Want to join or organize a playgroup for your dog? Take these tips into consideration before setting your first date.
Are doggy play dates fun? Absolutely! And bringing a few pooches together on a regular basis in a controlled setting has benefits too! Play dates ensure optimal physical health through established play and exercise, while giving the dogs an opportunity to socialize.
Forming a doggy playgroup may sound as simple as finding a group of like-minded folks with dogs, but there are some things to keep in mind. Follow these tips and suggestions for a positive experience.
9 tips for safe and successful play dates
- Does your dog interact with unfamiliar dogs in a friendly and confident way? If he’s more of a loner who doesn’t get on that well with other pooches, a playgroup may not be for him.
- A playgroup can consist of a small group of friends, neighbours or family members who also have dogs. If you don’t want to start your own group, and would rather join an existing one, check at your vet’s office, grooming salon or pet supply store to see if they have any contacts.
- An informal doggy playgroup shouldn’t include more than a few dogs. It could range from just two to around half a dozen dogs.
- While play dates may take part in someone’s backyard after the dogs have become firm friends, it’s best to meet in a neutral spot, such as a park, when starting out. Either way, choose a safe setting away from traffic, and one that’s ideally fenced in.
- Consider your dog’s play style. Not all dogs enjoy rough-housing, for example, so it’s important that the dogs in the group enjoy similar types of activity. A dog who prefers to chase, for example, may feel bullied or threatened if matched with a dog who likes to wrestle.
- Also consider your dog’s breed and size. Different breeds have different play styles and levels of stamina, so it’s important that there are at least one or two dogs in the group who can play safely with your own canine, whether he’s a Dachshund or a Great Pyrenees.
- Further to the above point, you may be able to find a breed-specific doggy playgroup, depending on where you live. One doggy parent says he takes his Yorkie to meetups with fellow Yorkies, so socialization takes place between the same breed and size of dog; because the owners of the dogs are familiar with the behaviour of the breed, they are able to identify unwanted conduct.
- Be sure your dog is well-trained, and will obey your “commands” in a group situation. A solid, positively-trained “recall” means you can quickly call your dog back from any potentially uncomfortable encounter.
- Always supervise the dogs during a play date. Watching your pooch play is as important as the play itself, as it could prevent an aggressive situation from occurring. Harmless canine play has a different look to fighting “play”. Dog expert sources state that if the dog has a closed mouth, is emitting a low-toned growl, exhibits flat ears and a stiff body with quick movements, as opposed to bouncy and playful, the chances are that playtime is over and a fight may ensure. Recall your dog to defuse the situation.
Play dates aren’t just for puppies, but for dogs of all ages. Our canine companions are naturally active and social animals, so fostering these connections with a playgroup that meets on a regular basis is a wonderful way to keep them healthy and happy.