6 min read

How to Host a Fun and Safe Pet-friendly Holiday Party


Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 11/28/2022, edited: 12/06/2022


It's the holiday season, and that means that it's time to "paw-ty"! This time of year is all about gathering with loved ones — and hosting a Christmas party is the best way to get everyone together!

But would it really be a Christmas party without your right-hand pup? Whether your dog isn't one for crowds or you're just a little nervous about your dog "mingling" with your guests, these tips are perfect for you. We'll go over how to throw a stress-free holiday party with pets, share safety tips and game ideas, and even give you some ideas for pet holiday party themes!

How to ensure a stress-free holiday party with pets

Making sure your holiday party goes off without a hitch requires a lot of planning and due diligence. Here are some simple tips to ensure your "paw-ty" is stress-free for your human guests and their canines! 


  • Put up pet gates to keep your pet out of dangerous areas and prevent them from escaping while guests come and go.  
  • Carve out a quiet space where your dog can escape the excitement.
  • Try to relax — remember, dogs tend to mirror our energy! 
  • Make sure to feed your pup before the party begins. 
  • Separate pets if they become stressed or reactive.
  • Be mindful of how many treats your pet eats.
  • Practice basic obedience before the party.
  • Exercise your pet beforehand.
  • Select dog-friendly decor.


  • Give your dog access to unsafe human food or drink like chocolate and alcohol.
  • Place Christmas decorations in places where they could be damaged by your dog.
  • Leave small knick-knacks or decorations where your dog can ingest them.
yellow dog hiding in a blanket fort wearing an antler headband and twinkle lights

3 easy ways to make your party extra festive

If your friends are major pet lovers, it's a no-brainer to ask them to bring their babies along for the holiday festivities — but sometimes, dogs can feel left out in the excitement. Here are a few simple pet-friendly holiday party ideas to help pets feel included.

Have your guests invite their fur-babies    

Rather than just inviting your fellow humans, ask guests to bring their woofers along for the fun! You get to have a festive holiday affair, and your pup will also get to make memories of their own!

Let your dog help open gifts    

Dogs can be quite good at tearing off wrapping paper, and it is also pretty doggone funny to watch. Let them rip it off and hand them another! Don't let your dog ingest the paper, though, especially if it's made from toxic materials.

Make goodie bags for your furry guests    

Party favors are a must, especially during the holidays. After all, you want your guests to leave the event with a little something to remember you by. Red-and-white striped rawhide is the perfect thing. Of course, you can hand out real candy canes to your human guests too!

If you really want to impress, make some homemade treats for your four-legged guests. Just be sure to make the dog treats bone-shaped so your guests know they aren't human cookies!

two small brown dogs with Santa hats and antler headbands

Pet holiday party themes

Are you drawing a blank trying to think up a pet-friendly holiday theme for this year's party? Look no further! Any one of these is sure to impress! 

Cookies with Santa

This pet holiday party idea is sure to be a hit —after all, what bright-eyed Beagle wouldn't jump at the chance to eat cookies with Kris Kringle?

Have one of your guests dress up as Santa to pose with the guests, and make sure you have a camera ready for those "furrific" photo ops! You can even go one step further and make homemade cookies and dog biscuits for a full-on cookies with Santa experience. This theme is sure to get your "fur-iends" in the Christmas spirit! 

Winter wonderland photoshoot

Take your holiday party to the next level with a festive winter photoshoot! Make your sets as elaborate or minimal as you want, but make sure you have some props to get your guests in the holiday spirit. Santa hats, reindeer antlers, elf ears, scarves, ugly sweaters, and toboggans are just a few props you can use to add some Christmas spice to your shots!

Related: Tips and Tricks for Taking Dog Pics Like a Pro

Dog-biscuit decorating party

There’s something so nostalgic about decorating Christmas cookies on a cold winter night — but what if you put a pet-friendly spin on this decades-old tradition? Throw some dog biscuits in the oven with the sugar cookies and set out some piping bags of dog-friendly icing (or peanut butter!) for the pet parents to use.

Have a pet product-themed white elephant party    

A white elephant party (sometimes called a "dirty Santa party") is a gift exchange game where everyone brings a silly, gag, or useless gift, and the receiver can either choose to keep their gift or exchange it for another guest's. This goes on until the game is called and guests are left with the gift in hand (or in paw).

