10 Tips For the Perfect Dog Play Date

It’s just as important to resocialize your dogs as it is for you.

Here are 10 tips for hosting the perfect dog play date.

 

You and your dog have both been stuck at home for the past year. The country is starting to open back up again and, while this is great news for you, it’s a bit sad for your dog.

Dogs are pack animals; it’s in their nature to want to be with other animals (including humans!). Socializing dogs helps them to be behaved in public, be adaptable to new places, and keeps them confident and happy.

We are sure that socializing your dog has been heavy on your mind since Covid-19 hit in 2020, but there’s no need to fret. Now that it is almost time to go back to normal, what can you do to integrate your dog back into puppy play dates? How can you be sure that your dog will take well to being back out in society?

Luckily there are a few ground rules that can help your dog adapt to a more social lifestyle. Read on to find out how to host the perfect dog play date and the best way to make sure your dog can always socialize with his pals.

 

1. Neutral Territory

Dogs can be territorial and unpredictable—especially in an unfamiliar situation—so have everyone meet on neutral turf. If one dog is very protective about his backyard he may become aggressive without warning.

To avoid this, find a great dog park or meet in the yard of a mutual (and petless) friend.

 

Make sure your dogs have plenty of space to play on their dog play date.

2. Safe Space

The ultimate dog play date will include lots of running, chasing, ball throwing, and jumping. It’s important to find plenty of room in a fenced-in area where they can run freely without fear.

Make sure they have enough room to run but not so much that you can’t get to them if they get hurt.

 

3. Choose Your Player

When making your guest list, choose dogs that are relatively matched in size and strength. A huge golden retriever could inadvertently hurt a pug and a teacup Yorkie would get demolished by a mastiff.

Age and temperament are another thing to keep in mind, too. A puppy may have too much energy for a senior dog, which would be no fun for either of them. Even if your dog is docile and loves other dogs, having a puppy constantly nipping at his ears might annoy him. Some dog parks even separate the large breeds from the small breeds to avoid mishaps.

 

4. Refreshments

Hydration is key when your dog is being active. Make sure you bring some water (these travel dog water bottles are easy) and some favorite treats to keep their energy up.

One good rule to abide by is to bring neutral bowls. Again, dogs can become territorial over “their” things, so always bring a bowl or bottle that doesn’t inspire any possessive behavior. Also, check with the other dog owner(s) to be sure that their dog can have the treats you brought. Some dogs have allergies just like humans.

The Chicken Bark from Rick’s Dog Deli is a nearly universal favorite. Made from 100% human-grade chicken, this single-ingredient snack will satisfy any hungry puppy!

Pay attention to the dogs' demeanor when you're on a play date.

5. Do Some Research

Dogs play differently with each other than they do with humans. What seems like aggression may in fact be harmless play.

Do some research on the body language and sounds that dogs make while playing. Humans tend to intervene when they don’t need to, because they are worried their dogs are getting too rough.

There are some obvious signs when your dog is not enjoying the activity. A dog who feels safe and happy will have their ears up and their tails wagging. A dog who is angry or apprehensive will puff themselves up to look bigger, flatten their ears, and bark or growl.

 

6. Neutral Toys

No, you don’t have to buy new toys for each dog play date, but it’s important that you don’t bring your pup’s favorite toy. You might think he is the sweetest pup who shares everything, but when you throw Flopsy out to the wolves, you might get a surprise.

Keep some toys in your trunk that don’t resemble the ones at home and only bring them out for special occasions.

 

7. Be Prepared To Leave

Sometimes despite all of our efforts, our dogs just don’t want to play.

Just like humans, dogs have emotions. They might not like the other dog or they might not feel like being active that day. If you’ve been there for a while and your dog is just lying at your feet or becoming aggressive, pack up and try again another day.

 

8. Pay Attention

You’re probably just as eager to socialize as your dog, but don’t spend the whole time talking or scrolling through Instagram.

Dogs require constant supervision so they don’t get hurt or ingest something dangerous. Trust us, you don’t want a hefty vet bill because your dog ate something gross left at the dog park.

Two happy dogs sitting next to each other

9. Vaccinate

You can’t do much about the humans at the dog park (some even require vaccine proof!) but you can make sure your dog is protected.

If your dog spends any time in public or around other dogs, make sure they are up to date on their vaccines. Be sure that you have that conversation with any potential play pups, too.

 

10. Insurance

Yes, dogs need insurance too! There are a lot of different types of plans and you’ll have to research which might be right for you. With the average vet visit being anywhere from $50-$1000+, pet insurance can really help if your dog gets sick or injured. Make sure you know what the insurance covers so that there are no surprises if your dog needs to be seen.

 

Conclusion

Because dogs are pack animals, they benefit greatly from regular interaction with other dogs.

It’s been a hard year and getting back to normal will be a long process. With this in mind, and the list above, you will soon be on your way to normal dog play dates again. Make sure you’re patient with yourself, as well as your pup; resocializing yourselves will take time!

Call us today for some great neutral treat options or for recommendations on our favorite dog parks.

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