Parties for pooches are all the rage for owners
A month ago, Clement Lo was invited to a huge birthday party. There were decorations, a special cake and a table full of food and tasty treats - all the usual elements for a birthday. However, the event celebrated the birthday of a poodle, not its owner, along with 100 other dogs and their owners.
'It is a good time for the owners to socialise with their dogs,' says Lo, president of United States franchise Three Dog Bakery in Hong Kong. 'They spend the whole time telling stories about dogs. They don't talk about anything else.'
Lo says many dog owners in Hong Kong hold birthday parties for their furry family members. That's not all, there are even pet weddings. For doggie nuptials, two owners will perform a wedding ceremony for a dog groom and bride, complete with wedding attire and cake. Some parties even plan games such as musical chairs for owners and dogs. Some owners can spend HK$10,000 to HK$20,000 on a large dog-party, Lo says. In the US, some owners throw a party for a new dog or a pet's house-warming. To make sure your dog feels special at the party, Three Dog Bakery offers wheat and non-wheat birthday cakes covered with a yogurt frosting; chicken and lamb pies; home-made dog cookies and pastries. On request, the bakery can also make turkey lasagne, turkey meatballs and German Sheppard pies based on a cookbook for dogs.
'What concerns me at big and small parties is how some parties have birthday cakes [made for humans] and some treats that may be [of] poor quality and make the dog have an allergic reaction,' Lo says. 'If we ate a dozen pastries in one day that would make us sick. Owners don't realise [the potential problems that can occur] because their dog seems so happy while it is eating.'
Wahfugu founder Jen Chan says birthday parties are popular throughout the year, especially at the end of the year and in early spring. As Wahfugu is an online website specialising in dog toys, accessories and a home-made meal service for canines, Chan says she takes orders for up to five dog-parties a week during the peak season. Most parties have about 20 dogs as guests.
'I recommend meat dishes, such as meat pies, meatballs, sushi and beef,' she says. 'Potatoes and salmon are quite popular for some dogs. They just eat it up, but it's really what the humans like - like burgers and satay. Dogs aren't going to choose lettuce on their own.'
She says owners can spend about HK$1,000 for 20 dogs. For small parties, Chan has noticed some owners buy party favours for dogs, everything from squishy toys and miniature toilet plungers to a tissue roll.
Whiskers N Paws (WNP) in Ap Lei Chau has a massive 5,000 sqft terrace where people can book pet parties. However, due to its popularity, owner Vada Chung has had to limit the events' numbers.
'Everyone wanted to block it off for parties on Saturday and Sunday, but we decided to limit it to smaller parties of about six dogs, so that people who just come to the store [with their pets] could use it too.'
Outside, there is patio furniture, a doggie gym with a bridge, tunnel and ball chasers. WNP doesn't offer food for owners, but they are welcome to bring their own food or order from a catering company.
'As the weather gets nicer, people are more interested in parties. In the summer, nobody wants to be outside,' Chung says, adding that a party for dogs and their owners can be fun 'in Hong Kong, people live in such a compact environment, so when you meet your friends, you don't want to feel guilty about leaving the dog at home. They want to include their dogs too and make their dog part of the activity.'
Chung has five pet-friendly guidelines to organise a dog party:
Not all dogs are friendly to people and children. It is best not to invite any dogs that you are unsure about. Very large and excitable dogs, very shy and under-socialised dogs, and dogs that exhibit food or toy guarding behaviour are not good candidates for a dog party.
Not all dogs like to be touched by a stranger. Children tend to have higher-pitched voices and move more erratically than adults, and may confuse even the most docile dogs. Keep a watchful eye on child-and-dog interaction at all times.
One of the biggest triggers for dog fights are treats and toys. Refrain from bringing your dogs' favourite toys and treats, or offer special treats, chews or toys during the event.
Some food can be lethal for dogs. To be on the safe side, do not have chocolates as a party food item. This includes - chocolate cakes, chocolate-frosted cupcakes and chocolate ice-cream.
A small number of well-behaved dogs make for a happier party than a large number of unruly dogs.
'We've never had fights, but we recommend people to be on the safe side [as far as their dogs are concerned],' Chung says.
Where to party
Dog One Life
G-1/F, 384 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay
Tel 3105 5912
The retail shop and grooming studio has a 600-sqft indoor space for pet parties. It caters food for owners and dogs (from 15-30 people with about 20 small- to medium-sized dogs), with menu packages starting at HK$140 per person and a HK$400 buffet for dogs, which includes beef salad, potatoes and macaroni with fish, beef or chicken.
G/F, 10 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay
Tel 2834 0044
A cosy bar with white tables and leather chairs that allows dog parties if you book the entire venue. Unlimited drinks packages for owners start at HK$200 per person for 21/2 hours.
Valerie Wine Bar
G/F, 33 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay
Tel 2803 5318
A small wine bar decked out in black velvet booths and red lattice panels. It also has an outdoor area with three tables. The bar will allow pet parties if you book the entire space, with all-night drink packages starting at HK$300 per person.
Whiskers N Paws
Horizon Plaza, Unit 1013, 2 Lee Wing Street,
Ap Lei Chau
Tel 2552 6200
A one-stop shop for dog and cat products, plus grooming services. The outdoor 5,000 sqft patio with dog gym can be booked for small pet parties.