Puppy Play Date – Not What You May Think
A lot of people love to arrange puppy play dates with friends who also have puppies. It is a great opportunity to share experiences and all the funny puppy stories. There is also another key element to why people like to arrange puppy play dates, and that is socialisation.
It is important to remember that socialisation is less about meeting lots of puppies and dogs, but more about getting our pups used to our world, building confidence and resilience to novelty in a way that doesn’t overwhelm your puppy.
In this blog, we share our puppy play date experience from our own 17 week old Working Cocker Spaniel, Rocket and our friend’s 15 week old Springer Spaniel, Lex.
First Play Date – Good Experiences
When setting up a puppy play date, your number one priority is guarding your puppy’s optimism and keeping them happy and comfortable. This means, take it slow and if the session is too much for your puppy, if they look worried or even if they get over excited don’t be afraid to intervene and give them time apart.
We decided to get some focus from our pups before letting them off lead to greet each other, mainly because we wanted them in a fairly calm headspace and not over excited before they even started interacting with each other. This proved to be a great strategy as they were both very responsive to us and able to make better decisions with each other too.
Short and Sweet
Puppies often get over excited when playing and don’t know when enough is enough, so it is good to teach them right from the start to keep play sessions really short, just 3 mins then bring them back to you to do some calming activities such as boundary games and scatter feed. Once they are calm you can let them have another play if both puppies looked comfortable with each other, keeping each play session short.
What if my puppy doesn’t play well with others?
At times, Lex is not really that interested in playing with Rocket. Maybe he wasn’t in the mood, but that’s ok. In fact, Lex kept going back to Karen for reassurance. This is a testament of their awesome relationship with each other.
If your puppy do not play so well together or struggle to come away from each other, pop them on lead and keep them at a distance from each other where they are able to focus on you. You can use it as an opportunity to practice focus games and calming games such as Middle or Boundary game with another puppy being there.
Second play date – Optimism and calmness
You can use your second play date to set up a fun novelty party. This is setting up different textures and surfaces for your puppies to walk over, as well as random objects they may not have seen before. Using their daily food or treats you can scatter onto the surfaces, getting them used to odd movements, textures and sounds. This is growing a calm and confident dog and also gives the puppies a calm job to do rather than constantly trying to get to each other. You may need to pop them on lead, one puppy can be working on boundary games (settle to bed) while the other is doing novelty party.
Third Play Date – disengagement, focus and recall
Third play date is another good opportunity to practice some focus and recall games. You can even go to a new environment such as a quiet park and take a stroll, having both puppies on lead – just walking and letting them enjoy the environment.
This would be less about puppy play and more about being in the same environment together. If they have a habit of getting caught up and tangled in the leads, keep a bit more space between them. This is where you can work on disengagement games, can your puppy turn to you and play with you instead of constantly trying to get over to his friend?
It is a valuable life skill to be able to walk your dog without them always going up to other dogs and people and this is how you can start the foundations of this learning. Take some high value food such as turkey pate or cooked chicken, every time your pup turns to you give them a piece.
Future Goals – calm relationships
Instead of having a dog that goes nuts every time they meet up with their doggy friends, you can build calmness during every visit so you end up with calm happy relationships. Calmness is the key to so much of what we do and it even improves general behaviour and health too.
A good natured older dog can be a fantastic role model for your puppy, but remember not to let your puppy keep pestering the older dog, puppy pens and gated communities are a good idea to give the older dog a bit of peace and quiet too.