Puppy Play Date

by Helen Bemis, CPDT-KA

What could a typical multiple puppy play date look like?

You might see bundles of fur, closely matched by size, with a variety of personalities. Some may be discovering new playmates. Some may be investigating and playing with toys. Some may want to hide and watch the others play. You will often hear laughter as puppies and owners enjoy each moment of the designated play time. Outside the weather may be miserable, but it seems to go unnoticed. We are too occupied with watching the puppies playing.

During one of my puppy play times, I observed a group of four German Shepherd puppies chasing each other around the playroom. Dog toys were scattered throughout the area. Some of the other puppies were chewing on balls, ropes, and toys of every shape and size. A mixed breed puppy was shaking a fluffy toy squirrel that squealed, much to the delight of those who wanted to steal this fun toy. At one point three of the German Shepherd puppies decided to lay down to rest. However the fourth puppy wanted them to continue the chase game. He picked up a snake toy and shook it in front of the three resting puppies. It was a temptation they could not ignore. The chase game began again with everyone wanting to capture the snake toy.

A well planned multiple puppy play date can be a time full of fun and socialization for puppy and human alike.

What constitutes a successful multiple puppy play date? This topic was the subject of an interview I did with Kristina Spaulding, CAAB (Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist) who also has a Ph. D. in biopsychology with research background in dog behavior.

Five areas were considered:

1) Safety

  • Are there areas for a shy puppy to hide/feel safe?
    • Or should there be two groups (1 for shy puppies and 1 for the outgoing puppies)
    • Kristina prefers the two group approach but agrees that as long as the owners know how to use the “hide-a-ways,” a one group mix can work just as well.
  • Is the entrance to the facility separated from the play area?
  • What plans are used to prevent accidental escapes?
  • What is the plan for possession guarding?
  • Most valuable person for safety regulation is the knowledgeable person who understands puppy body language and puppy behaviors.
    • This suggestion Kristina felt was very important.
    • She also suggested that having more than one expert available during play time is an added plus.

2) Location

  • How large is the area?
  • Will puppies be inside or outside?
    • Inside advantages
      • Non-slippery easy to sanitize floor
      • Cool in summer and warm in winter
      • Available rain or shine
      • Possible bathroom available
    • Outside considerations
      • A puppy escape proof fence needed around the area
      • Easier to find a large area for play

3) Information

  • How long will the puppy play time last?
    • Kristina has discovered that the best length of time is about 45 minutes.
    • She also likes to take a break ½ way into the play time.
  • Will there be hand-outs to explain the expectations and/or rules?
  • A knowledgeable person who understands puppy body language and puppy behaviors would be a help to explain any confusing sounds and puppy actions. This would be an important part of the information during the play time.
  • What are the age and size parameters required for participation?
    • Kristina suggests that the range of age be from 9 to 12 weeks.
    • We agree that it would be wise to have a separate play time for the large breed puppies and a different time for the much smaller breed puppies
      • A Great Dane puppy may reach its full height of about 30 inches at about 9 months of age.

4) Advertise

  • Contact breeders – let them know about your puppy play
  • Social media, newspapers
  • Post information at pet stores and on local bulletin boards
  • Notify veterinarians, animal shelters, and rescue groups
  • Make flyers for clients to give to friends
  • We agreed that the best advertisement is “word of mouth.”

5) Props

  • Have a number of toys in all shapes and sizes
  • Chairs (encourage clients to sit)
  • Tables (can be set on edge for a hide-out)
  • Water bowl filled with fresh water
  • Poop bags and clean-up supplies
  • 2 Trash cans (1 for poop, etc. and 1 for paper, etc.)
  • Treats for those that forget to bring some

Final advice for those that consider starting a multiple puppy play date class would be to ask permission to observe or visit those that already have puppy play.




A little about me…

As a child, I lived on a 200+ acre dairy farm in Gansevoort and that is when I began my lifelong love affair with playing and training dogs. In the 1980s, when my children went off to college, my enjoyment of dogs became a career in Professional Dog Training. I have earned the Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) certification. I teach a dog safety class at the local college during the summer and do a number of after school Enrichment programs called the Wow of Bow Wow.

You can view my web site here.

My mission statement:
“Building a better relationship with each human and dog by using tools of love.”