25 Ways to Celebrate National Dog Day

Because nothing is cuter than a dog in a party hat.

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National Dog Day is Wednesday, August 26th, 2020, and is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the canine companion that brings you so much love and fun. Whether you currently have a dog, had a beloved dog who passed away, or don’t currently own a dog but love them anyhow, there are so many ways to commemorate the day. And the best part is that unlike their human friends, most dogs aren’t super picky about gifts and treats so whatever you do will be met with pure, unadulterated joy. To help you get started, we asked experts for their favorite ways to celebrate National Dog Day.

Walk the dogs at your local shelter

You don’t have to have a dog of your own to celebrate National Dog Day. Dog lovers of all kinds can share the joy by volunteering at a local shelter, says Sara Ochoa, DVM, veterinarian and consultant for DogLab. “All shelter dogs love extra time spent outside of their kennels so pop in and take a few dogs for a walk,” she says.

Take a basket of new toys to a shelter

Don’t have time for a walk? Another way to celebrate National Dog Day and give back to the community is to take a basket of new dog toys to a nearby shelter or dog rescue, Dr. Ochoa says. The dogs will love the fun gifts and you’ll love knowing you brought pure joy to animals that give us so much joy every day. Here are some things your dog wishes you’d stop doing.

Take your dog out for a puppuccino

What better to cap off a long fun day than with a cool, tasty beverage? Many ice cream places or coffee shops offer tasty treats made especially for dogs, usually involving ingredients like whole whipped cream and peanut butter, Dr. Ochoa says. You’ll have as much fun watching them eat it as they do eating it!

Watch Homeward Bound together

Do dogs recognize other dogs on screen? Some pet owners swear their pups enjoy their TV buddies but whether or not your dog is that self-aware, they’ll definitely enjoy snuggling up with you on the couch to watch a movie, Dr. Ochoa says. In honor of National Dog Day pick a flick where the canine is the hero, like these 14 dog movies to watch with your pooch.

Spoil your dog with attention

“What dogs really want most is your time and attention,” says Jennifer Coates, DVM, a veterinarian on the advisory board for Pup Life Today. So take this opportunity to “spoil” them with your undivided love and attention—playing, snuggling, exploring, or even napping together. Dogs don’t need fancy things or activities to feel loved, as shown by the 19 things your dog actually wants from you.

Let your dog take you for a walk

Funny puppy of pug sitting on floor near couple owners feet on concrete walkway at park. Female & male walking young pure breed pedigree dog on leash, sunset light. Background, copy space, close up.evrymmnt/Shutterstock

When we walk our dogs, we’re the ones setting the pace, direction, and length so this National Dog Day flip the roles and let your dog lead you on a walk, Dr. Coates says. Let them walk as fast or slow as they like, sniff everything they want, and take the lead on where you go (within reason, naturally).

Bring home a fun new toy

If you’re pressed for time (and who isn’t?) a new toy or two can be a great way to show your dog that you love them, Dr. Coates says. But while the toy will be fun, if you can spare a few minutes to play with the toy with them, that will really make the day awesome, she adds. Just make sure you’re avoiding these 14 common things you do that your dog actually hates.

Challenge your dog with a puzzle

Dogs love to use their brains and their paws to solve puzzle toys, Dr. Coates says. Not only does this help their brains but it can occupy busy dogs while you’re away from the house, she says. Not sure if your doggo can handle it? Use these 13 simple ways to see if your dog is smart.

Throw a dog park party

Invite all your friends with dogs to meet up at the local dog park for a celebratory playdate, suggests Candy Pilar Godoy, pet travel blogger and human to Boogie the Pug. Your pup will get to play with all their friends and you can provide the dog treats. For extra fun, provide dog-themed hats or other party favors for the human guests, she says.

Snap some funny selfies together

Throw a silly hat or a bowtie on your doggo and snap away, Godoy says. If your dog isn’t a fan of props, you can always use an app to add stickers, speech bubbles, mustaches, and more before sharing on social media. Does your dog know (or care?) that they’re getting their picture taken? Probably not. But the snaps will let you share your cutie with all your human friends and will remind you of the fun day for years to come. Did you know dog smiles are the real deal? They’re just one of 28 ways your pet is trying to say “I love you!

Donate to a pet rescue in your dog’s name

If you’ve lost a beloved pet, a beautiful way to honor their memory and celebrate National Dog Day is to make a donation to a local pet rescue in your dog’s name, Godoy says. You’ll smile remembering your Good Boy or Girl and spread the love to needy animals at the same time.

Teach your dog a new trick

Old (and young) dogs can totally learn new tricks so take this opportunity to teach your buddy a new skill, says Kayla Block, a certified dog trainer in Sacramento, California. Not a dog training expert? You don’t have to be! She recommends searching for online tutorials for how to train your dog to wave or take a bow—two popular and adorable tricks sure to get your dog lots of pets and belly rubs. Make sure you’re modeling good human behavior as well by avoiding these 14 rude behaviors that pet owners need to stop now.