With the amount of useless and downright silly pet products on the market, it only makes sense that you'd swap your usual gift-giving tradition for something quirkier. Plus, it's cost-effective since everyone only has to buy one present!

white dog wearing a Santa hat and green pine needle wreath

Safety tips for pet-friendly holiday parties

Here are some tips to ensure your pet-friendly parties are smooth (and safe!) sailing:

Teach your guests how to interact with your fur-baby 

Like people, dogs have boundaries. Some dogs dislike being kissed or have their face touched or may be fearful of loud noises. Crossing these boundaries can cause dogs to become stressed or even reactive. It's your job to inform your guests of your dog's boundaries and quirks and teach them how to interact with your fur-baby.

Invest in a locking trash can  

Raiding the trash can is sure to cross your pet's mind during the holiday party. Even dogs with a lot of self-discipline may not be able to resist the urge to salvage some turkey bones or tasty Christmas pie. The problem is holiday menus often feature toxic ingredients to canines like chocolate, raisins, onions, garlic, and certain nuts. And not to mention the obstruction and choking risks that come with leftover bones. To keep your pet safe, invest in a locking trash can and make sure your guests use it!  

Work on basic obedience skills before the party   

Lively events like holiday parties can cause a dog's behavioral issues to be more pronounced. Loud noises and unfamiliar people can exacerbate problem behaviors like jumping up, barking, and nipping. Set your dog up for success by working on basic obedience skills in the weeks leading up to the party, and let their progress shine!  

Let Fido run off some energy before the fun starts 

An easy way to prevent overstimulation and stress is to make sure your pup has had enough exercise and mental stimulation before the party. Take your dog for a run or a long walk, or enjoy a long game of fetch before the guests arrive. When party time comes, your dog will be too tired to cause trouble!

Provide a safe space for your dog to escape the excitement  

Create a "safe space" for woofers to retreat to if they start to get nervous. Set up your dog's favorite blanket and toys in a separate room or crate so they can go "hide" if they feel stressed. Let your guests know if your pooch starts to get overwhelmed, and ask them to give Fido some personal space as well.

Tuck some treats in your pockets to encourage good behaviors

A party is the "pawfect" time to refresh your dog's obedience skills and reinforce positive behavior. While you can choose to practice your pup's "sit" and "stay" skills, you can also passively reward positive behaviors as they come naturally.

 If you see your dog just sitting nicely, toss them a treat! Fill your pockets with treats and give Fido one every now and then throughout the night to encourage them to keep up the good work.

Choose your decor wisely

While having festive Christmas decorations for your party is nice, remember that you don't want to chase after your dog all night when they steal your stuffed snowman for the tenth time!

Put your breakables up high or in a secure curio cabinet. Likewise, keep mistletoe, poisonous plants, and small knick-knacks away from pets.

Keeping your dog in mind when decorating will make your party experience much less stressful and safer for your woofer!   

Party etiquette basics

Here are 5 simple party etiquette tips to make sure your pet-friendly holiday party is a success:

  • Make sure to ask fellow pet parents if their dogs have any allergies or dietary restrictions that you should be aware of so you don't unintentionally serve something that could make them ill.
  • Take the dogs to potty before joining the festivities and regularly throughout the night.
  • Host a meet-and-greet sesh before the big day to ensure all the guests jibe together.
  • Have toys to entertain the furry guests and treats so they don't miss out.  
  • Make sure none of your human guests are allergic to pets.
Colorful Christmas cookies on a platter

Christmas foods that are safe for dogs

Want to share some of your holiday grub with your canine guests? Here are a few things you can offer them off your plate:

Check out our related guide for a complete list of Christmas foods that are safe and toxic to dogs.

Happy holidays from Wag!

We hope this guide inspires you to throw a pet-friendly holiday party of your own this year. And who knows? It might just blossom into a beautiful tradition for your family! Remember to keep the good decorations put up and make toxic foods and trash inaccessible to pets! And don't forget the party favors for your furry guests!

If your pet gets into something you're unsure about this holiday season, use Wag! Vet Chat to get answers to your pet-related questions day or night!

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