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Special celebrations can turn your dog into a party animal

When it comes to party trends, dog parties win paws down. Think about it: Would you rather receive an invitation to attend yet another candle party or a snobby wine-tasting affair or unleash the party animal in you by taking your fun-loving canine pal to a dog party?

In this age of long commutes and work demands, people need the chance to have some doggone fun _ and who better than with one's dog, a critter who put the "P" in party?

Party with your pooch to celebrate his birthday, puppy school graduation, adoption anniversary, or for no specific reason at all. One of my favorite canine themes is just around the corner: dress up yourself and your dog and host a Happy Howl-a-ween party.

This year my wife is taking our 1-year-old papillon/poodle/Yorkie cross, Quixote, to a party dressed as a butterfly. The reason for the costume choice? Papillon is the French word for butterfly.

Silly? Yes. Fun? Definitely. In her new book, Dog Parties: How To Party With Your Pup (Bowtie Press, 2004), pet author Arden Moore provides you with everything you need to host or attend a pawsitively grr-eat dog party.

"The first dog party I hosted celebrated the puppy school graduation of my dog," recalls Moore, who shares her home with her fun-loving dog, Chipper. "Everyone I invited sent RSVPs immediately and everyone attended. I've hosted lots of people parties like bridal and baby showers and surprise birthdays, but never did I get such a response."

According to Moore, more than 10-million people celebrate their dogs' birthdays each year and that number continues to grow. Another million or so host canine parties for other occasions _ such as celebration of a dog's first blue ribbon in agility or a get-together of friendly dogs who met at a local dog park.

Celebrating the events of your dog's life strengthens the bond you have with your pet. These controlled events are great ways to sneak in reinforcement of doggy manners like a good sit. And, since dogs _ not people _ take center stage, you don't need to worry about trying to make a witty comment to spark a conversation. Instead, you will find yourself enjoying a beagle nose out a Labrador in a best-trick contest or witness an over-excited golden retriever pup get his person tangled in his long leash.

To help you host a successful dog party, Moore shares some tips from her book:

+ Choose the location first. Factor in budget, time and number of guests. Gatherings with fewer than four dogs can be held inside your home or back yard (providing you have fences and other ways to keep all guests from turning into Houdini hounds and fleeing the party scene).

Parties with more canine guests are best held at a local dog-friendly park, dog-training center, or even a doggy bakery. Just be sure to obtain any necessary permits first.

+ Dog-proof your party site. If the place is your back yard, make sure to fill any holes, patch up any openings in the fence, and rid the yard of any dangerous items such as rakes. If the party is indoors, remove any breakables from tabletops and any dog hazards, such as bowls of chocolate.

+ Select true "party animals" from the brat bark pack. Limit those invited to dogs that socialize well with others. If your best friend's dog picks fights or gets testy when other dogs approach his toys or food bowl, invite the friend, but not her dog. You need to consider the safety of all guests.

+ Provide lots of details on your invitation. Alert the guests to the reason for the party, the date, a specific start and end time (no longer than two hours), the location (with address), phone number and e-mail address for RSVPs, and party rules (such as all doggie guest must be leashed until you say otherwise).

+ Create a cool party scene. Designate areas to serve treats, conduct games, and doggy bathrooms by displaying colorful signs for each party zone. Always start with an arrival activity. A favorite of Moore's is to guide guests to a table set up with the popular interactive dog toy, Kongs, in a variety of sizes. At the table, guests will find a Kong that is the appropriate size for their dog. The table also includes an array of foods to stuff inside the Kongs, allowing people to select their dog's favorite, such as peanut butter, small dog biscuits, liver treats, or cheese. They pack these Kongs, then you stash them away and bring them out later; for example, when the honored dog begins to open his gifts, the Kongs make a nice distraction for canine guests.

+ Select a couple of party games. Offer prizes for the dog who delivers the sloppiest kiss, wins a canine-version of musical chairs, or excels at bobbing for pieces of hot dog in a shallow plastic kiddie pool.

+ Send them away tail-wagging happy. Not every dog is athletic enough or obedient enough to win party games. Provide some party-favors for each departing guest. A few good choices: tennis balls, hard-rubber toy dogs, and doggie biscuits or other meaty treat.

"Party with a purpose. These festive times provide the perfect way to reinforce doggy manners and basic obedience commands in a fun way," says Moore. "Life is too short to not party with one of your best pals, your dog. These memories will last you a lifetime."