Give your dog a pupcake

Pupcakes are pastries made specifically for dogs with canine-friendly ingredients. You can make your own (check out the book Pupcakes for recipes) or visit a dog bakery, says Erin Askeland, a certified animal health and behavior expert and consultant for Camp Bow Wow. “Great ingredients include carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, banana, plain oats, baby food or rice but steer clear of sugars,” she says. To make it really special, some bakeries will allow you to send in a photo of your dog and will either airbrush it onto a cake or even make an edible sculpture of your pet.

Wrap up an old, sweaty t-shirt

Your significant other would not appreciate being gifted a stinky old t-shirt but in the realm of doggy gifts this one gets a gold star, Askeland says. Your dog loves nothing more than to snuggle up in a pile of your dirty laundry so give him an item you don’t need anymore and put it in his dog bed.

Treat your pup to a spa day

Give your pet the full spa treatment at a local dog grooming salon, Askeland says. “Many facilities offer self-bathing and great smelling shampoos and conditioners to make your dog clean, fresh relaxed and comfortable,” she says. You could even get your toenails painted to match and be well on your way to being like these 10 people who look just like their pets.

Sign your dog up for a training class

“Training is a really great way to bond and have fun with your pet,” Askeland says, adding that she recommends looking for a local rewards-based trainer. Many training groups offer drop-in classes or even special seminars that you can attend with your pet to enjoy special time together and some places are offering a National Dog Day discount.

Let your dog go shopping for a new toy

Dogs don’t often get to go into stores with their owners so celebrate the day by taking your buddy to a pet store that allows animals inside, Askeland says. Let your dog roam the aisles and pick out a new treat or toy to take home. Just make sure you’re avoiding these 16 pet products vets never buy (and neither should you).

Commission a pet portrait

There are many businesses, both online and in local stores, that will create custom pet portraits, caricatures or a stuffed animal to match your pet’s looks and characteristics, Askeland says. This can be a fun experience for both you and you’ll have a beautiful memento to remember your special friendship forever.

Take the “whole dog food challenge”

Unfortunately, pet obesity is a serious problem in the United States. and being overweight can cause all kinds of health issues if your furry friend. Pets get overweight just like their human owners—by eating too much, especially processed foods. Celebrate the day and do a good turn for your dog by committing to a challenge to feed them only whole, healthy foods for one month, says Carol Bramson, CEO of Side by Side Pet. Not sure how to start? Use these 5 tips to help your pet reach a healthy weight.

Take your dog on an adventure

Many dogs love to hike, boat, and even surf alongside their humans so treat them to a day of adventure, says Kathleen Gallagher, owner of Life Unleashed International Pet Travel. You can even sign up your dog for surfing lessons in Carmel-By-The-Sea, also known as the Most Dog-Friendly Town in America.

Host a “yappy hour”

Pets should never drink alcohol but some bars will host “yappy hours” where their owners can come enjoy a few cold ones while bringing their best dog friends along, Gallagher says. If you don’t live near a bar that offers this, host your own backyard yappy hour by inviting your best dog-owning friends and provide a few drinks and snacks for human and furry friends. Watch out for these 11 behaviors in your dog, if you see them it might be time for obedience training.

Whip up some pupsicles

Dog licking popsicleRetroPixer/Shutterstock

Most pets love to lick frozen treats but is ice cream good for dogs? The answer is both yes and no. (Hint: Feeding dogs human treats is one of the 53 mistakes every dog owner makes.) Instead of regular ice cream, make a batch of vet-approved “pupsicles,” says Allison Albert, CEO of Pet Krewe. “You can sit outside and enjoy the final ‘dog days of summer’ together,” she says.

Give your dog a massage

You love a good rubdown after a long day but did you know your pup loves it too? Giving your dog a gentle massage is a great way to show you love them, says Rachel Barrack, DVM, a veterinarian and founder of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. You can also treat them to a professional dog massage at a dog spa. If you leave them there, however, make sure they’re always in good hands by knowing the 13 signs of a bad pet sitter.

Go for a swim

Many dogs love nothing more than a good splash in a pool, ocean, lake, or even a mud puddle. Celebrate National Dog Day by taking your furry friend to their favorite watering hole and get as wet and dirty as they like, says Alex Osorio, managing veterinary technician of FetchMyVet. Some pools even offer special “dog swim days” at the end of summer, after it’s closed to people but before it’s drained—check with your local rec center to see if there’s one near you.

Adopt or foster a dog

There are thousands of dogs that need homes—many in shelters where they will have to be euthanized if they don’t find a home—so one of the best things you can do on National Dog Day is to consider adopting or fostering some of these needy animals, says Jme Thomas, executive director of the Motley Zoo animal rescue. “Many people want to do this but are waiting for a magical ‘someday’ when they will be ready to help—consider today to be that someday!” Thomas says. “Today could be the day you save a life.” Get inspired by checking out these 19 dog adoption before-and-after photos that will melt your heart.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a health, lifestyle and fitness expert and teacher. She covers all things wellness for Reader’s Digest and The Healthy. With dual masters degrees in information technology and education, she has been a journalist for 17 years and is the author of The Great Fitness Experiment. She lives in Denver with her husband, five kids and three pets.