Thanks Big Lots for sponsoring this post. Don’t worry though, all opinions about their fabulousness are my own!
Doggies like humans, need socialization, regardless of how big your backyard is. They need to be able to smell new smells and hang out with other doggies, not just their house mates. However, there are a few things you need to consider before you let them loose on doggy playdates. Here are a few suggestions.
If you’re simply looking for another dog to tire your cooped up, energetic dog, then your playdates may not end well. All dogs need to come into a playdate in a calm, relaxed state, confident, and well-balanced, not in a state of fear or excitement. As such, you should always walk your dog prior to any meetings (whether they’re playdates or you’re taking them to the dog park), to help them release most of their energy. That may mean you walk them for 15 minutes, an hour, or more. You know your dog better than anyone else, so please do your part to ensure they will be relaxed enough to be receptive to another dog or multiple dogs in their space. Next you should honor whether you’ve done your part to socialize them so they’re not timid or aggressive around other dogs. Do they do better with – female or male dogs. Do they have a size preference? Do they like to be chased? Etc. My dogs are older so they don’t really want to play, they just want to explore without being bothered too much.
Don’t schedule any playdates without spending some time around the dog(s) you want to introduce to your furbaby. I have several friends with dogs, but we’ve rarely had off leash playdates because some have either failed to socialize their dog and some of their dogs have habits that I know would bring a rise our of mine, so I just keep them away or on leash to avoid any scuffles. We all love our furbabies so we always hope they’ll be on their best behavior, but they need to be trained to mimic that behavior. And since I can’t control how the other dog(s) have been trained, I honor the fact that we’re dealing with domesticated animals, with animal instincts. That’s why I’m always casting a watchful eye toward where ever my furbabies are to make sure they’re in a safe space. I also have no issue with cutting a playdate short if I feel things may go down hill.
Playdates are a great way to not only provide your dog physical and mental stimulation, but they’re also a great way to learn boundaries, so it’s best to take things slow. That means introducing them to each other outside of known territory, i.e. don’t meet at each other’s house. Instead, head to a park or any dog friendly outdoor spot. This takes out any territorial feelings either may have. And when you meet up, don’t let them immediately sniff each other. Instead take them for an on leash walk and have them walk side by side to each other until they feel relaxed in each other’s presence. Then you can allow them to sniff each other, giving praise as they continue to do so in a calm fashion. If their body language continues to indicate good vibes, then you can decide whether you should drop the leash or not. If you’re not feeling it though, don’t and totally allow yourself to feel calm about ending the playdate there because initial playdates should be short. Just like people, dogs feel the most relaxed and comfortable around other dogs they trust, but sometimes it all just takes a little time. So if the initial meeting went well, schedule another one for a bit longer, until they’re able to spend longer periods of time together to play.
When I host doggy playdates, I always tend to bring a little doggie treat bag filled with some yummy treats and toys from my neighborhood Big Lots. And I make it a point to gift it to the playdate’s owner, not the doggie itself, to keep it from being distracted and territorial.
Then once all signs point to calm, relaxed canines, and we feel comfortable with the situation and everyone’s body language, we let them off leash to explore each other and their new surroundings. We just make sure to remove any toys and/or food (treats), and offer up enough water and shade for breaks.
This doesn’t mean we’re now free to head off with our friend(s) to chat or get lost in our phones. I know I still need to keep an eye on how they’re interacting with each other and if I notice anything but happy panting and/or low, wagging tails (which are all good signs) I call my dog over, access the situation, and decide whether they just need a break or it’s time to call it a day.
5. What if a scuffle breaks out?
Don’t panic or freak out. Remain calm and use a stern voice and a loud clap or whistle to distract them enough to separate them, leash them, and check for injuries. Thankfully scuffles tend to look and sound worse than they are, but you should still document the incident and have a conversation with the other furbaby owner to make sure you’re on the same page on what happened and what you want to do next.
As you can see, playdates can be a great way to socialize our dogs, but everyone has to be on the same page for it to be a success. So do your part and enjoy while you and your furbaby have a wonderful, relaxing time!
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