Your dog’s social skills should begin developing between 8 to 16 weeks old. To help hone these skills, you and your family should regularly practice socializing your pup. You can also hire a professional trainer to do this, or take your dog to “puppy kindergarten” to help acclimate your pet to a variety of situations with people and other animals. To help your dog become confident, well balanced and compatible, you should reward them with treats, praise and toys. When you or the trainer think your puppy is ready, start scheduling play dates! Here are some of IKO Community Management’s best tips on planning the perfect puppy play date:
Invite the best partners. Like humans, each dog has its unique personality. To find out which other pups make the best partners for your pet, organize a small party with up to 4 dogs at a time. Make sure they are all similar in age, size and styles of play. For example, Australian shepherds prefer activities that hone their instinctual skills, such as stalking and chasing. However, more robust breeds like Labradors, pit bulls and boxers prefer body contact, wrestling and mouthing. As you introduce your dog to new playmates, notice which games they enjoy playing together. This will help you find potential, better-suited partners for your pup in the future.
Choose the proper location. Begin by inviting over friends’ or other family’s dogs. Your home is a familiar location, so your dog will adapt to the situation easier. When your pup is ready, go out to the local dog park or doggy daycare to meet new four-legged friends. Consider outdoor areas with shade, fences and barriers, too.
Play it safe. When introducing new playmates, owners should keep their pups on a leash. After introductions are over (and sniffed), feel free to let the dogs roam around a bit. While your dogs are free to play, make sure you still actively supervise. When the dogs take natural breaks, do not forget to hydrate and feed them. Pack a bowl and some water as well as healthy snacks, such as cheese or peanut butter.
Tip: If you are worried about being able to bring your dog back to you, you can clip mini leashes called tabs onto their collars.
Know when to call it quits. You want your dog to have the most positive experience possible when it comes to interacting with other dogs and their owners. When your pup tires out, it is probably time to take them back home. Do not let the play date get too rowdy, or your pup will associate this play dates with all future play dates. If you notice your dog getting too loud or tense, do not panic and grab your dog by the collar as you may get bitten. Instead make a sudden noise by clapping sharply and yelling. This will often interrupt the scuffle, causing the play session to end immediately.
Before you begin planning regular play parties with your pup, make sure your dog wants a new partner. Keep the initial interaction in a quiet and calm area, preferably outdoors, and monitor how well your pet plays with its first friend. If all is going smooth, let your pet enjoy the company, but know when to call the date’s end. Reward your pup with treats, cuddles and even more play dates! From all of us at IKO Community Management, happy play date!