Dogs can now be real party animals, literally, thanks to the booming pet event industry, in which people fete their Fidos with everything from elaborate birthday bashes to weddings, holiday soirees, and other special-occasion canine celebrations.
Some people spare no expense when it comes to putting on the dog for their pooches. In fact, it’s become increasingly common for human event planners to offer dog party services as a sideline, while entire businesses devoted exclusively to catering to canines have sprung up.
I spoke with some leading pet-event planners, who provided some examples of truly awe-inspiring “paw-ties” (as they are known in the biz) as well as background about this wacky trend.
Kimberly Schlegel Whitman of Dallas, Texas, is a lifestyles and event expert, editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine, pet-event planner for PetSmart, and author of the how-to guide Dog Parties: Entertaining Your Party Animals. She came up with the idea for the book, which was an extension of a chapter in her The Pleasure of Your Company: Entertaining in High Style, after hosting a fete for her Chihuahua, Lola, that was a howling success.
She is of the opinion that people not only have very deep bonds with their pets, but that pet lovers tend to form strong connections with each other. So dog parties are great ways for pets and their people to come together and enjoy themselves.
“I held a garden party for my dog and my friends with dogs,” she said. “I was single and didn’t have children at the time. I had a real bond with friends who loved their dogs as much as I did.”
What’s interesting is that pet parties often mimic human soirees. “What I love about these dog parties is that you see the same trends in human parties, like the ugly Christmas sweater parties,” Kimberly said.
Not surprisingly, savvy pet retailers and service providers are getting on board with this by offering products and services for party animals, including gourmet dog treats and birthday cakes, pooch party attire, photos booths that pet parents can rent, and everything else dogs need for a successful Bowser bash.
“From large companies to small mom-and-pop shops, people now carry items that we can use to celebrate our dogs,” Kimberly said. In fact, she has been working as a dog party consultant on a per-project basis for PetSmart for the past few years, in which she creates both tastefully elegant and humorously tacky dog soirees, such as ugly Christmas sweater fetes. For pooch party tips, check out her blog.
Another notable and totally indulgent trend is the “spaw party,” a variation of the human version of the spa party. Pet groomers will come to a doggie’s party to provide the furry attendees with such posh pampering services as “paw-dicures,” facials, and massages. Other options are doggie pool parties; Halloween (arguably the most popular) celebrations, during which dogs get to dress up in costumes; their very own holiday parties; “bark mitzvahs” for Jewish dogs; and other fun themes.
The most outrageously over-the-top dog party I ever heard of was a pooch wedding orchestrated by New York-based pet entrepreneur and animal welfare advocate Wendy Diamond, which took place at the Jumeirah Essex House Hotel in Central Park in July 2012, during which her Coton de Tulear, Baby Hope, tied the knot with Poodle Chilly Pasternak.
Wendy, a pet event pioneer who founded the pet lifestyles and media company Animal Fair and staged the first dog-fashion shows, came up with the idea to hold this black-tie bow-wow blowout as a charitable event to raise money for the New York Humane Society and to draw awareness to canine cancer, which claimed the life of her previous dog, Lucky. The wildly extravagant “puptials” included a $6,000 custom-made dress for the furry bride, live orchestra, and gourmet goodies for the human and doggie guests. Thanks to the whopping $250,000 price tag, the fete earned the top spot for most expensive dog party in the Guinness Book of World Records. Dogster was on hand at the event as well.
“Everything was donated,” Wendy said. “We raised enough money for a new wing at the Humane Society.”
Another popular trend is for people to include their dogs in their own weddings. My cousin and his wife enlisted their Yorkie, Roxie, to serve as the “flower dog” at their lavish 2006 nuptials held in Nyack, New York, for which they ordered her a custom-made crimson satin and tulle doggie gown. Meanwhile, an upscale pet store I frequent carries dog tuxedos and gowns for such occasions. And a number of wedding planners now accommodate people who want their pooches to be a part of their big day.
Kimberly believes that the dog party trend has really caught on because many people now regard their pets as cherished family members.
“I think that there is such an indescribable connection we have with our pets,” she said. “They are there with us through such trying and happy times in our lives. We want to include them in whatever celebrations we are having.”
Have you been to an over-the-top dog party? Tell us about it in the comments!
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About the author: Alissa Wolf is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about pets and the industry that serves them. Her very first pet was an irrepressible miniature poodle named Peppy, who looked great in a tuxedo. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog, Critter Corner.