I do not profess to be an expert on dog or puppy play, but a lot of people have asked me to put paw to paper and comment or fill in on what seems to be missing in the latest book on dog training. Quite a few Sirs have sent their pups/boys to me for advice, so I must know something.
It seems to me that the latest book has more to do with the mechanics of puppy play, than to do with the psychological aspects of play. The mechanics really are no different then than the care, of feeding and training of a real dog. I found the book to be disappointing.
I have what may seem to some very controversial views on pups to some. These are all my own views, no one else's, and unless credit is given to others, all original thinking.
The first things that I am asked usually are "How do I become a pup", or "my Sir wants me to be a pup" or "I want to train a pup". My response to the first of the two is usually why? (I don’t question a Sir). In my opinion there are several levels of pups/dogs/bottoms in this area. The motto "every good boy deserves a dog" covers this area. There is the boy, alpha dog, and pup. For now I'm going to discuss the pup, as that is what I am and know best.
Being a true or natural pup is more than role-play for a few hours. There is an entire personality that is very pup-like and is deeply ingrained in the soul of a pup. Pups have big hearts. The problem with this is that they can be loyal to a fault. Pups see all the goodness in people, even when there may not be any to be seen by anyone else. Unfortunately, this sets the pup up for the possibility to be in an abusive relationship.
To the pup, there is nothing worse then being a stray. If you have ever seen a stray dog on the street, you have seen the fear in their eyes, their legs shaking, and the look of "please take me home, but I'm afraid of you". Human pups have that in their hearts when un-collared. In a bar they may seem flighty or hyperactive. The pup bounces around in the bar, looks from afar, and doesn't quite know how to approach someone. This is not necessarily shyness, but fear of the unknown, or of rejection. Just like a real stray, sometimes it is better for a Sir to approach first; once the Sir gets the feeling the pup is interested. I once had a Sir approach me at a bar, and started scratching my ear immediately. He caught me off guard, and I had never met the Sir before. He said to me, "You’re a stray pup I can tell, you don’t know what to do with yourself". Other pups don’t have this problem, and I don't know why.
I am writing from personal experience, and from talking to other pups that say, "Yes, that is me too". I have noticed another category of pup that jumps from collar to collar. Again I think this is fear of being a stray. After the abusive relationship I was in, and rescued from (thanks to my former Owner Reddy), I got very leery of people who were too eager to collar me.
What does a collar do for a pup? A collar gives a pup a sense of inner peace, and of belonging. Pups appreciate the hard work it takes to be a Sir or Handler, and show appreciation whenever we can. A collar gives a sense of pride and great inner strength. For some reason, which I can't figure out, and don't really wish too, it gives me personally great self-confidence and I feel very empty without one.
Pups want to please, just like a real dog. There is nothing more heart breaking to a pup then to get scolded after he has made a mistake or disobeyed. Sometimes we feel we did something terribly wrong, when in fact it has been only a minor infraction. Pups are very good at beating themselves up. Just like real dogs, a strong scolding will usually put a pup in his place. It is very rare that you need to strike a dog to punish him, and the same goes with a pup.
Pups get extreme satisfaction from serving and pleasing our Owners. We have been wired or programmed someplace along our travels in life that helping others makes us feel good inside, and it gives us pleasure. Natural pups are never ever really out of pup mode. We are protective of our Owners. We help strangers as much as we help friends. We are polite. We will sometimes spontaneously bark without realizing it. We tend to feel other people's pain and want to do everything we can to help. This is another area to be watchful of. I have been taken advantage of and emotionally overloaded, and it can happen to other pups too. We want to make the world right, and need protection at times from the world. It is very frustrating when we can't fix the world.
Unlike the velvet painting, we don't play poker well. We don’t have thumbs; but seriously, we wear our hearts on our sleeves. Our eyes betray us and we are poor liars. Pups love honesty. We are a very trusting breed and will put up with a lot. Once the trust is broken, it never comes back.
