How to Enjoy Playdates with Your Dog & Other Dogs Safely
Step 15 of 15 in the Dogly New Pet Channel
with Tiffany Baker of BossBabeDogTraining, Training Advocate

Dogs are social creatures. Giving new dogs play opportunities with other dogs can be joyfully enriching and socially and physically beneficial for them.

And what could be better than watching your pup simply enjoy being a dog with another dog?

Your number one goal for a successful playdate (and to set you and your dog up for successful playdates for years to come):

Ensure everyone has a happy and safe experience.

That's your goal the first time and every time. You want the play session experience to be a good one. If your dog feels secure and happy playing with another dog, it helps set the foundation for your dog to feel comfortable around other dogs in the future and in other situations.

Playdates for your new dog and another dog are not something to jump into without planning. Even for a play session with your new pup and other dogs who are part of your family, you'll want to set the stage for a smooth and happy time for everyone.

Here are some tips to keep in mind for your new dog's (or really any dog's) playdates:


Set everyone up for success from the start with your choice of location and choice of your dog's play partner.

Choosing your play session spot

You'll want a low-key spot without other distractions, preferably outside, with a large enough, secured/fenced space with room to run and for either dog to be able to create distance when needed. You want a spot where you're in control of the surroundings and you can focus on the dogs. (Obviously, not a dog park or other public space.)

Choosing your play date partner

Since this is a new thing (one of many) for your new dog, you want your dog's play partner to be as predictable as possible, social but low-key, not easily ruffled if your dog gets a little in-your-face enthusiastic. You want a partner dog who will give your dog a measured check for any inappropriate play behaviors but brush it off without escalating.

Choosing appropriate dog play partners goes a long way toward setting everyone up for a happy, rewarding experience. It helps to know the dog parent too - and to know you bring the same goals to your dog date.

Start with a parallel walk

Let the dogs become familiar and slowly introduce themselves to alleviate some of the tension and initial excitement (and give you useful information about how they react to each other).

Using a parallel walk to meet each other gradually is a great way to start. You can do it right in your back yard or whatever space where they'll be playing.

If you haven't already been through the guide earlier here in the New Pet Channel on how and why to do parallel walks, it's a good idea to check out that guide first here.

  • Look for any signs of aggression in both dogs. If one or both dogs displays body language associated with "bullying" dogs or aggressive dogs such as wide stance, growling, forward snapping, or any other aggressive behavior, it is important to remove the dogs immediately from the situation and try again at another time.

  • Monitor your dog's play (especially in new dog relationships) throughout the playdate. It's super important in preventing negative interactions as well as keeping that arousal level in check so we don’t risk any escalations into potential scuffles.


What dog owners want to watch for to keep your dog play fun and safe: 

1) Mutual dog play

Both dogs should be equally invested in the play. If one dog is trying to avoid or escape play, he or she is not enjoying this playtime and we should make a timely intervention and redirect the attention of the other dog, the play initiator.

2) Self-handicapping

What does that mean? Certain behaviors are what dog trainers and behaviorists call "self-handicapping" body language. It's a way dogs have of signaling to the other dog -"I'm small... I'm not a threat...let's go easy."

Examples are behaviors like rolling over, using posture to appear small, lying down, or withholding full strength and energy. In the brief video we talk more about below, you’ll see that Lola, who is quite exuberant, also does have moments of making herself more vulnerable by crawling lower on the ground. That's a good sign when dogs mix in some chill or "take a break and catch our breath" behaviors, so the play isn't always at a fever pitch (and rising).

3) Role reversal

With appropriate play partners you also want to see is the dogs taking turns being on top or in a vulnerable position. If one or both dogs seem “stuck” like a broken record without self-handicapping or taking a break, play should be interrupted and separation may be needed briefly to reset.

Conversely, if one dog is consistently in the vulnerable position, you could have a fearful dog uncomfortable in the situation who is desperately trying to tell you - "I'm scared, get me out of here!" In that case, do exactly that right away before it escalates to striking out in fear. Then try something less threatening for your dog another day.

4) Corrections are being responded to appropriately

When one of the dogs corrects the other for inappropriate behavior (or behavior not received well), that dog may give a quick snap to get the message across to the other dog that they didn’t like that.

The other dog should respectfully respond by pausing, giving space or ending play. When corrections are given and received well between dogs, that's a wonderful thing. And it's great education for your dog to have an opportunity to learn this useful dog-to-dog language.

Bonus pro safety tip: skip classic buckle-type collars during playtimes.

During dog play, the safest route is to have your dog no-collar naked or wearing a quick-release/side-release or breakaway collar.

