How to Plan a Dog Tailgate Party

Bailey and dogImage by nlnnet via Flickr

Time for new traditions!

Summer is time for picnics, fall for football tailgate parties. Sandwiched in between are the dog days — the doldrums of summer.

So, why not organize a tailgate party? One that’s gone to the dogs.

A good place to start might be the dog park you frequent. Do check first to make sure it’s not a problem with whoever is in charge of the park. It wouldn’t be much fun to get all set up and then told to skedaddle, plus, if your event is a hit, if you’ve established that you’re the initial organizer with the park administration you might get a chance to become an official event organizer.

Once you’ve got the go-ahead, contact some of your park friends and start making plans.

An important part of planning an outdoor event is to consider the heat and block out your tailgate party so that you avoid having dogs playing in the hottest part of the day. Take the park’s closing time into consideration and come up with a schedule.

Word of mouth is always a good way to get the ball rolling, but if you want to make it a dog community type of event, get permission to post notices. Set up a contact method for people to ask questions, commit to attending, and sign up for what they’re going to bring. Perhaps have everyone bring one dish or needed “accessory” for humans (paper plates, cups, paper towels, etc.) and one for dogs. A few imaginative souls may even bring edibles that are for both. They will need to remember to make plenty though!

Remember, some dogs — like people — have allergies, so be ready to be able to tell an owner whether or not an allergen they might ask about is contained in what you’ve brought.

Keep the food outside the actual park area — at the tailgates. This keeps you from having food messes to clean up inside the dog park and it also removes the potential for food fights among the dogs once they’re ready to play. Do make sure your dog has a rest period after eating before going into the park area and try to encourage others to do so as well. That’s something that could be printed on the publicity notices, or even a schedule of events that’s handed out to participants on site.

Organize some games for people and dogs. Let the humans burn off some energy while the dogs are resting after their gorge.

If you’re involved in rescue, it could be a great event to use to focus on your favorite rescue group. Invite them to come and participate — with the knowledge of the park administration, of course. Other groups might find it a fun and worthwhile event to showcase their passions, whether it’s an agility group, weight pull association, obedience group — as long as everyone’s aware of the rules of the dog park where the tailgate party is being held and acts responsibly, the more the merrier!

Use it as a chance to get to know your fellow dog-parkers — the good and the bad. The irresponsible ones will stick out like — well, like something unspeakable in the punchbowl at a get together like this and it will give people a chance to talk to them and maybe even help them with their dog’s unruly behavior. The ones who are truly obnoxious and refuse to curb their dog’s unacceptable behaviors, well, it’s a tailgate party. You should be able to get their license plate numbers and turn them in to whatever board or administrator is in charge of the park. Yes, it’s a bit sneaky. But don’t you love it?

Be sure to have some common sense supplies on hand, canine and human first aid kits, extra water dishes, seating for you and cushions for your dog so he isn’t having to lay on the parking lot area when he’s resting after his meal. Avoid taking favorite toys; they cause fights and they get lost.

Plan, make it a group effort — don’t let one or two people take over managing; that’s how fun get-togethers turn into cliquish fiascos, make sure it’s not a lot of work for a small number of people, let it be a little bit of work for everyone. When the day is over, police your areas so there aren’t any complaints that you left a mess.

Oh, and take plenty of photos!

This post provided by Debbie Boggins of