Planning a Safe and Happy Doggie Playdate

Every dog needs a playmate. Another pup to roll in the grass with, to chase a ball with, or romp around with. Healthy dog socialization starts from an early age, but is important for all pups, young or old. Socialization sets the groundwork for easy, low-stress interaction and play as they grow older.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to dogs playing together. Before you start a puppy play group with all your dog-loving friends, consider these tips. You want to be sure that your pup’s first (and every) playdate is a safe and happy experience.

Start with the Top 4 Doggie Playdate Elements

1. The Dog
While some dogs are able to play nice, no matter their size, this is just not true for every dog. Consider keeping things more equal by finding another dog close to the same age, weight, size, and overall temperament as your dog. It’s good to note, however, that even big dogs like Great Danes can be gentle giants so this rule doesn’t always apply.

2. Location
In the dog world, meeting on neutral territory is key. The spot you select should be a place you’ve never, or rarely, taken your dog to. The reason is, dogs are territorial and if it is a place they feel is their own, they might get possessive and this could quickly escalate to a dog fight.

3. Exercise First
Walking with your pup by your side forms a bond between the two of you and also allows them to focus on the task at hand. Not only are they getting physical exercise, but also mental stimulation. This makes for a happy, healthy pup! Before any meet-and-greet, make sure you exercise your pet so he is at ease and less excitable when he encounters new dogs.

4. Leash or No Leash?
This rule depends on the situation. On some occasions, it’s best to have a leash, while you can relax the rules a bit for others. If you’re walking to a park to meet up, a leash should be used. When meeting the other dog, the leash should be loose, not tight. Your dog may feel a little threatened initially and a taut leash can enhance this feeling. Keeping a loose leash, while walking alongside, is a good way to introduce other walking companions.

Going into an off-leash dog park with your dog wearing a leash is not a good idea. Imagine it from your dog’s perspective: several dogs are rushing toward you and you have absolutely no way to get away or to move about as you please. Keeping your dog stuck on that leash causes a rise in his anxiety that other dogs sense. This can lead to a tricky situation. If you are uncomfortable bringing your pup to a dog park unleashed, it may be best to stay away all together.

A Few More Elements to Consider for a Doggie Playdate

5. Water Breaks
Playing and romping about can make any dog thirsty! Keep your pet hydrated for health reasons and for the opportunity to take a break when they need a break from the other dogs.

6. Supervision
It’s easy to let your attention drift to your friends or cell, but remember, you are here for your pup. Play can escalate to a fight quickly, so keep a look out for rigid, focused movements. It’s good to be familiar with reading canine body language so that you can pick up physical cues early. That water break may be a good idea at this point. If their play is loose and bouncy, you are good to go!

7. Toys or No Toys
Base this decision on your dog’s demeanor when it comes to toys. If your dog is ever possessive with a toy, keep the toys at home. Let them play first and get to know each other before introducing a toy or other cherished item. If they have fun with it, great! If there’s any tension, you may need to take away toys to let them focus on playing together.

The Successful Doggie Playdate Is Within Reach

Now that you have a well-socialized puppy, try and keep the ball rolling (pun intended). When dogs stop interacting with each other, they lose some of their new skills. Make your playdates consistent. You may even want to enlist the help of or other online social forums, where you can schedule group outings. Your dog will cherish all of the time spent exercising and interacting with you and his new pup peeps.

If you have any questions about doggie playdates or your dog’s behavior, contact any of us here at ULPS for more suggestions. Or socialize your puppy with our Puppy Play Nights or let your dog socialize with a group of Dog Daycare friends or our Daycare Socialization training.