Bark Mitzvahs: a Canine's Coming of Age?

Above: Doggies decked out in yarmulkes and talis for their big day

The article below was written by Lisa Katz for

A search on the Internet turned up photos of Bark Mitzvah parties in homes, gift packages for Bark Mitzvah dogs from pet stores, and invitations to Bark Mitzvah ceremonies from synagogues.

Are Bark Mitzvahs actually a spiritual event in the lives of American Jews today or simply an excuse for a party?

The Celebration

Above: A Bone shaped cake for the Bark Mitzvah Boy

Some people do Bark Mitzvahs for Purim entertainment, some do it to raise money, and others do it simply for the fun of it. Those celebrating Bark Mitzvahs today are mostly Reform and Conservative Jews.

At Home

Above: Floyd enjoys his bone shaped cake at home

Bark Mitzvahs celebrated in private homes tend to be personal and fun. Guests, who sometimes bring their own dogs along, greet the hosts with “Mazal Tov” and bring doggies presents for the Bark Mitzvah dog. The dog of honor generally feasts on bone-shaped doggy cake, while the human guests feast on gourmet food.

Above: Kasha's Bark Mitzvah was actually at a temple

The Bark Mitzvah party of Kasha can be viewed online by clicking here.

Above: The friends' table at Kasha's Bark Mitzvah

Alfie's Bark Mitzvah is the focus of Shari Cohen's children's book Alfie's Bark Mitzvah. The CD of children's songs that comes with the book, created by the internationally acclaimed Cantor Marcelo Gindlin, includes a song describing Alfie's Bark Mitzvah.

At the Doggie Salon
Some people have more formal affairs, and new businesses have cropped up to support them.

For $50, Places Everyone offers a seating kit for your Bark Mitzvah celebration, as well as a free Bark Mitzvah certificate for your dog.

Above: A Doggie Draydel or Draidel or Dreidel

If you really want to go all out, then you can get the $95 Bark Mitzvah package from CleosBarkery. It includes: all meat canine Bark Mitzvah cake, happy Bark Mitzvah Hat, Doggie Treat Bag filled with draydel and menorah biscuits, Star Bark Mitzvah collar, and a ribbon balloon cake topper.

Above: Custom Pet Candy Bar Wrapper from Wrapsody Designs

You can make sure your guests will remember the event by sending them home with a pet candy bar wrapped by The wrapper commemorates the Bark Mitzvah celebration and even provides personal information about the Bark Mitzvah dog.

Above: A bulldog, dacschund and a weimeraner donning Tallits and Kippahs

Some people send their guests home with satin yarmulkes with the dog’s name and Bark Mitzvah date printed inside.

Above: A hand crocheted kippa or kippah or yarmulke

Yarmulkes just for the guests?
Some Bark Mitzvah dogs get all dressed up for the special occasion. There’s been unprecedented demand for doggie-sized tallit and yarmulkes tailored to fit over dog ears.

At Shul
Bark Mitzvahs celebrated at synagogues have a bit more of an “official” flavor to them.

Above: Kasha checks out the Mogen David

Often Bark Mitzvahs performed by rabbis begin with the rabbi reciting a prayer or blessing the dogs. The prayer said when seeing beautiful animals is an ideal opener. The rabbi generally ends the ceremony by awarding a Bark Mitzvah certificate to the dog's owner.

One California Reform shul promotes it Bark Mitzvah ceremony with “All participating pets will receive blessings, treats and a special pet kippah/yarmulke.”

Above: Awwwwww!

One Reform Shul, Beth Shir Shalom in Miami, holds Bark Mitzvah celebrations for the congregation members' dogs on Purim. The ceremony takes place in the synagogue parking lot and not in the sanctuary; thus, there is no chance of a dog having an accident in shul. Bark mitzvah dogs are given certificates, and the dogs’ family members bark and say a prayer.

Temple Kehillat Chaim, a Reform temple in Atlanta, uses the Bark Mitzvah celebration as a way to raise money. The synagogue sponsored a "Bark Mitzvah Day" fundraiser in which about 60 dogs competed in a dog-show spin-off. "Most Jewish" was one of the competition's categories.

Above: even teeny weeny tallis and kippas are avilable

Behind the Celebration
Most Bark Mitzvahs are simply a fun reason for a party. However, there are those who recognize a spiritual component to them. And, on the other side, there are those who find them offensive.

