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A Playdate Checklist for Dogs and Puppies

A playdate can be a lot of fun for dogs and puppies.  However, don’t rush into it without a playdate checklist for essential precautions. Just like humans, some dogs just don’t get along with each other.

An experience meant to be fun can become scary when dogs aren’t a good match for each other.

Let me tell you about one of my dogs.  Because I think it’s a lesson for us all.

One day, when my now 12-year-old Papillon, Junior, was training in Agility, I took him to a group class.  He was about 2 years old at the time. Dogs of various breeds and sizes were there. But my 5-pound Junior was the smallest dog – and also one of the fastest.

Fortunately for us both, he ran the fastest...

As you’re about to learn.

For safety, dogs were expected to be on a leash except when it was their turn on the agility course. But all it takes is one rule-breaker to create chaos.

Junior had always loved agility and on that day he ran his practice course with his usual joyful excitement, until…

A large off-leash dog appeared out of nowhere and began chasing my Junior across the field as if Junior were a prey animal.

Junior ran the fastest he’d ever run.  He was literally running for his life!  And I was running for his life, too!

I somehow managed to rescue him, but really, he rescued himself. Because the other dog, 20 times Junior’s size, was never able to catch him!

Although Junior wasn’t physically harmed, the experience traumatized him emotionally. It wasn’t until two years later that his confidence was restored enough so that he could once again find joy in playing dog sports.

I wanted to share Junior’s scary experience with you as a reminder that you are your dog’s advocate.  When your dog greets or plays with other dogs, make sure the experience will affect your dog in the best possible way.

A great way to give your dog some happy playtime with another dog or two is to set up a play date with friends’ dogs. 

I created a convenient checklist of ten things you can do first to make sure that every play date is the happiest possible memory for every dog. Here are the first five playdate checklist items:

  • The dogs in the playgroup should be of appropriate ages.  Puppies can be overwhelmed by adult dogs.  More sensitive adults can resent the energy of a puppy.
  • Match dogs of compatible sizes. Big differences in sizes also mean differences in play styles. Smaller dogs can feel defensive and bigger dogs can play rough.

  • Playstyle and energy can be so different that the dogs don’t easily interact with each other. Dogs have more fun when they like the same games.
  • When potential playmates meet for the first time, introduce them in a neutral location.  Give them a chance to learn about each other and decide to be friends.
  • Avoid leash interference. Restraint on the leash causes dogs to resist and pull against the restraint. When a dog is restrained on a tight leash, it interferes with his ability to make friends with a new dog.

dogs on leash

The last five play date checklist items are about your role as a dog advocate in assuring that playdates are happy memories.

Click here to find the playdate checklist. You’ll probably have some questions about the last five items on the list.

No worries.  I am going to cover those in detail for you in next week’s post.

PS – In case you wondered, I “educated” the owner of the dog that chased Junior. I used some of my juiciest words – the ones reserved for “special occasions”. Not sorry!   I wanted to make the event memorable for her, too!  

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