Play Dates

‘Play is a phenomenal outlet for a dog’s natural behaviours..Dogs very often don’t get an opportunity to express what comes naturally to them’

(Gail T Fisher – author, trainer and owner of alldogs gym )

Play dates are an arranged off-lead meeting, activity or walk with suitable doggie friends.  There are many types of doggie play dates to accommodate our doggie interests and abilities. From young to old, playful to shy, there are play date opportunities for every dog and human who realise the importance of socialisation and play with canine peers.

As you know I am a lucky girl to have such nice friends of all different ages, breeds and sizes.  Even luckier that Vikki thinks it important to arrange my play dates with them.  She believes that play dates with my doggie friends are a good mental break, great physical activity and an effective stress reliever.  Physically, mentally, and emotionally, it’s healthy for me. 

A refreshing dip with my beach play date friends

Play dates give us dogs (and their humans!) a great opportunity for entertainment and exercise.  Leading experts, such as Dr Ian Dunbar, have helped to raise awareness of the positive and beneficial effects of play dates.  The general concensus among authors of the most popular and respected postive training and clicker training books stress that such playtime is crucial and essential for a dog’s development and well-being:

Play dates provide socialisation with other dogs and other people. Socialisation 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.

Learning how to share: 

One of our favourite reference websites is Dr Dunbar’s ‘Dogstardaily’ – click here to read his section on DOG PLAY

Dogs learn about each others signals and body language through play.  Through play a dog learns how to respect and understand other dogs.      

For example the ‘bow’ is one of my ultimate favourites (also a great wake up morning back stretch).   The doggie “play-bow” is a powerful signal, a ‘canine diplomatic protocol’ that most of us dogs learn to understand very early on. When a dog invites another to play, they bow with the front paws outstretched and the hind end raised. During such posturing, they have on their “play face,” with mouth open and ears pricked.

The dog may also wag his tail and sometimes bark. This signals the fun stuff that is to follow normally chasing, jumping, lunging, leaping about, playing chase.

Bow time means ‘Ready to play?’:

It is during this time that dogs are free to rehearse, role play, practise and develop their natural play styles. 

For us Ridgebacks, this would mean using our natural agility and change of direction, circling and sometimes dancing round another with jump overs:

You can still see our history in this agility when watching a Ridgeback playing with other dogs:
A hang out play date with my super friend Toffee.  We play in his garden and then relax by the pool..

Here in the South of France, it’s the season for beach play dates. My best beach friends are Clio the Poodle and Othello the Weimaraner and we have three beach date mornings a week.  It’s so much fun on the empty beaches especially at this time of year.  From November until April, seaweed washes ashore to form springy mogul hills, excellent for trampolining off during a game of tag or chase. 

Perfect bounce action for soft landings and extra long leaps!
Extra spring speed action.  Clio is a good sport and is always up for a chase.  She’s a great nutty girlfriend and my beach dates wouldn’t be the same without her.. 


Clio loves her red frisbee:

Most Rhodesian Ridgebacks aren’t mega frisbee enthusiasts unless, of course, there are added jokester elements involved, such as the guarantee that a frisbee mad dog friend like Clio will be running after me when I have it in my mouth…or maybe if Vikki is holding it for me to jump up and take.

Frisbee time: 

Both Clio and Othello are good runners and they too can make the sharp turns and speedy mid air twists. Its super fast action and our humans normally just stand and stare in amazement at our gymnastic antics!

 Jump & Twist:

Beach play dates allow us to have the big chase plays which helps us improve our physical fitness, movement skills and paw-eye coordination:

Chasing moving objects is a sure way of fine-tuning predatory skills. Ball chasing, stick chasing, and leaf chasing, are all ways in which this play form is expressed. With appropriate opportunity and guidance, pups will learn the ins and outs of the chase – how to accelerate, turn on a dime, brake suddenly, and how to pounce with accuracy and alacrity. If deprived of play predatory opportunities, dogs may resort to vacuum chasing of imaginary creatures, may pace, circle, or chase their own tails. This is a sad state of affairs. 