A Spiritual Component
Some people do see a spiritual component to the Bark Mitzvah ceremony. They claim that the Bark Mitzvah is a celebration of the spiritual connection they feel for their dogs. And they want to express this spiritual connection in a Jewish, communal way.

Others claim the ceremonies express the divine spark in animals. What is dog spelled backward? In this way, the Bark Mitzvah can be seen as the Jewish equivalent to the Catholic ritual of blessing animals in the church.

Still others simply want to celebrate a rite of passage for their dog. Some celebrate it after the dog has lived 13 human years, while others wait for 13 dog years.

William Wegman's jewish, isn't he?

An Offensive Component
Some people find Bark Mitzvah celebrations as offensive. They feel that dressing a dog in a yarmulke and tallit dishonors Judaism. Others say that Bark Mitzvahs marginalize Jewish identification to the point where stereotypes are perpetuated.

A Humorous Component

The great majority of those celebrating Bark Mitzvahs today simply do it for fun. And the jokes abound: Feeding the dog biscuits shaped as Stars of David. Reading Arf-Tara instead of Haftara. Barking in honor of the dog.

They say that so many of the bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies of humans these days have lost the religious coming-of-age meaning and have turned into showy social affairs, so why not a Bark Mitzvah?

You can view an MSN video report about a Bark Mizvah by clicking here.

Above: A big edible Doggie Dreidel for the guest of honor

What to buy the dog who's celebrating?

Check out Oy Toys by clicking here.

Or get some Judaic dog and cat toys here.

And there a good selection here, even Kippahs (yarmulkes) for dogs!

More Jewish Chewish Toys

Books & sites that may interest you:

How to Raise a Jewish Dog

Yiddish for Dogs: Chutzpah, Feh!, Kibbitz, and More: Every Word Your Canine Needs to Know

Jewish Dogs: An Image and Its Interpreters (Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C)

Blessing of the Animals: A Guide to Prayers & Ceremonies Celebrating Pets & Other Creatures

And be sure to check out her website of the same name, Blessingoftheanimals with several links and other resources.

Here's a site to help you name that Kosher Dog of yours!
Jewish Dog Names, their meanings and Origins

And I'll leave you with this cute "Jewish Dog" joke:

A man walks into synogogue with a dog. The shammas comes up to him and says, "Pardon me, this is a House of Worship, you can't bring your dog in here."

"What do you mean," says the man, "this is a religious Jewish dog.... Look."

And the shammas looks carefully and sees that in the same way that a St. Bernard carries a brandy barrel round its neck this dog has a tallis around its neck.

"Morris," says the man to the dog, "daven (pray) !".

"Woof!" says the dog, stands on his hind legs, opens the tallis bag, takes out a kippa and puts it on his head.

"Woof!" says the dog, stands on his hind legs, opens the tallis bag, takes out a siddur and starts to daven in perfect Hebrew.

"That's fantastic," says the shammas, "absolutely amazing, incredible! You should take him to Hollywood, get him on television, or get him into a Yeshiva and your dog Morris could become a Rabbi !!"

"You speak to him," says the man, "he wants to be a lawyer."

Resources and links for your own Bark Mitzvah!:

bark mitzvah bash

Hey pup, have you called your mother lately? You know she worries. $65 for (5) dogs, contact us for other pricing.
  • potato knishses
  • Jewish chicken soup pie
  • ice cream flavor K-9 quencher
  • honey pupcakes with cinnamon frosting
  • stuffed toy to match theme
•Order the party package above from

Get your Bark Mitzvah Invitations & supplies:

Bark Mitzvah Seat Planner Kit available here.

Above:the seat planner kit from Places Everyone sells for $49.95

Bark Mitzvah catering:

Bark Mitzvah gifts:


G.G. said...

Hi Laura, nice job but you didn't find my book or list the resources I have. You can get the outfits, Star of David and tips for bark, meow, and other pet mitzvahs through Blessing of the Animals (ISBN 1402729677) available through most booksellers in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and most online retailers. You can read excerpts at I'll have to put you on the blog!

Laura Sweet said...

Thanks Diane, what a great addition to the post. I'll amend it to include your book!

Percy said...

Thanks for the post Percy found it really enlightening and has given you a mention in her blog.

G.G. said...

Thanks for including me and the book. Drop by and leave a comment and your link in a few days. I have a new post going up about Bark Mitzvahs!

Anonymous said...

What do you think of this ?

C'mon people, it's only a dollar.