you are 100% confident that your dog can handle it, you may be better off to isolate your dog in one room of the house or send him to Grandma’s until the guests leave.

9. Have a plan in place to provide supervision for your dog during the party if he or she will be present.

You will be busy tending to your guests’ needs, refilling drinks and taking your little potty-training nephew to the bathroom a hundred times, so you will not be able to personally supervise the dog. Can you count on your spouse or your children to stay on task for the whole party? If not, you probably want to make alternate arrangements for the dog.

8. Consider what previous experience your guests have had with dogs.

Are there any guests who may be scared of dogs, regardless of how well-behaved your dog is? A previous bad experience with a dog can sour a person, particularly a child, on ALL dogs. They may not appreciate having your dog as the primary greeter for the party.

At the other extreme, you may have guests who pay too much attention to your dog. If your dog isn’t used to the attention or is older and doesn’t appreciate the extra kisses and hugs, you may have a problem. Even the best behaved dogs can become stressed and lash out at a person who simply won’t leave them alone. Yet another reason your dog might just be better off being excluded from the festivities.

Guard dog on duty
Many table treats served at parties can be dangerous to dogs.
7. Does your dog have good table manners?

The food you will be serving at the party creates a number of problems for your dog. Aside from the obvious embarrassment of the dog stealing food either from the buffet or from your guests’ plates, you need to consider how the food will affect your dog’s delicate digestion. The rich foods typically served at parties are not meant for dogs. Chocolate, as well as many seasonings and fruits, can in fact be toxic. Do you really want to spend the whole party chasing after your dog, cleaning up vomit and diarrhea?

A final warning about food: does your dog protect his food? If so, he or she may steal food, then bite the hand that tries to get it back. This potentially hazardous situation can be totally avoided if you simply keep the dog locked up away from the guests.

6. How much noise will your party entail?

Loud music, lots of people talking, and even cheering during game time can be overwhelming for your dog. Consider the likely activities that your party will include. Will you be cheering on your team at the Super Bowl? Playing Musical Chairs? Blasting the latest dance music? Yelling suggestions to the person who is drawing for Pictionary?

Quiet is usually the mark of a loser party, so chances are your party will not be silent. How does your dog do with noise? Have you ever taken the time to observe him or her in a noisy situation? If not, you might not want to use the party as a time to find out the answer to this important question.

5. Identify a quiet, calm place where your dog can weather the storm.

If you have neighbors who like your dog and won’t be coming to the party, see if the dog can stay at their house until the festivities end. Even if the neighbors won’t be home, they may be willing to let your dog be crated in their den or garage during the party.

4. If your dog will be staying at your house, consider crating or isolating the animal from the activities.

If you can put him or her outside without the possibility of driving the neighbors crazy with barking, that can be a workable solution. Be sure to consider the weather before you plan on this option. Your dog is not going to be happy being away from you in the first place, let alone if it’s freezing or raining outside.

3. If you will be isolating your dog inside your home, use a baby gate or closed door to keep the party away from the dog and the dog away from the party.

You might want to consider putting a sign up that tells your guests to keep the door closed if the door to the dog’s room cannot be locked. Be sure to put the sign at the appropriate level if you are entertaining youngsters, and considering using pictograms for the pre-school crowd.

2. No matter where you decide to put your dog, keep the animal entertained by providing toys and appropriate snacks he or she can enjoy while waiting for the party to end.

Consider using a toy that requires some mental activity such as a puzzle toy or one that can be stuffed with peanut butter or another treat.

Make sure you check the area for dog safety if it’s an area your dog doesn’t normally spend any time in. Remove any poisons such as cleaning products or plants, and make sure electrical cords and window blind strings are out of reach, particularly if the dog is still very young.

Provide a bed, blanket, or even a towel for your dog to lie on. If your dog is paper-trained, provide a place where he or she can take care of business. If your dog is crate-trained, he or she will probably feel safest in the crate.

1. A Compromise.

Although there’s no need for you to feel guilty for excluding your dog from the party (you’re doing it for his or her safety, after all), you might come up with a compromise solution that allows the animal limited participation.

Take the dog to the party on a leash at a time when you can give him or her 100% of your attention. Let the dog greet all of the guests and get a good idea of what’s going on. Chances are, the dog will realize it’s not a dog party, and there’s no reason to be upset for being excluded. You can use this time to take the dog outside for a break, and then go back into his or her designated spot until all of the guests have gone home.

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