When I'm asked to give advice on how to be a pup, my first response is to learn how to listen with your eyes, not your ears. Dogs may understand human language to some degree, but one thing does not change from spoken language to spoken language, and that’s body language. It's easy enough to learn hand signals, but this is something much more subtle and satisfying. Once you learn your Owners body language, you can see things that no one else can. If you ever owned a dog, and were upset, but tried to be or look happy, the dog knew your true feelings. Pups are allowed spontaneous shows of affection. Don’t be afraid to lick a nose. This is the first step. The second, which may be the hardest, is the most pleasurable.
Dogs work off instinct, training, and their surroundings. It is in reality a very simple life. Human lives are very complicated. In human pups, the ability to such shut ones brain off and work off instinct is a Zen-like, very relaxing, and another form of meditation. If the pup is lucky enough to have a Handler or Owner, they too can find it relaxing to play with the pup. The ability to do go on instinct, even if just for a bounce in a dog pile, is aided by having a Handler (or an Owner). A stray in a dog pile is usually either scared of his own shadow, or very aggressive. A Handler is a source of safety. They are protectors just like in a real dog run. They socialize with other Owners, and keep an eye on their pup to make sure he behaves and the other pups do not get too aggressive with his pup.
It is a great pleasure for me, to be able to shut my brain off, and for that moment in time, forget all my issues. Being a pup in the privacy of the home with my Owner stops my mind from racing. This is not easy to do and takes some time and to practice. Each pup will find his own trigger for this headspace. My signal to go into dog mode is when I have padded fist mitts locked on my wrists. To me the locks are important, and help put my brain in pup mode. This tells me that I have no decisions to make, as all decisions are now my Owners. I play, eat, and sleep like a dog (and yes watch television).
There is no speaking at this point, but a language does get developed with a pup's handler, all in dog speak. As anyone who has owned a dog can tell you, there is a language that develops that the human can understand. My safe words are also dog based.
My being a pup is ingrained in my soul, and it is my autopilot. Even in times of distress, for instance a panic attack, dog speak is my last level of communication before I totally shut down and can't talk. Sometimes to achieving this Zen space, requires training. I will admit that the first few times I did pup play, in public and private, it felt silly and I was self-conscious. That will go away with time. With the right handler, one that is willing to interact and protect the pup from people who don’t understand, that will go away with time. I myself never really knew about it until I got the right Owner. My Owner at the time said he could actually see me relax when in pup mode. It is a really easy way for a Sir to help his pup to unwind, almost a passive way of control. A Sir can go about his business, and the pup trained properly, goes about his (eating, drinking, sleeping, and barking at squirrels). As I have said earlier, this is not a guideline for other pups, just an example of what it's like to be me.
Each pup has his own distinct personality, and should not be cookie cutter product of some book or set of slave protocols that are meant for bipeds or written by bipeds.
Public pup play comes in many forms. Play can be as simple as just barking at other dogs, four-legged and two-legged, chasing squirrels, or going out in full gear and in pup mode. The latter really does require knee pads and fist mitts to protect the dog's limbs, especially the fingers. There is really nothing wrong if the situation gets too crowded to be on your hind legs. First rule of any scene is safety, and getting broken fingers is not fun.
Puppy piles, or pup runs, can get rough. Some loose the aspect of puppy play, and sometimes it is just invaded by wanna-be's who confuse it for a wrestling match and are out to prove a point. In pup play there is usually an alpha or two. An alpha, once he gains position of being a top dog or the leader of that pack at that time, will stop being aggressive. The wanna-be alphas do not understand this and usually keep up the aggression.
I am a gay male pup. Pup play is borderline sexual, we lick, sniff, wrestle, and paw each other. I personally will not partake in a puppy pile that involves women. If I wanted to sniff a women's butt or have her sniff mine, I would be straight. I personally am tired of all this pansexual play. I am a gay male, not bisexual, not straight, and do not nor will not make apologies for this. I find it very rude and selfish that I am supposed to accept this. Gay men are still very ostracized for being gay, and the gay subsets, such as leather, role-play, and drag even more so. Gay pups should not feel bad for taking this stand.
Now, lets all go chase squirrels
Aka Joe "nipper" Klein
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