In many species, like wolves, play is pretty much restricted to juveniles and adolescents. For us dogs, however, play is not something we outgrow.  It is an activity that is keenly pursued throughout our lives. Unhealthy and unhappy dogs do not play, so play also serves as a barometer of well being, indicating that a dog is well fed, in good health and content. Dogs, like humans, do not play when they’re sad or distressed.

Play dates can be the perfect relaxation for our humans too:
 Vikki meets friendly people who also care about their dogs’ well-being:
So, along with the canine companionship, these activities also provide our humans with new friends who share a love of dogs and a sense of fun and adventure:

It has been proven that humans who spend time with us dogs (admittedly, err..cats also…arghh!) will normally have a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels.

So why not do something fabulous for your dog and yourself and arrange a doggie play date….you might find that it becomes just as much your play date as it is your dog’s!  🙂

Vikki’s Notes:  Not every play date is appropriate for every dog, and, unfortunately, not every dog is appropriate for interacting with other dogs. Before arranging a play date, evaluate your dog and the social situation you are considering. Every dog who is new to play dates should already feel comfortable and have experience with off-lead play time with another dog.  Slowly progress and develop this play date social life as a natural process with doggie friends you believe are compatible with your dog.  If your dog has exhibited aggressive behaviors or extreme submission or fear towards other dogs, it is not advisable or fair to subject your dog to a play date until working with positive training methods and small steps towards your goal.  Karen Pryor’s website and Dr Dunbar’s website provide lots of information to read and videos to watch around this subject.
Here is an interesting link on other factors to be aware of during doggie play dates:–predatory-Drift-/301304

About bigdogzola

Hello - I'm Zola! I'm a Rhodesian Ridgeback Girl with my own Dog Blog! For the first three years of my life, I lived on the French Riviera. Now I have moved and am enjoying the lush green forests and country life in England. Welcome to a big dog's life!
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5 Responses to Play Dates

  1. Alia says:

    I’m an australian new to provence and would love to join some training or play dates for my dog Sydney. He is 2yrs old and full of energy. So far he is friendly with other dogs, he just wants to play. We don’t know what sort of breed he is because we just found him when he was tiny, starving and covered with ticks and fleas. Now he is happy and healthy. He looks like he may have some alsatian in him.
    we look forward to hearing from you.

  2. Hi Sydney – welcome to France – I’ll get my human to contact yours directly – a play..yipee! My human has just been twittering on about how she loved Australia when she was there for a year – she especially loved Sydney and Byron Bay – I wonder is that why you are called Sydney? Anyway – thanks for contacting me – see you soon – woof! xx

  3. Alia says:

    Hi Zola
    thanks for emailing me, you’d be pleased to know I just successfully chased another cat from our garden. I think I’m called Sydney because Alia and Lance are Australian and also because they said dogs respond well to names beginning with S, this idea is a little flawed as I do hear my name but do not always choose to respond, I know this annoys them but there is just so much to smell and explore out in the forest. We live in Le Thoronet, I hope it is not too far from where you live but I do love going in the car so should be no problem. I haven’t been to Australia yet because they rescued me in Libya but we will go there one day. In the mean time we are loving exploring Provence. I am also a sailor. I’ll send you some pictures of me sailing if you like.
    look forward to meeting you.
    Syd xx

  4. bigdogzola says:

    I’ll be seeing you in the New Year Sydney – I know a nice place where we can all meet and have a run around not too far away from you…good work on the cat patrol..grrrrrr xxx

  5. Judie says:

    That park is great it reminds me of my favourite walking park (it’s the one I did my winter walkies on). It isn’t fenced and it has a lake, woods, paths, etc. I always get to meet other doggies on it too.However, we do have those fenced doggie parks and you have to be very careful. The one I go to is ok most the time but I’ve had to leave twice. Once I was little and there was a big crazy dog that kept trying to hump me and knocked me down, I cried. The second time I was playing with a little puppy that was playing keep away with me. The puppy’s owner was freaking out cause I was so big. She should have taken her puppy to the small dog section but Momma made me leave instead. Really I wasn’t do anything wrong but Momma didn’t want anyone getting hurt. Plus the lady with the puppy was freaking out and putting all kinds of negative energies into the air.I prefer the big open spaces too! Or, even a nicelong walk on my leash is better than bad doggies at the dog park.woof — Tucker

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