You know that introducing your puppy to both new humans and new dogs is crucial to properly socializing your puppy. There are some things, however, you should prepare for before having a puppy play date with a neighbor, family member, or friend’s dog. Both your puppy and their prospective playmate may be fantastic dogs, but there are still a few things you should ask the other owner before having a puppy play date.
1. Is everyone up on their shots?
It may seem invasive, but it is important to make sure both parties have their proper vaccines before a puppy play date. Depending on your pup’s age, they may not have all of their vaccinations yet. Most pups have all of their shots completed by four months, and the critical months for socializing start at eight weeks. Well, how are you supposed to set up a play date if they haven’t had all of their shots, you ask? As long as your puppy and his playmate are in a secured area, such as your fenced backyard, and not a public area where they can be exposed to germs, such as a local dog park, your pup should be able to safely be socialized.
2. What is your dog’s play style?
While it is obvious that nearly all puppies are playful, that does not mean they all like to play in the same way. Some puppies like to get physical and playfully nip. Others would rather cautiously sniff each other and engage in lighter play. It is important to ask a potential puppy play date partner what their puppy’s play style is. By no means do you want to limit your puppy to meeting dogs that are exactly like them, but you want to make sure you aren’t bringing a shy, timid, puppy into a situation where they will feel terrified of a highly energetic, physical puppy.
3. What is the age and sex of your dog?
Introducing your puppy to other puppies is important, but it is equally important to introduce them to older dogs and dogs of the opposite sex as well. If the dog you want to set up a play date with is the same sex and close in age with your pup, be prepared to intervene if the two do not take; dogs of the same sex and age are more prone to aggression than dogs of the opposite sex.
4. Is your pup spayed/neutered?
Most puppies can be spayed or neutered at eight weeks if they are healthy. However, sometimes vets may recommend waiting a little longer in certain circumstances. If neither of your dogs have been spayed or neutered, be prepared to intervene in case of mounting or in the case of same sex pairs, aggression. Or, to be completely safe, you can opt to have a puppy play date with a spayed or neutered puppy instead.
5. What kind of treats does your pup like?
When first introducing two puppies or any two dogs on a play date it is important to be able to reward generously for healthy and fun interaction. If the one dog seems to need a break from the other, lure your pup with treats and give the two a break for a minute or two before reintroducing them. If they are playing well together, be sure to reward them with treats, as long as neither of the dogs have a particular issue with guarding.
Having puppy play dates is a vital step in properly socializing your puppy. If you have asked all of these questions and you still feel like something is off about the play date, it is OK go with your instinct and opt out of the play date. Just be sure to find a puppy play mate that works for your puppy to insure he grows into a happy, secure, calm adult dog.