Pet Talk: Dog birthdays are all the rage
Vail, CO Colorado
When his dog turned 1, Andy Frietze wanted to do more than throw Ecko a bone. He threw him a birthday party.
The two-hour party included dog-friendly cupcakes, treat bags and presents. “He loved it,” said Frietze, 35, of El Paso, Texas, who owns three red Dobermans. “He was wagging his tail when everybody sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him.”
Canine birthday parties, puppy showers and doggie play dates are growing in popularity. An industry has burgeoned around pet owners ” particularly empty nesters or young couples without children ” who savor opportunities to spoil their pets.
Spending on pets doubled between 1994 and 2004, when Americans laid out $34 billion; last year it was $41 billion, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association in Greenwich, Conn.
Specialty products are the fastest growing segment of the pet products industry, said the association’s president, Bob Vetere.
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Pet boutiques and online retailers offer a variety of birthday-party items, including custom invitations, birthday cakes and doggy favors. Some sites offer ideas for party games such as bobbing for biscuits, homemade agility courses and dog treat treasure hunts.
Sales at Natalie Marquardt’s pet bakery, which specializes in painting dog portraits on cakes, are increasing by “leaps and bounds,” according to the San Diego business owner. Four years ago, she sold three or four custom cakes a month through her Web site, MyBestFriendPetTreats.com. Today, she ships 50 to 100 each month.
She estimates 75 percent of them are for birthday parties.
“The first birthday seems to be a special event just like in children,” said Marquardt. “Pets have become more a part of the family.”
Lisa Pallardy, who sells pet greeting cards over the Internet at BarkTalk.com, said her business has grown steadily since she started it three years. Birthday party invitations are one of her best-sellers. (Sample cards: “We’re Having a Paw-ty!” and “Oh What Fun, Our Puppy’s One.”)
“I have seen a dramatic increase just in the last six months in the popularity of pet birthdays,” said Pallardy, of Mapleton, Ill.
“There’s no societal stigma about spoiling your dog like there is with children. Children have to become responsible citizens. Your dog’s just going to be your baby.”
Almost 30 percent of dog owners bought their pooch a birthday present in 2006, according to a survey commissioned by the pet products association to track spending habits of the nation’s 71.1 million pet-owning households.
Six percent of the sample population said they threw their dogs parties that year.
Darcy Lashinsky’s dog, Archie, attended her first dog birthday party last spring when her friend Abraham turned 5. Lashinsky wrote about the party on the blog she writes about pets for The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper.
Archie, who can get nervous in large groups, nevertheless enjoyed playing with the other dogs, said Lashinsky.
“She completely left me and went off and had a great time.” There was only one negative. “She was actually a little jealous of the presents that Abraham got.”