How To Throw a Howliday Party for Dogs

How To Throw a Howliday Party for Dogs

  • Erin Swanson

This holiday season, we barked the halls and had a ball at our first Ruffwear Howliday Party – a festive gathering for our Ruffwear Pack (and their humans) planned from a dog’s perspective.

Why? We gathered to think about how we could help spread a little cheer in a notoriously hectic and noisy season. For us, shared experiences and new traditions were what resonated most. So – how could we do this with our dogs? And maybe inspire folks to do the same with their dogs?

A dog sits by a welcome sign at the Ruffwear Howliday Party.

What started as maybe a joke in a late afternoon marketing meeting quickly turned into a full-on party plan, complete with a belly rub station, barkuterie board feast, dog caroling (erm, howling), and more.

Interested in getting those tails wagging and throwing your own howliday gathering? We’ve got you covered.

Prep & Plan

We put ourselves in our dogs’ paws to ponder what our dogs would enjoy the most, and then added a holiday twist.

Example: Office dog Vilas once received a box of pinecones as a holiday gift, and she was STOKED – the video of this joyous moment has long been talked about amongst our team. Could we set up a gift bar station with sticks and pinecones?

And Atka, who has some husky in her ancestry, loves a good howl. Could holiday caroling become … holiday howling? Now the wheels were turning.

A sign for the dog howling event.

Some ideas that didn’t quite make the cut for this round but might inspire future parties: a mud rolling station, endless fetch, and bobbing for pinecones. If your dog loves it, feature it.

Let’s Get This Party Started

People and their dogs gathering together at the Ruffwear Howliday Party.

To spread out the flow of paw traffic, we set the activities up in stations for dogs and their humans to explore. And, we featured a little nod to the dog who inspired each station.

Once the doors opened, a lively crowd of sniffing, tail-swooshing guests flooded into the Ruffwear Headquarters, eager to get their holiday on.

Standing by a welcome sign – placed at dog height, of course – a (human) greeter welcomed our fur-covered friends with puppuccinos on a silver platter.

Three dogs enjoy puppuccinos while entering the Ruffwear Howliday Party.

As the pups stuck their snouts deep in their cups to get every last lick, the greeter handed their human plus-ones a list of the night’s activities.

And, on that list was something for every kind of party animal.

The Belly Rub Station

A dog lies down on a dog bed while a woman scratches the dog's belly.

Let’s be honest, what’s better than a belly rub and a few “Who’s a good dog?” affirmations? A soft blanket on a cushy dog bed, and a seasoned belly rubber, welcomed dogs to this cozy corner of the party.

This was Saidy’s jam. This sweet-eyed German Shepherd/Australian Cattle mix dove head-first into the blanket, nuzzling in before flopping over on her back. After several minutes of belly rubbing bliss, she stood to go. Or, so we thought.

Suddenly, she jumped back in for a second round … and then a third. Only catching a whiff of the nearby barkuterie board finally pulled her away.

The Barkuterie Board

A man serves his three huskies treats from the howliday party's barkuterie board table.

Paws down, a hungry hound’s favorite station. A twist on the classic charcuterie spread, the barkuterie board featured delicacies for a fido’s feast. Dogs dined on pumpkin and whipped cream dipping sauce, peanut butter, chicken shreds, apple slices, carrot slices, blueberries, cheese, carrots, meat treats, and more.

Maverick, a particularly hungry husky, was a fan of the dips: chicken dipped in pumpkin and apples dipped in peanut butter. He then proceeded to try just about everything else.

An unsuspecting human guest sat at the table to rest and suddenly found herself surrounded by five dogs doing their best sit, tails thudding the ground in expectation – like a flock of seagulls circling a beach picnic.

A sign saying "Barkuterie Board" and a platter of dog-friendly foods on a table.

We laid out bowls of water to wash down the snacks and included doggie bags to take extra treats home.

Pro Tip: place barkuterie boards on a table, out of dogs’ reach. Humans can monitor their dogs’ consumption, and you’ll avoid the chaos of placing mouth-watering treats at ground-level.

Stick & Cone Gift Bar

A dog stands on his hind legs and picks out a tennis ball from a bin on a table.

On a table, we set out a series of free items in bins that we knew our dogs would love – sticks and pinecones (locally sourced from the trails by our office), old tennis balls, and not-quite-empty peanut butter jars. To package the gifts, we supplied pie boxes and decorating materials.

Sturgill, an enthusiastic Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, started sniffing out his options. He stood on his hind legs for a better look, wiggling his rump and tip tapping his paws. Nope, not close enough. In a flash, he launched his entire body onto the table, submerging his head into the tennis ball bin as if he were bobbing for apples. Whatever it takes to snag that perfect ball.

The Photo Booth

A series of pictures of people and their dogs posing at the Howliday Party Photo Booth.

It’s picture time. We set up a green backdrop complete with garland, tree stump, and holiday props and costumes for dogs and humans to make a scene. Humans posed with their pups and held signs admitting their silliest truths, like “My dog’s gear is nicer than mine” and “I break treats in half … and call it two treats.”

This year’s holiday card? Done.

The Howl-Caroling Event

People and their dogs gathering outside by the fire, singing, and howling.

When the time came and the howling started, everyone (with a tail) wanted to chime in.

Canines and their people gathered outside by the firepit, paws and boots huddled together on the snow-dusted ground. Before we began, three huskies were already warming up their vocals.

To build some howling momentum, humans sang “Jingle Bells,” ending with a collective “awoooooo” to inspire the hounds. At first, they chimed in with hesitant barks and yips. We tried a second round, and that did it – a full chorus of “arrr arrr awooooos” ensued, echoing into the star-filled sky.

Giving Back

A box for dog gear donations at the Ruffwear Howliday Party.

To spread a little extra holiday cheer, we collected used dog gear donations and partnered with REACH here in Central Oregon to help get the gear out to residents in-need and their dogs.

That’s a Wrap

Ruffwear Ambassadors, Bronwyn and Arnie (the one with the tail), were in attendance – and Arnie had a blast:

“I loved everything about this party. All the things that Bron doesn’t let me do normally – like eating human foods, barking nonstop, and jumping up to get sticks – I was allowed to do at the party! Thanks to Marv and the office dog committee for organizing such an amazing event; you seriously thought of everything!”

So, there you have it. Your starter kit to throw the best doggone party your tail-wagging friends can imagine. If you and your pup get festive, let us know with #RuffwearHowlidayParty.

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