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When I go to a party at someone’s house, the first thing I do is look for the dog. The introvert in me gets nervous when I meet new people, but making friends with the family dog brings me right out of my shell.
Even a party with people I already know makes me a little tense. I like to be doing something—actively participating—so it’s not unusual to find me helping out in the kitchen or finding some other way to distract myself (like playing with the dog!).
And it helps the party’s host if they know they can count on me to chip in with a little elbow grease.
Hosting a party doesn’t have to be stressful—but frequently, it is.
If you love parties but procrastinate planning because you want to avoid the stress, you’ll love our stress-free party planning ideas. Your party might not be completely stress free, but you’ll have less stress knowing you have everything covered!
Check out these tips (and a printable checklist) for hosting a spooktacular Halloween party for dogs and people alike!
Why host a dog Halloween party?
Parties are a fun way to socialize with friends and meet new people. Halloween gives us a chance to step out of our comfort zone and share something about ourselves by dressing up as someone or something that appeals to us.
By adding our furry friends into the mix, we can give everyone a chance to show off their little buddy in an adorable Halloween costume—an instant ice breaker. And for people like me who always look for the dog to pet (it’s such a helpful way to de-stress), a dog party is a dream come true!
“Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol, while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies).” ~ HopkinsMedicine.org
You can find dog Halloween costumes at places like Party City or online at Amazon, or you can make a unique DIY pet costume.
What am I forgetting?
One of the reasons party planning is so stressful is because we are afraid we might forget something. Did we remember to pick up ice? Will the food be ready in time? Did everyone RSVP, and if not, have we double-checked with them to see if they’ll be able to join in the fun?
I’m a list maker, so I’ve put together a stress-reducing party planning checklist so you can check off each item when it’s complete. There’s even a little “notes” section you can customize with personal party details.
Use this list to reduce stress by checking off the suggestions one by one.
One month before the party
About a month before the party, you’ll want to choose a location and pick a date and time. (Having it at your home or a friend’s house is usually more convenient than renting a venue.)
Make sure the location is dog-friendly and has easily accessible places for them to potty.
You’ll also want to plan an area for timid or tired dogs to take a break. If you don’t have a separate place in the house or two different fenced areas, you can set up an exercise pen to create a safe barrier where dogs can still watch without feeling the pressure to play.
An exercise pen is also a great idea if your doggie guests have a large difference in size (put the tiny dogs in the pen) or age (separate the puppies from the senior dogs if anyone gets grumpy).
You should also set a budget, create your guest list, and think of some helpers who can assist with planning, getting the house ready, and cleaning up after the Halloween party.
Three weeks before the party
Now it’s time to send out invitations and plan your menu. Are you having a themed party? (Think scary Halloween with scary snacks or a fairytale party with food fit for royalty.)
Make sure all menu items are safe for your dog guests as well as yummy for people. Face it—stuff gets dropped, and you don’t want tummy aches to be what your party is remembered for.
And if planning a full menu isn’t your style, you can just plan light refreshments and snacks—or assign menu items to guests for a potluck buffet.
On your invitations, include any additional info you think would help keep the event safe and relaxed for everyone: dog guests should have up-to-date vaccinations and be in good health; if children are attending, make sure their parents know they’ll need to chaperone; aggressive dogs should be left at home or participate with their pet parent via video (i.e., virtual Halloween party).
Pick up decorations and tableware that go with your theme, and make a list of party favors and treat-bag fillers. If you need to order any of this online, now is the time to place those orders.
Are you going to have a dog costume parade? What about prizes for best dog costume, best dog and person costume combo, silliest or most elaborate costume, etc.? Pick up prizes or get them ordered so you’ll have them in time for the big day.
Two weeks before the party
Ready for another shopping trip? When you go out to run errands this week, remember to pick up party favors, treat bags and fillers, and any nonperishable food items. You may also want to buy a stash of poop bags to have on hand for owners to clean up after their furry friends.
It’s also time to plan your menu—and your cooking timeline if you plan on making any of the Halloween treats yourself. If you’re ordering from a bakery, get those orders placed.
You should also plan the Halloween games and activities and decide what you’d like to set up for a photo area (like the photo prop in the image below—click to purchase!). Buy or make props and supplies if needed. If you’re making keepsakes (instant photos or clay paw prints), pick up what you’ll need so you won’t have to worry about it at the last minute.
One week before the party
The Halloween festivities are getting close! Check in with guests who haven’t RSVP’d and make sure you have everything you need for games and activities.
During this same week—a few days before the party—make sure to check your camera batteries and memory card.
You can also buy some perishable ingredients a few days ahead of time and get started with items that can be cooked ahead (cakes and cookies can be frozen and then frosted and thawed the day before the party, for example).
One day before the party
Time to decorate! Have your helpers come over to assist with putting up the Halloween decorations and tidying up the bathroom and kitchen.
Set up the exercise pen and put out a community water bowl. Put the poop bags in a cute bowl or basket near the designated potty area, and remember to place a trash can nearby for pet parents to dispose of waste.
You can also cook any make-ahead items, chill the drinks, and pick up last-minute groceries and ice.
Go through the checklist one more time to make sure you have everything you need.
The big day has finally arrived! Now it’s time to finish the last-minute food prep, fill treat bags (if you haven’t done this already), and set out tableware and refreshments.
Take a quick walkthrough before your guests arrive, then dress up your dog in their Halloween costume and get ready for the fun!
After the party
Your helpers should help you with a quick tidy-up session after the party. When everyone pitches in, the cleanup gets done in no time.
And when all your guests have gone home, remember to give yourself some you time (warm bubble bath, anyone?). After all, you deserve it!