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Doggie Play Dates: Are They for Your Dog?

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

Read By: Pet Lovers
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Listen carefully... Do you hear what your dog is telling you? "Oooh, Mom, Barkley is out chasing a ball! Can I go play with him?" "Dad, take me to that park down the street so I can run and wrestle with Spot. Pleeease!" "Hey, I'm getting really bored with being sacked out here on the couch. Let's get some exercise and go for a walk with Fluffy and her family!" Doggie play dates give your dog the socialization, entertainment, and exercise that he may crave, and many pet owners are embracing the trend.                

Why Play Dates are Important

Play dates are important to dogs in the same way they are to children. They provide an outlet for excess energy, making your dog less likely to become bored and exhibit destructive behaviors, like chewing on the couch, rummaging through the trash, or even self-mutilation. This release of excess energy also makes your dog more willing to focus during important activities, like obedience training.

Especially important for younger dog, play dates provide socialization with other dogs and other people. Socialization The Importance of Socializing Pups is a key ingredient in raising a well-mannered, polite dog. Spending time with other dogs and people allow your canine the opportunity to share toys, become comfortable with you giving attention to other dogs, and learn appropriate behaviors around strangers and unfamiliar pets. Not only will you provide your dog with these lessons, but your dog will also learn behaviors directly from his playmates.

Time spent playing and exercising is also important in maintaining a dog's health. Running about with a canine friend or participating in a game of fetch are beneficial in muscle development, preventing obesity, and keeping joints flexible and comfortable. Adequate playtime is also crucial for a pet's happiness and mental health.

The Play Date

There are multiple types of doggie play dates to accommodate your preferences and your dog's interests and abilities. From young to old, and playful to shy, there are play date opportunities for every dog who desires socialization with his canine peers.

For the lover of the outdoors or the dog who loves to run, there are fenced off-leash parks where a dog can freely play and romp. There are day care centers for dogs whose families are very busy with work and want a relaxed, tired dog when they get home. Day cares are also great for a special treat for your canine friend a couple times a week. Regularly having friends and their pets over to your home or dropping your dog off at a friend's house for the day are other options. Even a stroll around the block with another friendly pooch can be a healthy outing for your dog.

If you don't have many friends with dogs, or if you're still looking for another dog whose personality matches your dog's, the Internet can help you find your perfect play date partner. Websites such as meetup.com, petster.com, datemypet.com, and dogplaydate.com all allow you to search for other pet lovers, advertise yourself and your dog, and search for the right playmate for your pooch.

Other possibilities for finding the right canine companion include searching locally. Ask your local veterinarian for some advice on finding a friend for your dog. Take your dog to pet stores, bars and malls that allow pets, parks, pet-friendly festivities, etc. and get to know some dogs in your community.

Is the Play Date Appropriate for Your Dog?

Not every play date is appropriate for every dog, and, unfortunately, not every dog is appropriate for interacting with other dogs. Before engaging your dogs with other pets, be sure to do an honest evaluation of your dog and the social situation you are considering. Every dog who is new to the play date scene should take small steps into this exciting, social life.

If your dog has exhibited aggressive behaviors or extreme submission or fear towards other dogs, it is not advisable to subject your dog to a play date until appropriate steps have been taken with a trainer and/or behaviorist.

A young puppy must be fully vaccinated and given a clean bill of health from a veterinarian before socializing with unfamiliar dogs. Start slowly with a pup. Don't take him to a busy park and expect him to instantly know how to interact with the "big dogs". Read this PetPlace article on introducing your puppy to other pets in the household to learn more about puppy for socialization Introducing a New Puppy to Other Pets. Beginning with a play date in the home with a friend's dog may be an ideal start for a pup. Be very careful if a small pup is playing with a large dog, as the large dog can easily, inadvertently injure the puppy.

A geriatric or an unhealthy dog should also not be expected to socialize in large groups or stressful, extremely active situations. Short walks around the block or simply chewing on a toy in the comfort of the home with another less active dog may be all your dog needs to keep him happy and enjoying his life. Some inactive dogs may also enjoy going to the park and relaxing on a bench with his owner, watching the other pets.

Active, healthy dogs are the best candidates for the more active, busy social situations. Day cares, a park full of other dogs, and pet-related festivities (such as a 5K race or a fund-raising parade) may be the perfect play date to entertain and exercise an energetic, well-behaved dog. It is important that you are confident in your dog's obedience skills before subjecting him to a challenging, social situation such as these.

You Will Enjoy It Too!

Not only will your dog thank you for providing him time to spend with his doggie friend, but YOU will also find pleasure in these activities. Spending time with animals will decrease your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels. Play dates can be the perfect relaxation tool after a long day at work. If engaging in exercise with your dog, your health will be further benefitted. Along with the canine companionship, these activities will also provide you with new human friends who share your love of dogs. So, do something nice for your dog and yourself, and book a doggie play date. You might find that it becomes just as much your play date as it is your dog's!

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