First impressions count, and in this case, it all starts with the invitation. A fun, creative invitation “from” your dog to his dog park pals and people is a guaranteed attention-grabber. Don’t buy a package of invitations; you can make your own easily. You can pick up stickers, unusual paper and ribbon at any craft store. Let your imagination run wild. Our party planner, Lilies and Lemondrops, created a personalized invitation using ribbon, cardstock and a paw-print hole punch. When figuring out who gets an invitation, it’s best to invite dogs that you are familiar with and know can behave well in a group, so pre-approve your dog’s guest list beforehand.
Make sure your pup is the belle of the ball. Costumes are a fun way of expressing your furry friend’s inner dog. Does Rover secretly long to be a firedog? Does Bitsy get misty-eyed when you turn on Pirates of the Caribbean? For creative, custom-made costumes you can’t pick up at the local pet store, try etsy.com. Themes are a fun way to go if you can communicate with your guests beforehand; maybe Fido and his friends can play the Wizard of Oz gang, or you could try a farm theme with various farm animals. Consider having a costume contest for the pooches as well as the humans, with a prize for the winner; “cutest costume,” “scariest costume,” and “owner-dog look-alike” are just a few of the categories. Prizes could include a dozen home-baked dog treats or a Halloween-themed toy.
If you want to make a statement, but your canine is particular about what she’ll wear, try a t-shirt. Blackened Angel and Punk Rock Dogg both have some great choices for devilish dogs. If you have a spare t-shirt or costume, you may want to keep it handy for dogs that come without.
Themed decorations are a must to create a mood. Don’t just think pumpkins and gourds; get creative. Any orange or gold flowers will make for an autumn feel, but you don’t have to limit yourself to mums. Orange gerber daisies have an elegant look without a hefty price tag, plus a few flowers go a long way. Even orange carnations can jazz up a room if arranged correctly, and a Halloween cup or mug can double as a vase to add to the mood. Cattails, au natural or sprayed black, are a nice addition to an arrangement and look great on their own.
Nametags or wine charms add a lot to a table, and are functional as well. You can create nametags out of paper, or find dog or Halloween-themed charms and tie them on with ribbons. Orange and black plates, napkins and dog bowls are an easy way to add that Halloween feeling without a lot of fuss. Black candlesticks that can be used year-round take on a new look when paired with orange tableware.
In addition to your edible treats for humans, you’ll want to provide plenty of snacks and treats for the canine guests. Carrot and zucchini pieces are great healthy treats to have on hand, and it’s fun to have some holiday-themed munchies as well. Pumpkin Muttins topped with non-fat cream cheese will tempt furry friends, but be careful…they smell and look so tasty you may have a few humans sneaking some as well! For a doggie punch they’ll be panting for, add some unsalted chicken or beef broth to the water bowls, but be sure to offer plain water for persnickety pooches. Another option is to boil some bones in water before the party, then serve to invitees.
If you’re expecting trick-or-treaters, be prepared for the four-legged variety, too. Homemade, healthy treats are an inexpensive way to make sure everyone gets a little something; Bark o’ Lanterns, made with pumpkin, are delicious wheat- and corn-free treats that even sensitive pups can eat. Claudia’s Canine Cuisine (pictured) also offers boo-tifully decorated dog cookies that can almost double as decorations.
As it gets close to the witching hour, tired pooches can relax in ghoulish style on a pumpkin dog bed from Gothic Beagle. With a hand-stitched felt jack-o-lantern face and plenty of soft stuffing, this bed is as cute as it is comfortable. You can also purchase a few yards of autumn-print fleece at a craft store to make a few inexpensive guest dog-blankets.
A good host-dog always makes sure that his guests leave with a party favor; a black bone or skull print baggie holder is a great giveaway. A goodie bag with dog cookies, a ball or a small toy will have your canine begging to come back next Halloween.
As always, you want your pet to have fun and be safe, so don’t forget a few simple safety tips:
-- Keep all candy away from pets. Remember, chocolate can be toxic to pets, but even the non-chocolate treats can wreak havoc on your dog’s digestive system. Candy wrappers should be disposed of quickly, because they can pose a choking hazard. Have plenty of dog friendly treats on hand to tempt your pooch.
-- Jack o’ lanterns and candles need to be at a safe distance as well. Even if you think your pup will stay away because of the heat, remember that live flames can seem interesting to a curious canine.
-- Decorations should be doggie-safe. Faux spider webs, streamers and cords from lighted decorations can seem like fun things to chew, but could cause choking or electrical shock. If your pet has a tendency to taste everything that crosses her path, keep them out of reach.
-- Be careful with costumes. Some dogs take well to Halloween costumes, but some react badly. If you can’t resist that princess costume, make sure it doesn’t resist movement, hearing, or ability to breathe, and check for pieces that can be chewed or become tangled.
-- Be safe when trick-or-treating. The Humane Society recommends not bringing your dog trick-or-treating, but if you must, be sure you have a responsible person holding the leash, make sure ID tags are firmly attached, and if possible, use a reflective collar or vest so drivers can see Fido easily.
Shop for great gear at the CityDog Shop
Party decorations, invitation and floral design by Lilies and Lemondrops
. Safety tips provided by the Humane Society of the United States