Christmas has come and gone. Stockings have been opened and family have departed, but with New Year’s Eve fast approaching, party season is far from over. Whether you are planning to entertain for or in the New Year, here are a few tips to help you host a successful gathering.

Cat hiding on a shelf.
Some guests don’t care for cats. Sybil doesn’t care for guests.

1. Consider individual needs. Not everyone is a party animal. You may have your heart set on a free-for-all with children and dogs running gleefully around the backyard (ok, maybe not in Maryland for New Year’s), but unless you select your guest list carefully, that just isn’t going to be in everyone’s best interest. The needs of human and animal guests need to be carefully considered. If you want to let all your friends bring their dogs, are all the dogs likely to get along? Do you have enough room to separate them if you need to, either because they don’t get along, or because some are overwhelmed by the number of people? Will there be kids present and, if so, do you have enough adults to supervise the number of children and dogs that will be present? Think about your adult guests as well, if someone doesn’t enjoy canine company, will they appreciate the extra dogs you’ve invited over? Will your party be ruined by someone’s cat allergies, if you let you cats wander free? You can’t imagine every possible scenario, but spending some time considering your needs, as well as those of your pets and guests, will help you prepare.

2. Supervise children at all times. If you’ve decided, whether our of preference or obligation, that both children and pets must be present, you must have enough adults available to supervise the children, especially around pets. This is true even if the children are used to pets and vice versa. A party presents new potential challenges for even the most normally even-tempered pet—unaccustomed noises, lots of people, food falling on the ground, etc.

Old Dog
Sydney, stealth napkin stealer extraordinaire.

3. Establish the rules. Some rules can be allowed to slide during a party, but there are others that must be followed at all times, whether for the safety of pets or people. When our resource guarding beagle, Sydney, was still alive, that rule was “once Sydney gets it, it’s hers.” That meant the unlucky guest who lost a napkin to the stealth beagle was not to run after her or yell at her. If she got something dangerous, a family member would be in charge of getting it back. If you are concerned about your guests’ ability to remember the rules (for example, if your pet has complex dietary restrictions), consider writing the rules down and posting them someplace visible. If you still don’t think your guests, especially children, will be able to follow the rules, consider tips one and two again and revisit whether your animals should be joining the party.

4. Be clear about the menu. I love a good cheese stick, and so do my pets, but there are a lot of other things they eat that I don’t want to taste—Sirius’s pigs ears and chicken biscuits strike me as particularly unappetizing. And my cayenne pepper chocolate cookies would disagree equally (or likely more) with him. However, while I will steer clear of pigs ears on my own, I can’t trust him to decide that about the cookies. Be clear about which items are for people, which for pets, and which people items (if any) may be given to pets and under what circumstances. Make sure human food is kept out of the reach of inquisitive pets. Also be careful about the potential for resource guarding among multiple dogs, or between dogs and humans, especially children.

dog in a crate
A comfortable crate in a quiet area provides Sirius with a good escape from crowds.

5. Provide an escape hatch. I’ll admit right now that I have been known to go off to a room by myself during parties, usually after someone decides to put a horror movie in. Horror movies just aren’t my thing. Likewise, parties aren’t every pets cup of tea either. All pets should have a safe space to go to retreat from the action. This may be a crate in a quiet area, or simply a closed room that is off-limit to guests. Put a sign on the door so that human guests know whether or not they can enter the room and what to expect if they do. As always, children must be supervised with pets. It is important that they not approach pets that are crated or may otherwise feel cornered, especially if those pets have been removed from the action because they were feeling overwhelmed.  Also keep in mind that, like us, not all pets are equally good at knowing their own limits. Some may seek out a quiet space for themselves, but others will need to be brought there when the situation becomes too much.

There are plenty more things to consider for a good party, with or without pets, but these tips will get you off to a good start. Happy new year!

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