Your dog is your best friend, so of course you want to go all out for their birthday. But what if you don’t know what day your dog was born? For pet parents who adopted their pup from a shelter or rescue, it’s a common problem with a super-fun solution: Dogust, the universal shelter pet birthday!
Dogust, which takes place Aug. 1 each year, is a nationwide celebration for dogs whose birthdays are unknown. It’s been a holiday since 2008, when staff at the North Shore Animal League America of New York set out to ensure even dogs without official birthdays still get their own special day.
“[It’s] the official birthday for all rescued puppies and dogs to celebrate their importance in our lives,” says Joanne Yohannan, North Shore Animal League America’s senior vice president of operations.
Over the years, Dogust has expanded to shelters across the country. And today, pet parents of rescue dogs are also getting in on this universal shelter pet birthday.
“Dogust is to celebrate all shelter dogs, whether still in the care of a shelter or with their new ‘furever’ family,” says Suzi Goldsmith, co-founder of Tri-County Animal Rescue in Boca Raton, Florida.
How Can I Celebrate Dogust with My Pet?
There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate this universal shelter pet birthday with your dog, as long as everyone has fun.
“This is … a very special day for anyone who has adopted a dog. There's often so much we don't know about their past, so to be able to celebrate them and honor their presence in our lives is wonderful,” says Chelsea Jones, communications specialist at Animal Welfare League of Arlington in Virginia.
Here are a few ideas to mark the occasion.
- Throw your pup a birthday “pawty” using these tips from a dog party planner. (In keeping with CDC safety guidelines, your guestlist might have to be restricted to immediate family only. You could also use videoconferencing for a virtual—or should we say, fur-tual—celebration!)
- Plan a cool pool party and beat the August heat with pool games for dogs and frozen treats!
- Bake a DIY dog birthday cake. (This yummy blueberry cake is a surefire hit!)
- Take a hike—literally! (Don’t forget to bring these essentials for hiking with dogs.)
- Spend the afternoon at the dog park.
- Go on a camping adventure—or better yet, glamping.
- If your pet’s water-friendly, set sail on a boating excursion.
- Plant a tree in honor of your pup, and all the shelter animals in search of their forever home.
- Celebrate your pet on social media by sharing photos, videos and a loving written tribute. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #Dogust!
- Snuggle on the couch and watch a movie.
When it comes to birthday gifts, any of your dog’s favorite toys, treats or other goodies will do! For an extra special treat, check out this Birthday Goody Box for Dogs, and if you still need a little inspo, visit the Birthday Shop!
But remember: Dogust is a day to honor shelter pets—including the thousands of animals who are still waiting for their forever homes. Curry Krasulak, director of development at Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch, suggests making a donation to a local shelter or rescue as another impactful way to celebrate shelter pets nationwide, including your own.
How Can I Help My Local Shelter Celebrate Dogust?
Of course, one of the biggest ways you can support your local shelter is by adopting a dog or becoming a foster. After all, rescues can’t operate without foster parents! But if that’s not an option for you right now, there are still plenty of ways to help your local shelter celebrate.
“I encourage pet lovers to call their local animal rescue, wish them a ‘Happy Dogust,’ and ask how they can help locally to help them continue their rescue efforts,” Goldsmith says.
Here are a few ideas:
- Make a monetary donation. Many shelters have set up special fundraisers for Dogust.
- Donate supplies like food and toys. During the pandemic, many shelters have contactless drop-offs.
- Become a volunteer.
- Ask if you can drop off a doggy birthday cake, “pup-cakes” or other party supplies like birthday hats.
- Ask if there’s anything the shelter needs for their other animals, like cats and bunnies, which aren’t always included in the Dogust festivities.
“Not knowing a dog’s true birthday means it’s difficult to celebrate their special day, but by having a universal birthday like Dogust, it allows us an opportunity to spread a little joy to all of the homeless pets that are looking for a loving, responsible home,” says Natalie Buxton, director of marketing and communications at Operation Kindness, a no-kill animal shelter in North Texas.