DOGS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN

Butt-sniffing and friendly licking: all the cool pups are doing it. (Video by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge.)

By STACIE FANELLI

Reservations for the ritziest, most exclusive party in Little Silver fill up quickly at the Dog Spaw. Catered with the finest selection of liver biscuits and grain-free kibble, Yappy Hour regularly draws about 20 local puppies and small-breed dogs.

The grooming, dog-walking, pet-sitting and canine holistic health food store had also been known by the name Paw Palace before it relocated from Red Bank last month. The move sent its boutique-style leashes, collars and fashion apparel to the Internet so the shop could focus on patrons’ nutrition and glamour.

The venue change didn’t affect the turnout for the first gathering at the new location Friday. Owner Dana Ujobagy (pronounced ‘you-ja-bayj’) says the hour of barking and romping, hosted in the contained shopping area amid a medley of squeaky toys, is the kind of socialization that’s crucial for a dog’s well being.

“Most small dogs are not so dog-oriented,” she said. “They’re often timid, and coming here helps them.”

That’s certainly true for eight-year-old Shetland sheepdog Rex. His owner, Michael Kasanoff of Red Bank, said Rex used to be so skittish around other dogs that trips to the dog run were a waste of time.

When he first joined Yappy Hour last year, Rex was a wallflower, begging to be held.

“Dana advised me to take the leash off, and he’ll be more social,” Kasanoff said. “She was absolutely right. She’s like the dog whisperer.”

The party animals occasionally get a bit nippy, but owners play bouncers, and no harm is ever done. Rex got especially friendly with one guest’s leg Friday. Humping as puppies grow into their bodies is another short-lived problem.

As she watched a Maltese sporting a pink bow and polka dot dress give Rex a nice-to-meet-you sniff, Ujobagy considered holding a Halloween costume contest for October’s meet-up.

An owner holding a drooling, upside-down Chihuahua in her arms called out, “They should all dress up as devils. No costume required.” For that, she received a sloppy kiss right in the face.

For Yappy Hour specifics and to RSVP, visit the store’s Meetup page. The groups are held on the second Friday of each month, and spots are first-come, first-serve.