Puppy Play is one of those often misunderstood and undervalued facets of puppyhood. In one sense it's just plain fun. In another sense, it's of critical importance.
The fun explanation: Playtime is a romping good time that allows your pup to visit with friends and develop social skills, with many the same benefits as a human child's playdates. Having the ability to tire your puppy out through play with others is just flat-out useful and entertaining.
The important explanation: In addition to being fun, appropriate play addresses many critical developmental skills:
- A puppy with solid canine social skills will have an easier time navigating the world in the future. So will you.
- Playtime is a legal outlet for your puppy's natural need to chew on something/someone. They enjoy it, your family may not!
- More importantly: Young puppies learn an enormous amount by mouthing and chewing each other via play. Should a dog bite as an adult, how hard he bites, or how much injury he may cause, is not something the dog consciously thinks about. We now know that the jaw pressure used when biting as an adult is actually muscle memory developed as a young puppy, typically before the age of 4.5 months of age, possibly sooner. That's pretty important stuff. Even in short bouts of play, your pup gets feedback over and over again on how hard he's biting. Too hard? The other pup won't want to keep playing. When done right, this is how puppies develop "bite inhibition" or the critical muscle memory on how to inhibit their bite.
Not all play is good play: We believe that Playtime should be mutual and optional. To help facilitate this, we pair puppies based on temperament and size. We employ our experience reading canine body language and knowledge of the social interactions of dogs to create a safe environment for all. We strive to teach you these skills as well so that you can help your dog navigate social interactions in the world.
Puppies must be under 4 months to begin attending Playtime, unless express permission given by instructor. Many dogs outgrow the desire to play with young (and often rude) puppies but those who continue to enjoy themselves, maintain good play skills and continue to have appropriate playmates are invited to keep coming. Occasionally we're lucky to have older dogs with exceptional social skills to help teach the pups, please don't be worried if you see an obviously older/larger dog in the room. Dogs with great play skills are often far better teachers than we can ever be. Our skills then come in facilitating these interactions to maximize learning for the pup while protecting the older dog from the wrath of rude puppies.
Read the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior's position on early socialization here.
SCHEDULE: Playtime schedule is changing up a bit. Please email for more info on which group might be appropriate for your pup. Starting 11/4, all classes and Playtime sessions are now at The Puppy Center in E. Rochester. NOTE: Most pups tire out long before the hour is up, particularly in the beginning. If we suggest that your pup is done, please don't be offended! (Setting aside a whole hour gives us a chance to get the pups settled in to appropriate groups and have pups take breaks as needed.)
Puppies must have a minimum of 1 round of puppy vaccinations 7 days prior to attending Playtime or class as well as 1 round of Bordatella/Kennel cough (if intranasal, 4 days beforehand). Puppies should also have been in the home for a minimum of 10 days.
Go to Group Classes.