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Hosting a Dog-Friendly Cocktail



If you enjoy cocktail parties and all they entail -- lighthearted gab, appetizers and aperitifs -- just think what all that socialization could do for your true-blue canine. She must be ready for a little fun of her own -- c'mon, just think of all the blind-date-gone-bad stories she's had to hear over the years.

So if you'd take your sweetie to a dog park or outdoor café, why not bring her to a cocktail party?

An increasing number of swanky guest lists include a plus-one meant for a four-legged friend. From the annual White House Pet Correspondents' Benefit to neighborhood bashes, pugs and other pets are making an entrance. In fact, doggie party dresses are so en vogue that they're setting seasonal trends, just like the human versions.

Hosting your own dog-friendly cocktail party will be fun, but this "yappie" hour still requires plenty of preparation, starting with the guest list. You'd invite people from similar circles to a regular party, so extend the same courtesy when planning your canine soiree. Start with members of your local breed association, pet parents you've met at puppy obedience class or foodies from your social circle who happen to be dog lovers.

The key is to encourage guests to bring only well-socialized dogs, regardless of breed. You may also want to place a few restrictions on your invite list based on space. If you're hosting a party in a small apartment, Great Danes aren't going to get past the doorman -- that's a crowd best suited for a patio. If you do host your festivities outdoors, you can set up a dog agility course using cardboard boxes and hula hoops, with prizes for the winners.

As for the menu, signature canine cocktails of homemade chicken broth can be served in oversized plastic martini glasses (if you buy broth, avoid onion on the ingredient list). Custom-baked treats can be offered; doggie baking mixes and cake forms are available at specialty stores and online. Make-ahead freezer pops combining pureed fruit and yogurt can be served to both two- and four-legged guests. And with plenty of ready-to-wear pet fashions on the market, any theme from Mardi Gras to Fourth of July is sure to be a hit.

If you don't do some dog-proofing, however, it may all be for naught. How do you prevent your cocktail party from descending into canine chaos?

When your cocktail party includes pugs and their pals, you have to pay attention to the menu. Not only do your guests have admittedly indiscriminate tastes, but they're also likely to steal food from other attendees' plates. So be sure to dog-proof the menu by ensuring safe, tasty offerings for all.

Some popular party foods are downright dangerous for dogs, such as guacamole -- large amounts of avocado can be toxic. Onions and garlic, which flavor many appetizers, can destroy your pet's red blood cells and cause anemia. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure, dairy products are likely to create digestive upset and desserts with macadamia nuts or chocolate could be fatal. Even one taste of alcohol -- be it beer, liquor or wine -- can cause your dog digestive and respiratory distress.

Foods that can be enjoyed by both people and pups include fine cuts of fully cooked lean meats,al dente plain white pasta or rice, slices of fresh fruit -- apples, bananas, oranges and watermelon without seeds -- and raw vegetables, including carrots, green beans, zucchini and cucumber. Water, of course, will be appreciated by all your guests -- be sure to put down a few dishes for the dogs and refill them as necessary.

Prevent fights over food by encouraging guests to supervise their dog as they dine. Of course, nothing works better to eliminate food thievery than simply preventing access, so arrange high tables for pet parents to balance their cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. If your party is an indoor one for small dogs, schedule a group bathroom break every hour. If you hold your party outdoors, you won't have to worry about damage from accidents. Either way, you should still supply guests with small bags, scented if you like, for discarding dog poop (and a dedicated trash bin in which to put the bags).

As with any party, it's a good idea to either plan ways to include additional guests -- be they children or other small pets -- or state clearly on the initial invitation that the guest list is closed to anyone other than dogs and their parents.

Hosting a pet-friendly cocktail party takes significant planning. The pay-off, though, is a big one. You'll never wonder how to break the ice; dogs are great conversation starters.



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