Play-date Etiquette

7 tips to organize the best dog play-date

Dogs are naturally social, and while they love their owners unconditionally, they still love to mix and mingle with other dogs; it’s part of what helps them understand social structure and brings out their play instincts.

When organizing a play date, here are 7 things to keep in mind to ensure its safe, fun and a smooth experience for both dogs and owners!

1. Know your dogs

When you decide to organize a dog play-date, consider the number of doggy guests you can comfortably handle – usually determined by the size of your house or park, try to keep the dog to human ratio of 1:2 to ensure adequate supervision for each dog.
You will also want to take the size and age of your dog, and the dogs you invite, into consideration. Unless they are familiar with each other, dogs should ideally be the same size and age.
It is also important to make sure that all dogs are vaccinated and disease free, and preferably neutered especially if you have both genders attending.

2. Pick the Right Environment

Before deciding where to host your play-date, consider the pros and cons of each option. If you have a garden or space at home that is dog proof, keep in mind that you’ll be limited to just a few dogs.
In most cases, play-dates will be more ideal in an outdoor environment like a park or beach or desert, as you can incorporate walks, more games, chasing games and of course, fresh air and sunshine.

3. Don’t Forget the Supplies

The pups will likely be moving nonstop, so you’ll want to give them access to fresh water throughout the entire play-date. Whether a bowl, or a water bottle, ensure its on hand, especially in the hot summer months. If the dogs play for hours, you may want some treats stashed somewhere safely that you can give them under supervision. It’s also important to have collars on all dogs and leashes nearby in the event that a play session gets a little too rowdy and the dogs need to be temporarily separated.

4. First Impressions Count!

Even if your dog has played with his doggy friends before, it’s important to have them greet each other in a calm and relaxed manner. Apply the 3 seconds rule when meeting a new dog if on a leash and remain friendly and calm. Bear in mind that not every dog is comfortable for a stranger with a dog to approach while on a leash, ask the owner if it is okay . If meeting dogs in a dog park, ensure that your dog is comfortable to enter, do not force it. Just like humans some dogs prefer not to socialize in a large group. Make sure to unleash your dog safely when entering the park , this way your dog will not feel trapped when other dogs’ rushes to greet or investigate.

5. Organize Games

One way to keep a play-date fun is to organize a few fun games to keep the pups energized and engaged. It can be as simple as fetch, hide and seek or having a manners (obedience) contest. Give toys for prizes—who can do the quickest ‘down,’ stay the longest, speak, come when called etc.

6. Be a Smart Referee

Dog owners and buddies should keep an eye out for any type of behavior that looks unfriendly, aggressive or fearful including excessive snarling, growling, biting, humping, trying to escape or play that gets too rough. And don’t be afraid to ask rowdy dogs to leave. Advise owners in advance that if for any reason their dog is showing any unacceptable behavior that your dog do not appreciate , they will be excused, or put in a time out area.

Part of the fun of hosting a dog play-date is the dog parents and buddies getting together. While play dates are a great excuse for owners and buddies to bond, it’s important that you occasionally look up from your chatter to police any situations that occur. Be relaxed, as dogs can pick up on your body language.

If things DO go wrong, step in to do the right thing. Separate the dogs and check for injuries. Document any injuries (or the lack thereof) with pictures in case you are looking after someone’s dog. Have an open and honest talk with the other owner, and make sure you’re on the same page as to what happened and where to go from there.

7. Don’t be afraid to say no

If you aren’t comfortable with a play-date, you won’t be doing your dog a favor by going ahead anyway. Be polite, but firm. The other person will understand or they won’t; you have to put your dog’s safety first.

Play-dates can be a great way to socialize your dogs, but only if you set everyone involved up for success!

Share on your