Puppies, picnic blankets, and pigs in a blanket: We’re talking about none other than everyone’s favorite summer activity, puppy picnics, which continue to be a popular activity among pet parents–and for good reason. Because who doesn’t love gathering the dogs (and their best friends) for an afternoon spent sprawling under summer’s warm rays, snacking on fresh fruits and veggies, and watching the pups at play?
Wait, you’ve never hosted a dog picnic before? Well, my friend, you–and your pup–are in for a real treat because we spoke with puppy picnic experts who’ve generously dished on all the dos and don’ts, must-haves, and must-packs for hosting the ultimate puppy picnic that’ll have tails wagging and cameras snapping.
All About Puppy Picnics:
What Are Puppy Picnics?
Here, dogs are treated to dog-friendly snacks, plenty of water, and an itinerary full of fun outdoor activities, from playing fetch to socializing with their invited doggy guests.
And while dog picnics are popular now, their popularity spiked two years ago amid the global COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing and spending time outdoors were encouraged.
“It was our little adopted Baxter that inspired the Picnic PupUp,” says Jam Stewart, founder of Picnic PopUp, which hosts what they call PupUp picnics for pets and their pet parents.
“Our friends hadn’t met Baxter during lockdown, and we hosted a picnic to introduce him to everyone,” Stewart continues. “We had so much fun and thought that the PupUp would be a meaningful experience to add.”
Since, Picnic PopUp’s PupUps (say that five times fast) continue to be a popular offering for the Nashville-based company.
“Over the past two years, we’ve had consistent interest in the PupUp, which accounts for approximately 20 percent of all of our picnics booked. We also have puppy guests [who] regularly attend our other picnic events,” Stewart says, adding that the puppy picnics are most popular among their Gen Z customers.
“Pets are an extension of themselves and go everywhere with them.”
The Picnic Style, a Newport Beach-based luxury pop-up picnic experience company, also offers puppy picnics—and they're what founder and CEO Julie Ann Nguyen describes as an "all-time favorite" among clients.
"We usually host one to three per month," Nguyen says of The Picnic Style's Signature Puppy Soirée.
Puppy Picnic Must-Haves
Pet parents seek out companies, like Picnic PopUp and The Picnic Style, for puppy picnics to celebrate all sorts of occasions, from birthdays and anniversaries to proposals and other key life moments. However, organizing your own dog picnic can be a breeze if you know what to bring.
Here are the must-haves.
This includes your pooch’s usual, daily dog food (if they haven’t eaten yet), dog treats, and if you’re hosting a birthday picnic, a dog-friendly birthday cake. (We have just the recipe!)
“My favorite dog treats would be from Farmland Traditions or Wagleaf Organics,” Nguyen says.
For fresh foods that both pets and pet parents can enjoy, watermelon is a refreshing dog-friendly (and summer-appropriate) snack. Also, cucumber, bananas, and strawberries.
Of course, you should always consult with your vet before serving any of these foods to determine the right portion size for your dog. Even a healthy treat should be factored into your dog’s optimum daily balanced diet.
2 Picnic Basket
Water is essential! It’s important to keep all dogs in attendance well-hydrated and cool. Bring plenty of water with you; and if possible, choose a location that has a water fountain nearby (like a dog park) for easy refills. Oh, and don’t forget the water bowl.
“Hydration is critical, especially in the summer,” Stewart says.
Keep the dogs entertained with plenty of outdoorsy toys, like frisbees, tug toys, and tennis balls. Or, if your dog is more of a lounger (yeah, us, too), bring along their favorite chew toys to keep them active while they hang out with you on the blanket.
“We like durable fun tug-style toys that are easy to play with while sitting down,” Stewart says.
Chewy has plenty of toys:
6Dog Bed or Mat
Make It a Party
Props, Accessories, and Clothing
“Pet parents love taking snaps with their pups,” Stewart says.
Oh, yes, we do–and both Stewart and Nguyen recommend bringing along party hats, chic bandanas and bow ties, and more. Or, for fussy pups, dress your dog up for the occasion before you even step foot out of the house (they might be too distracted to let you dress them on-site!).
“When it comes to your dog’s birthday, you’re going to want to celebrate it with all of their furry friends. Plus, the photos are to die for!” Nguyen says.
Want a photo backdrop? Those are easy to DIY, too.
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Have access to a table or plan to bring one? Great, then don’t forget the pet-themed table settings and pet-safe florals that’ll really take the picnic to another level.
“We incorporate small items into the overall experience, including … décor items that celebrate pets,” Stewart says.
How to Choose the Perfect Spot
When choosing where to have your picnic, keep three things in mind:
- Is the location dog-friendly with plenty of space?
- Does the area have a water fountain?
- And, does it have a sufficient amount of shade nearby?
“Shade is a must, along with adequate space,” Stewart says. “We like pet-friendly spaces that have pathways and are easy to access.”
Puppy Picnic Dos and Don’ts
Do: Walk the dog before the picnic.
Walking the dog before the picnic helps get rid of excess energy, in turn leading to a more enjoyable picnic experience where pet parents and pets alike can relax (even if just for a few moments) and actually enjoy their meal or treats, respectively.
Do: Check for discarded bones and trash at your picnic area.
As soon as you reach the picnic site, do a quick sweep of the area in search of tossed chicken bones, ribs, or rancid meat that could make your dog ill.
Do: Safely leash your dog.
It’s likely you’ll be picnicking in an area that requires your pooch be on a leash at all times. And an easy way to follow the rules while also giving your dog more wiggle room to play is by using a tie-out cable and stake, some of which extend as far as 30 feet.
Or, bring an extra leash and loop it around the leg of a sturdy picnic table or tree. This helps keep your dog both secure and close to the action. Waist leashes are another option if you plan to stay put on the picnic blanket and want to keep the pup close by.
Don’t: Leave your dog unattended.
It’s an obvious one, but keep an eye on your dogs at all times and do not leave them unattended.
Don’t: Feed your dog harmful, toxic people food.
Dogs can’t eat everything their pet parents eat. That’s why it’s important to bring dog-safe treats and snacks, in addition to your own picnic foods.
Some common summer foods that dogs can’t eat include hot dogs, grapes and raisins, chips and pretzels, salsa and guac, and more. See a full list here.
There you have it: the ultimate puppy picnic how-to. So, what are you waiting for? Drop those puppy picnic invitations in the mailbox and start gathering all the essentials. Your pup (and all their friends) will thank you for it with plenty of slobbery kisses.
Before you go, though, don't forget to save, bookmark, or pin this handy infographic for your next puppy picnic!
More Summertime Fun with Dogs: