How to Throw Your Dog a Birthday Party, According to a Professional Trainer

updated Oct 27, 2022
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Credit: Anna Spaller

Have you ever thrown a birthday party for your dog? When planning a puppy birthday party, it’s worth thinking about your dog’s favorite snacks, toys, and activities, and incorporating those things your dog enjoys most into your plans. 

One of the wonderful things about dogs is that they don’t experience anticipation or disappointment in the same way that humans do — which means they won’t be sad if this year’s birthday isn’t a puppy picnic or another blowout bash. Your dog will be entirely focused entirely on the here and now — what will make your dog’s day truly special is the chance to spend quality time with you.

Here’s everything you need to know about planning a party for your dog:

When to Celebrate Your Dog’s Birthday

Dogs are always ready to party. If you aren’t sure exactly which day your dog was born, they can still have a birthday party. You can pick any day to celebrate and claim it as your dog’s birthday moving forward.

If you’re looking for a meaningful option, why not pick the day your dog came home for the first time — often referred to as a “gotcha day”? Gotcha days are special because not only is it a chance to celebrate your dog but also the start of your relationship together.

How to Find a Dog-Friendly Birthday Cake

If you want to bake a cake, there are hundreds of recipes online for dog-safe cakes, and you can even order box mixes to make it easier.

Looking for something a little less DIY? Dog bakeries will create fresh-baked goods for your dog’s special day, and, just like a human bakery, often have premade cakes ready to be picked up.

If you don’t have a dog bakery in your local area or are avoiding going out because of the pandemic, you can also have dog-safe cakes sent directly to your home. Popular options include Okra and Molly and Three Dog Bakery.

Credit: Cathy Pyle

Where to Find Dog-Themed Party Decorations

When my partner and I planned Sirius’s birthday, we picked up balloons from a local store and took advantage of their contactless pickup option. (We told the cashier, “Our little girl is turning four today,” but didn’t mention our little princess is a 105-pound drooling Newfoundland.) The balloons were made for an adorable birthday photoshoot for Sirius’ Instagram and have lasted over a month (and counting)!

Not up for telling the party store you’re having a birthday party for your dog? You can buy dog-specific birthday party packs on Amazon that come complete with balloons, banners, party hats, bandanas, and other decorations for your dog’s special day.

Unlike other aspects of the party, decorations are for humans and not the dog. If chewed or eaten, decorations could be harmful to your dog, and it’s always a good idea to supervise your dog around balloons and any other decorations. 

How to Dress Your Dog in a Birthday Outfit

Don’t forget to get your dog dressed up for their special day! Party hats come in multiple sizes, and the human ones will fit most dogs. There are also dog-specific hats, but it’s important to make sure your dog is comfortable with any headwear or article of clothing. 

Start by following these easy steps — be sure to have plenty of treats on hand!

  1. Show the outfit to your dog, and give them plenty of praise and treats. Let them sniff it and determine that it isn’t a threat.
  2. Once they seem comfortable with the item, put it on your dog while offering lots of treats and praise. Be sure to take it off quickly so that your dog doesn’t get uncomfortable or impatient.
  3. Continue this process over a series of training sessions, and slowly increase the amount of time your dog is wearing the outfit. 

If at any point your dog is stressed or seems uncomfortable, take the outfit off immediately and start the process all over again during your next session. This will help you avoid a birthday meltdown and keep the day stress-free and enjoyable for your dog. 

If your dog is less excited to get dressed up, or you don’t have the time required to acclimate your dog to a new article of clothing, bandanas can be a great option. You can find cute birthday-themed options across the internet, as well as gotcha-day bandanas on Etsy. Be sure to check the measurements of the bandana to determine what size will be right for your dog. 

Credit: Liz Calka

The Best Gifts to Give Dogs (and Dog Owners)

Dogs are no exception to loving birthday presents. If it’s possible and safe to do so in your area, it can be fun to bring your dog to a local pet supply store to pick their own gifts. If you’re looking for a gift that keeps on giving through the year, you can sign your dog up for a monthly subscription to BarkBox

Want your dog to open his own presents? To help your dog learn to unwrap presents, you can slip a dog treat inside the wrapping paper or into the gift box. Show your dog the gift and encourage and praise them for any engagement with the box. Just make sure to supervise while your dog is unwrapping to make sure they don’t chew or otherwise eat any wrapping paper, boxes, and tape. 

The Best Dog Birthday Party Activities

What better day than a birthday to help your dog do things they enjoy the most? I like to take Sirius on a water-themed outing for her birthday, so we often visit the local river, the ocean or schedule private swim time at our local dog pool. 

If you’d rather keep things close to home, you and your dog can still have a great time. Let your dog dictate the direction you go on your walk, or allow them to really stop and smell things for as long as they want without being rushed along. It’s also a great time to play tug, fetch, or any other games that your dog enjoys. You could also set up a playground in your backyard or inside your house.