It's surprisingly easy for collars to get entangled during play and the result is escalating panic from the dogs, tightening around their necks as they scramble to pull away, and frantic efforts on your part to disentangle them - almost impossible with buckle collars which usually end up having to be cut off with scissors.

(A couple examples of side-release/quick release collars we like here on Dogly: starry day side-release collar; sustainable, waterproof cork side-release collar.)


See these safe play tips in action...

Take a look at this quick clip (below) from our session with Lola (who is learning) and sweet Lucy to see these pro tips in real life:

How we set Lola up for success...

  • Lola can be a little overzealous with new dog interactions, so we’ve paired her with a “bullet proof” pup, Lucy, who can give appropriate dog-to-dog corrections without tipping over into a scuffle.

  • How we interrupted and redirected Lola when inappropriate behaviors appeared...

As this play went on, there were a few times where we interrupted play to redirect Lola’s focus. Lola’s arousal level would get a bit too high at times and Lucy would correct with a snap; Lola would continue to play (but not mutual at that point). She responded well with being called away mid-play for a brief doggy massage and was able to return back to play. 

A word about Lucy's corrective snap:

Nothing works better than to have a dog capable of giving a quick, harmless snap be the one to handle the corrections for the occasionally over-enthusiastic dog or a dog's "bullying" behavior unintentional or not. It's great learning for your dog to know how to process this kind of warning from another dog without reacting except to pull back on the unwanted "bullying" behaviors.

You'll want to keep a close eye on how your dog accepts these abbreviated, corrective snaps or woofs from the other dog. Most dogs seem to naturally "get it" when delivered from a more seasoned, low-key dog, but watch to make sure your dog gets the message and adjusts behavior, with no big deal.

No matter how well it's going with the two dogs playing, keep a close eye on them and be ready to intercede immediately if you see signs of tensions. One dog's rollicking good time can quickly become another dog's idea of bullying behavior and create friction. Be prepared to jump in if necessary and help everyone get back on a good track with a break, a redirect, or calling it quits for the day...


Try this

Before your playdate -

  • Be sure to have high value treats on hand and easily accessible; also have a toy or balls your dog loves and finds compelling/comforting (other dog parent should have on hand as well).

When you see the dogs need a break to recalibrate energies and lower the action a bit -

  • Interrupt the play and call a time-out. Redirect them to chill off to the side, separate from each other, letting them relax separately with their humans with treats, a toy, calming massage, etc. If everyone is calm and comfortable, you can resume play or just hanging out together which is also a nice thing for dogs to learn to do.

When your dog is the one showing unwanted, too-forward behavior -

  • jump in immediately and remove your dog without drama and with a marker word like, "Oops!" Just as you would use a marker word (like "Yes!") or clicker when you want your dog to recognize a good behavior so he/she will repeat it, you want your dog to recognize at the exact moment what the behavior was that caused the removal from play.

You want to avoid using "No!" or another scarily-charged word that will just confuse your dog and heighten negative emotions around play and other dogs (and you). Dogs learn better when when they feel like partners with you in learning what they're supposed to do.

Then you can proceed with a time-out away from the action for calming and treating. You may only need a few minutes before you ease back into play or longer based on how everyone is feeling.

When either dog shows concerning signs of aggression or discomfort -

  • It's perfectly okay to call it a day, let everyone relax, and try again on another day. Sometimes it's just not the right time - maybe one of the dogs had an incident earlier in the day that affected emotions. Or maybe these two dogs aren't really a great match, at least for now. Whatever the case may be, it's always good to learn what you can from your observations and start fresh another day!

Learn how to set up successful playdates for your new dog with tips on choosing the right play location and partner, reading dog body language, and ensuring a safe and enjoyable play session.

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Next up in the New Pet Channel on Dogly

Now that you know how to have fun and stay safe on playdates with your dog, enjoy! 

Continue on to check out other guides in the New Pet Channel if you haven't already - like the 3 most important starter training tips from a positive reinforcement trainer. Or if you're ready to learn more in training and across every important aspect of life for your dog, hop over to the Manners Channel in Training, Basic Nutrition Channel in Nutrition, or the Allergies Channel in Wellness.

And if you need more individualized help with your pup, you can reach out to me to work 1-on-1 with you here on Dogly for any training and behavioral needs to support your new family member!

Tiffany Baker of BossBabeDogTraining

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Tiffany because she trains adoptable dogs to be more so, then happy in homelife - and shows how with our dogs.

Tiffany guides you

New Dogs - Reactivity - Puppies - Manners - Aggression - Muzzles

Tiffany is certified

Certified Behavior Consultant Canine (CBCC-KA) - Licensed Family Paws Parent Educator