Puppy Playtime

Puppies have a critical socialisation window between 5 weeks and 15 weeks. In this period, they are very developmentally delicate as they learn how to interact with the world around them. Our role is to protect them from trauma, provide positive experiences, teach them self-control, and help them recover from challenges. 

Puppy playtime is critical for all puppies to learn how to interact with other dogs and how hard is too hard to bite when playing. We cannot teach them these skills, nor can adult dogs. Puppy play is paramount! 

Set up puppy playdates with people whose puppies are vetted, healthy, and around the same age / size. 

Preparing the space

  • Security Check – make a quick check of the play area to be sure fencing and doors are secure and no dangerous objects are in the play area.
  • Cleaning Supplies – Check that all needed cleaning materials (poop bags, enzyme solution, clean mop bucket, lined containers) are present but out of reach of the pups.
  • Treats – be sure that each person is armed with tiny delicious treats in a pouch.

Prior to the start of play

  • Keep puppies on leash and treat pouches on.
  • Place water dishes out of reach – puppies should not share water dishes!
  • All toys, chews, and personal items should be picked up before the start of play.
  • Arrange some items that can be used as obstacles to break up any high-speed chasing. Puppies need a place to hide if they are uncomfortable. 
  • Arrange the group so that rambunctious dogs are together and shy dogs are together.

Ready, Set…

  • Get ready by holding the harness, unclip it while still holding, feed a treat, say “go play” and release them to play. Do not just let them go if they are pulling, barking, over-the-top. Wait until they are a little more relaxed and then say “go play” and let go.
  • Each person should follow their puppy and focus on them rather than chatting.
  • Watch the body language for signs of stress – running away, hiding, tucked tail, air snapping.
  • Any dogs showing signs of stress should immediately be picked up and moved away for 15-30 seconds to recover. Place them down at a distance from the group to allow them to choose whether or not they want to re-engage. 
  • Any dogs who are overly rambunctious should be held by harness for a count of 5 for a consent test. If the other dog (on the receiving end) comes back to them for play, let them go. 
  • If anyone is uncomfortable or unsure, they have the right to a judgment-free pause button – yell “break time” and all guardians are to retrieve their pups and get some space.
  • The same goes for potty accidents – yell “clean up” and all guardians are to retrieve their pups while cleanup happens. Do not let the puppies eliminate and run through it or investigate it. 

Take breaks

  • Short play sessions of 2-5 minutes are perfect. Take “recess” and leash up the puppies (follow the leash-up with a treat to associate something great with being leashed!). Allow them to have a drink from their own water bowl and take a breather. When all the dogs are ready, repeat the entire process again. Practice makes perfect!
  • Recess is one thing, but arousal breaks are key too! If the energy is getting a little high or puppies are getting overwhelmed, call for a break and everyone leash up their puppies and take a minute or two away from play.

 Arrange for regular playdates with the same AND new puppies frequently. Manage all playdates the same way.