Dogs are naturally social creatures, and while you may feel like you can be their one and only friend in the world, many of them enjoy being in the company of other canines. However, there is an art to setting up a successful dog playdate – and what works for one pup is not going to work for another. Sometimes, a playdate can serve a more practical purpose as well. For example, you may have a puppy who needs to be socialized at the right time for the good of their future development.
If you are not an experienced dog owner, you may not really know where to begin when it comes to setting up a doggy playdate that will live long in the memory. Luckily, we are here to lend a bit of a helping paw in this regard.
Know What Your Dog Likes
The better you know your furry friend, the easier it is going to be to set up the perfect playdate. First, it helps if you know how they are going to react to other dogs. This is obviously not applicable if you are adopting a new puppy, but you can ask the rescue workers if you are bringing home a new pooch from the shelter. Consider how many dogs that your dog can interact with before they become overwhelmed and overexcited. It also helps if you have plenty of humans around to intervene in case something doesn’t seem to be going well. Also, you should take the age and size of the dogs into consideration. For example, older dogs won’t necessarily appreciate young puppies bounding around and jumping all over them. And little Chihuahuas are not going to fair well is they are paired up with huge Great Danes! If you already know how your dog likes to play, you can match them with other dogs who also like playing in a similar way.
Choose Your Setting Wisely
When you are setting a playdate, you should think about how the location is going to play an inevitable role in proceedings. A fully fenced outdoor area is a good starting point as this ensures that no dogs are going to bound off into the distance and get themselves lost. It is also better if you choose a place that is neutral to all of the players. Otherwise, some of them may start to get a little territorial and protective over particular spots, which is exactly what you want to avoid. Remember that you need to be properly respectful of whatever location you choose, meaning that you should clean up after your dog when it is time to go home.
If you choose an indoor location, it is important that you do all of the dog proofing beforehand. And this means moving anything valuable well out of the way. Also, be careful of anything that could be harmful such as toxic plants or medications. And you should also be wary of anything that could cause conflict between the dogs. Things that they can fight over such as bones and toys can prove to be particularly big issues.
Be Prepared for Disappointment
Even if you feel like you have set up the best doggy playdate imaginable, there are times when things don’t go exactly as you planned. Sometimes, this is due to mismatched personalities or the simple fact that the two dogs do not get along as you would have hoped. If you notice that things are not going well, you may need to end the session earlier than planned. Although it is frustrating to put a lot of effort into something that doesn’t work out, it is better than allowing your dogs to play badly and potentially end up in a confrontational situation. It may be that one of the dogs is not in the right mood, so you could wait to try again at a later date.
Keep Plenty of Supplies On Hand
Play dates can become extremely active affairs – and the hot weather can mean that dogs get worn out extremely quickly. The first thing that you need to have on hand is plenty of fresh water. While some dogs don’t mind drinking out of the same bowl, others prefer to have their own individual bowl, so you will need to have this ready too. If your dogs forget to take a drink in all the fun and excitement, you may need to encourage them to do so.
And if your dogs end up playing together for a long period of time, you will need to offer them some sustenance. This means having some treats ready for them. These can also work to clam your dogs down when they are getting overly excited. Also, all the dogs should be wearing collars – and you also need to have leashes or dog harnesses for them if things get a little too rowdy and the dogs need to be separated. Find out more about dog collars and dog leashes here.
Allow Your Dogs to Enjoy the Playtime
When you spend a lot of time organizing a playdate, it can be tempting to get too involved and manage every single little aspect of it. However, the whole point of this is for your dog’s enjoyment, so you should allow them to explore the environment at their own pace. They will want to interact with the environment and each other in the way that they choose. But you can help things along by recognizing safe and appropriate play with plenty of praise – and maybe a few treats as well. If you interfere too much, you are only likely to put the dogs off their stride. And you could inadvertently upset the playdate entirely.
Play Some Games
While it is great to allow your dogs to play individually, you can still play some joint games with them as well. If you really want to go to town, you could set up an agility course in your backyard and take turns in getting your dogs to tackle it. There are plenty of other games that work well as a group. You could have an obedience contest to see who responds to the commands the quickest. If you are planning on playing fetch with multiple dogs, you need to ensure that you use a ball that is suitable for all the guests in attendance. Otherwise, you could be giving one a significant advantage over the others. There is a health and safety concern here as well. A larger dog could end up swallowing a toy meant for a smaller breed – and this could present a choking hazard. Check out our guides on dog agility tunnels and dog toys for more info.
Keep an Eye on the Dogs
While you may have organized the playdate to catch up with some old friends, you should still ensure that you keep a close eye on the dogs at all times. This is especially important if you are in an open environment where there is a danger that the pooches could run away and break free.
Dog play can quickly spiral out of control and what was playful one minute can turn out to be aggressive the next. One of the other pleasures in keeping an eye on your dog is watching them as they play. You may learn some new facets to their personality that you never really knew about before.
The other main thing that you can learn by keeping a close eye on all the guests at the playdate is making sure that everyone gets along well. This way, you will know whether or not you can make a similar match in the future. Some dogs simply don’t interact well with one another, and this is certainly not something that you should force. Also, you should be aware of any dogs who are older or suffering from health issues. They are more at risk of getting injured if the playdate doesn’t go well.
Watch the Weather
If you organize a playdate outside, the weather is bound to play a role in it. You should be careful of all extremes of temperature and conditions. Extreme heat or cold can be especially problematic for dogs who are suffering from heart issues, those who are overweight and older. If the sun starts shining strongly, it is a good idea to have a designated shady spot where the dogs can rest and unwind. This is where you can put the water, and as we mentioned earlier, it is important that you encourage everyone to drink plenty of H2O.
As you can see from this list, organizing a doggy playdate may not have been the simple task that you thought it was. There are all sorts of individual points to consider to ensure that your dog has a good time – and more importantly – stays safe. Once you have organized a few of these, you start to learn what to look out for and things become easier in the future. Ultimately, it is supposed to be fun for both of you, but it just takes a little practice to get right.