Do you feel anxious when you are in a crowd? Do you value the time you spend with a few close friends rather than a large group at a party? Well, some dogs are like that too! Although social interactions make your dog happy, too many dogs around might make your furry friend uncomfortable or overwhelmed. As such, having a play date will make your pet dog happy and emotionally stable.
The first six months are the most critical to a dog’s social life. However, even adult dogs enjoy having some company and wouldn’t mind having a playdate. Before setting up a playdate, you should consider several factors to ensure that the event is a success. Here is an ultimate guide to perfect dog play dates.
1. Understand Your Dog’s Likes and Dislikes
Now that you are allowing your canine friend to mingle, you should first get acquitted with its likes and dislikes. This means that you ought to be aware of how the pet reacts to other dogs. If it is anything other than a welcoming attitude, abandon the idea of a playdate entirely. It is also important to know how it interacts with the companions.
In case the potential play partner is an aggressive dog, and your pet is a fleet-footed chasing, reconsider the meet-up. If your puppy is still young, knowing their style might not be an easy feat. On the bright side, there is more leeway with regards to puppy interactions because their play styles are not as rigid as that of an adult canine. Therefore, puppies of similar sizes can enjoy each other’s company irrespective of the games they play. As for older dogs, you should be more careful with how you do it.
2. Select the Play Partner Wisely
A well-matched play friend is one close in size and age. That way, the dog cannot get overwhelmed if it’s partner is an overly energetic dog. Even when one player is a gentle giant, the intensity of the play might lead to accidental injury on the smaller puppy. Although there are exceptions to this, ensure that the pair is as closely matched as possible.
3. Settle for a Neutral Location
How well you handle this step determines how well the introduction goes. Pick a site that is safe for off-leash play, meaning that it should be a fully-fenced outdoor area or an indoor spot that is safe enough for the pets. Find a room that is large enough to accommodate the full range of play styles, but not so large that the dog is miles away from you. If you can, look for a fenced yard or a community court, as these two areas are safe enough for the dogs to play in. However, remember to clean up the area once the dogs are done socializing.
4. Focus on the Dogs
A play date has everything to do with the dogs having a great time, and not the time for you to catch up with the other parent. Dogs may change the course of play from a safe way to a violent one within a matter of seconds. The only way of ensuring that your pet is safe at all times is to watch the dogs carefully. In case the game gets rough, you can separate them in good time. You might even discover some characteristics you never knew your pet possessed.
5. Set Your Expectations
Even after finding an excellent location and done thorough research on your dog’s playdate, there is a chance that the date will not go as planned. Sometimes the dogs may not be into each other, which could lead to a fight or a gross misunderstanding between them. Probably they are missing the “spark,” their personalities do not rhyme, or they have distinct playing styles, all of which might make them romp together.
In case the pet dogs do not fancy each other’s company, or if they are not playing safe games, you should consider ending the session. Although it might feel like such a bummer considering the effort you put into making the day a success, the reality is that finding a good match can take time, and you should be patient.
6. Carry Some Toys
Introducing some dog toys in the game will change focus between the dogs. It may also bring a new dimension to the playdate. For some dogs, the toy might end up becoming a prize to guard. Therefore, ensure that both dogs are trained to drop stuff when asked to, to ensure that you can deal with a situation where the dogs feel entitled.
7. Allow the Dogs to Set the Pace
You might be tempted to manage the dog’s time especially during the first meeting, but don’t be. It is vital that they explore the environment and interact at their designated pace. Once they have had a chance to interact as per their protocols, let them initiate the game of their liking. Do not intervene, as this might only make the situation uncomfortable for your pet. It’s nice acknowledging their progress with some praise but refrain from being the overprotective parent.
8. Understand Body Language
Dog play might get rowdy, and it may sound or look scarier than it is. Sometimes a well-intentioned parent might interrupt an acceptable game merely because they are wary of the intensity. One might also ignore questionable play because you cannot comprehend what is going on. That is why pet parents should pay attention to what the dogs are saying to one another during the interaction.
Appropriate play is often loose and bouncy, while an inappropriate game is focused and controlled. Therefore, you should understand the difference between these two kinds. At the same time, consider interrupting positive plays to allow some cooldown. At times the pups should be reminded to take it a notch down so that they can calm their energy levels.
9. Encourage Hydration Breaks
Dog play leaves the dogs feeling thirst, so make sure you carry water. Bring a larger dog bowl than the regular one in case the other dog wants to join in. Also, carry a different bowl than the one your dog uses to prevent resource guarding. Drinking from the same container will help the dogs to bond in unimaginable ways.
9 Ways to Find Dogs for Playdates
- Friends and family
This is the most straightforward method, to begin with since your dog is already familiar with the other dog. Invite your loved ones and ask them to tag their pet dogs. You can enjoy watching the pets playing in the company of your relative or friend.
You see that co-worker who keeps a picture of their dog on the desk? What about the one who is always talking about his or her pet? If you are looking for your dog’s playmate, these are some of the best people to approach. Since they seem to have a connection with the pets already, they care for them and are likely to desire the best for them.
- Dog classes
Puppy preschool and obedience training classes offer an opportunity to meet dog owners who might be interested in socializing outside of the classroom setting. Try connecting directly with the owners. If you are feeling shy, request the instructor to make a formal announcement for you.
Neighbors with well-trained dogs and are interested in finding playdates for their dogs are great to approach. Next time you meet your neighbor in the park or outside their house, start a conversation. With time, you can contact them with the idea of organizing a playdate for your dogs. It can even be as simple as scheduling time to walk your pet dogs together.
Related Post: Best Dog Training Books
There is a possibility that your vet knows a dog owner who is looking for a playdate, and they would be glad to link you up. Some vets keep a bulletin on their notice boards for pet owners who are looking for playdates. Consider checking in with the receptionist. If nobody has made a request, you can initiate one!
- Dog parks
You may have met someone at the dog park, whose pet is overwhelmed and they would like a relaxed environment for the pet. Your dog may have encountered a new friend, but unfortunately, the new dogs are rowdy, and the park is no longer habitable. Both situations are a great starting point for a playdate conversation.
- Dog groomers
Groomers interact with lots of dog owners. Therefore, they can give you great recommendations with regards to the dogs they work with.
- Websites and applications
Search for meet-up dog groups in your locality. Such apps and websites are common in most regions, so you are likely to find one. If there isn’t any in your area, why not start one?
- Dog trainers
Dog trainers have the best interest of the pet at heart. They collaborate with the owners to keep the dogs on high motivation. The trainers are usually well equipped with the right skills and information to handle dogs of various temperaments. So, they can give great recommendations and advice on how to run your dog’s playdate. Consult a trainer that is dedicated to ideal interactions and ask for their recommendations.
One of the ideal ways of ensuring that your puppy remains social is to organize meetings with a four-legged friend. These tips should come in handy in ensuring that you arrange the perfect playdate for your dog.
- Creating the Perfect Dog Playdate, Dogster
- 9 Essential Tips for Successful Dog Play Dates, Chewy
- 5 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE SETTING UP A PUPPY PLAY DATE, The Honest Kitchen Blog