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Happy Gotcha Day: 7 Ways to Celebrate Your Dog’s Adoption

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One day that you’ll always remember is the day that you brought your adopted pup home. Your pet adoption day, or “Gotcha Day,” marks the beginning of a new chapter in your life. With that in mind, you’ll more than likely want to find fun ways to celebrate your dog adoptiversary every year. 

According to the ASPCA, roughly 6.3 million animals enter shelters each year, but only about 4.1 million are actually adopted (2 million dogs and 2.1 million cats). Fortunately, the yearly number of euthanized pets is decreasing as pet adoption has increased in popularity over the years. 

We talked with experts and scoured social media to see all the fun ways that dog owners are wishing their pups a Happy Gotcha Day. Whether it’s throwing a Gotcha Day dog party or simply taking your pet to the local dog park, there are many ways you can show your four-legged friend some appreciation on this special day

What is Gotcha Day? 

So what is Gotcha Day for dogs? “Gotcha Day” is a celebration of the anniversary when an adopted pup joins a family. Since oftentimes an adopted dog is a rescue and their exact birthdate is unknown, pet parents will celebrate the dog adoption day instead of their actual birthday. Other names for honoring this day include “Homecoming Day,” “Family Day,” or “Adoption Day,” and the occasion is usually paired with a birthday-like celebration.

The Gotcha Day meaning is relatively new but has gained popularity in recent years. Pet parents use this day to celebrate this special milestone and as an excuse to spoil their pets – often posting to social media with happy Gotcha Day dog quotes and pics. Justin Theroux, for instance, posted this adorable tribute to his adopted Pitbull Kuma in 2021, with a cute photo montage of the two sharing lots of cuddles, travel adventures and everyday moments. Part of the Gotcha Day quote accompanying the post reads: “Thank you for being so open, making me laugh, sleeping in later than me, going everywhere by my side, reminding me to stay in the present, to let things roll off me, to have gratitude and joy for everything, even just waking up.” 

7 Great Ideas for a Happy Gotcha Day Celebration 

Looking to make your pup’s own Gotcha Day special? Here are seven fun and creative pet adoption day ideas to celebrate your pup’s entrance into your family.  

Take your dog out for a date

“Spend a special day with your dog doing their favorite activity, whether it’s a hike, a picnic or extra snuffle mat time, and top it off with a puppy safe pupcake,” suggests Alina Hauptman, a public relations strategist with Best Friends Animal Society. You can also Google dog-friendly establishments or happenings in your area and take your pup out for a fun event to celebrate their Gotcha Day. The LA Galaxy, for instance, recently announced “Pups at the Pitch,” which gives pet owners the opportunity to bring their dogs to the MLS soccer games! And many cities have pet-friendly gatherings happening throughout the year.

Throw a dog adoptiversary party

You can’t go wrong with a Happy Gotcha Day dog party. Invite your pup’s best doggie friends over for backyard fun with games, dog treats, and Gotcha Day gifts. For entertainment, you can make a dog-themed playlist and even host a pup talent show where the dogs can show off their best tricks. Don’t forget to whip out your camera to commemorate the event.

Have a special Gotcha Day dinner

Nothing says Happy Gotcha Day like a good meal. Cook up a special dog-friendly dinner for your furry friend using their favorite ingredients. And if your pup likes being around other people, you can take their special meal to a pet-friendly outdoor restaurant where you can dine together. Some fun ideas include grilling for the whole family, your dog included. Throw on some chicken or a steak, use dog-friendly seasoning (nothing too spicy, for instance), and treat your pup to a tasty meal.

Take a trip to the pet store

Your four-legged friend would love a trip to the local pet store on their special day! Many pet stores allow you to bring dogs inside, so you can wander the aisles together and let your dog pick out a toy, treat, or chew, and socialize with other dogs. 

Plan a happy adoption day dog play date

For a budget-friendly option, invite your pup’s best buddies over for a dog Gotcha Day playdate. Or, if your dog is extra social, meet up at a local dog park where they will have endless play opportunities! They get to mingle with old friends and make some new ones in the process. 

Arrange a doggy spa day 

If your pup likes to be pampered, treat them to a spa day at your local pet groomer. They’ll love being bathed and groomed – maybe getting a “pawdicure”. Some pet spas even offer doggie facials and massages!

“Paw” it forward

Find a way to give back that helps out other pups who are eagerly awaiting a new home. “Volunteer at your local shelter or rescue on your dog’s gotcha day as a way to help other dogs get adopted and pay it forward,” says Hauptman. There are also services like Cuddly (which helps rescue animals find a loving home) that allow you to make a donation to an animal welfare charity in your pup’s honor. 

Gotcha Day Dog Celebrations: Tips for Success

Follow these helpful tips in order to make Gotcha Day oh-so-special for your furry friend.

Consider your pup’s preferences. For the best results, be sure to plan your Gotcha Day dog celebration based on things that your dog likes. For example, if your pup isn’t very social, then a trip to the dog park or doggie play date might not be the best options. If your dog is a foodie, a special meal or treat is probably a great choice. But if they’re overly food-motivated and constantly begging for food from your plate, maybe stick to dinner at home, not at a dog-friendly restaurant. 

Be aware of budget. It’s important to consider your budget and not go too overboard with an expensive Gotcha Day dog party or pet store shopping spree. 

Keep it low key on day one. If you want to celebrate on the actual day your dog comes into your home, be sure to not overwhelm your new pup with a big party while they’re trying to get used to their surroundings. A simple treat or special meal is a great option for your pup’s first day. 

Don’t forget to post. Posting pics – and maybe a few Gotcha Day quotes – to social media is a great way to advocate for pet adoption and possibly inspire a friend to visit a shelter for their next pet. You can share your adoption story, a favorite memory, and pics of how you celebrated your Gotcha Day!