By Tim Falk
Published: 05/06/2021, edited: 10/05/2022
If you want to spoil your dog, treat them to a puppy playdate. Not only does this give them the chance to romp and play with their four-legged friends, but it’s also a great way to raise their heart rate, provide much-needed mental stimulation, and ensure that they stay well-socialized.
But planning a playdate for your pooch is a little more complicated than you might think. Rather than just inviting any old pup over for a play session with your fur-baby, you need to take a few precautions to make sure your dog gets to play safely with their “pawfect” match. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to organizing a playdate for your pup.
The first thing you need to do is think about your dog’s personality and how they like to play. Does your dog enthusiastically greet every new pup they meet, or do they prefer to hang back and let the other dog come to them? Would they rather a fast-paced game of chase or a rough-and-tumble wrestle? How much rough play can they handle before they get uncomfortable or unhappy?
Once you know what your pooch does and doesn’t like in a play partner, you’ll be ready to start searching for a date.
Matching your pup with the right dog is crucial to the success of any playdate. While it might be tempting to invite your best friend to bring their dog over, this might not be a good idea if your two dogs have different personalities and play styles.
So take some time to find a dog you think will play well with your pup. It could be the dog of a friend or family member, or maybe a pooch you’ve previously encountered at your local dog park. Dogs who don’t have a great track record of getting along with other canines are obviously a no-no, while it’s a good idea to match your pet with a dog of a similar size.
Find a calm, friendly, and well-socialized dog, and you’ll be making the best possible start.
Now it’s time to decide on the venue for your puppy playdate. However, the ideal location may vary depending on the two dogs involved.
While you may want to have the playdate at your house, if your pup is territorial, this can cause some problems. That’s why many people recommend holding the first meeting between the two dogs on neutral ground, such as a quiet dog park or some other fully fenced area.
It’s also a good idea to take a few simple steps to prepare the area for play. For example, while throwing a toy into the mix will work wonderfully with some play pairings, it can also prompt possessive behavior in other dogs. Your knowledge of the temperament of each dog comes into play here, so it’s up to you to decide what will work best.
OK, the time has come for the playdate to begin. At this stage of the process, it’s important that you don’t try to force either dog into a situation they’re not completely comfortable with.
Instead, you should take it slowly and manage the introduction carefully. Let the dogs decide whether they want to launch straight into a full-on play session, or whether they’d rather give each other and their surroundings a lengthy sniff before going any further.
This patient approach should help both pups relax and feel at ease with what’s going on. And when that happens, you can often expect that they’ll soon be having a whole lot of fun together.
If all goes to plan, your pup and their new doggy pal will get along like a house on fire. But don’t lose heart if the two dogs don’t play together as well as you’d hoped — even with perfect planning and preparation, sometimes, things just don’t work out. Maybe one dog isn’t feeling all that playful, maybe the two dogs aren’t the ideal match you thought they’d be, or maybe your pup decides they’d rather play with you than with anyone else.
Whatever the case may be, it’s essential that you keep a close eye on the body language of both dogs at all times. This will allow you to pick up on the signs that your dog is anxious, uncomfortable, or even tending towards aggression.
And if the signs don’t look promising, quit while you’re ahead and try again another day.
Regardless of how your pup’s play session goes, make sure there’s an ample supply of fresh water available to ensure that both pooches stay hydrated.
It’s also important to monitor both dogs for signs that they are starting to tire. A tired dog can quickly decide that they’ve had enough of playing, but if the other dog doesn’t pick up on the signals that their playmate is tuckered out, this could lead to a tense situation.
That’s why it’s best to keep the play session short and sweet, and head for home when one or both dogs start to flag.
With the playdate over, give your pup a cuddle and give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve just given your pooch a very special treat, and your reward is getting to spend some time with a tired but very happy pup!
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