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  • Writer's picturePup Rascal

Rascal on Puppy Play - A Handler's Guide

Having gained a significant amount of puppy play experience, I would like to share my thoughts and observations. Firstly, I believe puppy play can be anything that you make it, in my opinion there are no rules to the game, and each pup, handler and dynamic will be different. What I discuss here is personal to me but the observations will undoubtedly be true for others.

Human Vs Pup

An area that often creates confusion is whether I am in pup mode or not. To help simplify this I have my own little rule to allow others to distinguish between human and pup mode. If I am doing human things then I am not in pup mode. If I am stood at a bar dressed in full puppy kit and ordering a drink, I am not in pup mode despite the outfit, ordering a beer is absolutely a human behaviour. If I am on all fours and sniffing your shoes, this is puppy behaviour which indicates I am in puppy mode and I should be treated like a puppy.

Pup Headspace

The transition from human mode to puppy mode is an important aspect of getting into the headspace. I’m sure each pup is different, but my transition happens when I don my hood and gloves, I get on all fours and put my head to the floor. I close my eyes and take a deep breath before I raise my head and start to wag my tail, I am now in the headspace of a puppy. The longer I am in pup mode the deeper I go, my focus on the actions and behaviours of a puppy become more acute which only serves to enhance the puppy play experience.

It is important to note that when I am in puppy mode, I am vulnerable. My field of vision is significantly reduced due to the pup mask and being on the floor. The mask is also made of thick neoprene, it’s tightly fitting which squashes my ears and reduces my hearing, so I look to my handler for protection and guidance.

The Human Aspect

While I try to mimic the behaviours and actions of a puppy as close as I can, I am still a human. The handler or those who interact with me should be cognisant of this fact. Throwing a toy in the air and hoping I will catch it in my human mouth, through my pup hood is never going to happen. Nor am I ever going to be able to pick up a tennis ball in my mouth. Fetch is a fun game but when you throw it into the dirt or something unhygienic I would rather not pick this up with my mouth. Tug or war is another fun game but remember I am human and when you yank a toy out of my mouth you are damaging my teeth, please be gentle.

I have learnt that while I am deep in puppy headspace I am also required to remember that I am still human and my actions while in puppy mode can’t be blamed on puppy play. What I am talking about here is consent. I find this aspect of puppy play to be quite complex. Puppies often approach a stranger and shove their nose up a lady’s skirt or into a guy’s crotch, while I am sure some people on the scene might find this funny there are others that would take great offence. I have found that some people take offence when I sniff their shoes, which in real terms is the touching of a fabric nose against the material of the shoe but I have been attacked for this. If a man is kneeling and kissing a lady’s foot, a pup may approach this activity and lick the lady’s foot or the man’s face. I am human and should be aware this is a scene which should not be interrupted, it is examples like this where I need to remain in my human headspace while simultaneously diving deep into the pup headspace.

As I mentioned previously, I find this quite complex, mainly due to sensory deprivation. I can’t see if someone is smiling and wanting to interact with me. My field of vision is as high as your waist at best, so I have learnt to read and reciprocate non-verbal communication. If I approach someone and I see them edging away from me then I tend to pass them by. I often approach new people slowly and if they put out a hand for me to sniff then I do this cautiously and begin to wag my tail the more they interact. This is where I believe the handler can really make a difference. The handler can see and hear much more and so I rely on the handler to guide me towards the people who they think will interact and guide me away from those who just don’t want to play.

I have also experienced the consent issue the other way around. Largely because when I am doing puppy play I am practically naked, people are unsure if they can touch me………and where they can touch me. I believe that if any human is behaving like a puppy and wanting interaction but they take offence to someone stroking and patting them, they need to have a serious word with themselves. I totally understand the ‘where can I touch’ question but my response would be the same, if I am acting like a puppy then please treat me like one. I don’t know anyone who has kicked a dog in the balls or used a flogger across its back. This of course may change when I know someone and a dynamic is established.

Check out my guide to training.

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