Does your dog like to play with other dogs?
Is he small and sometimes gets stepped on?
Or is he too fast and the bigger dogs can’t keep up?
You may want to consider finding or starting a small dog play group. Size doesn’t always matter with dogs. I’ve seen a boxer snuggle and play nicely with a border terrier but I’ve also seen bigger dogs try to smush smaller ones like they were bugs.
Small dogs sometimes are intimidated by bigger dogs looming over them and, of course, sometimes they can get hurt if a game of tag starts up at the dog park. Small dog play groups level the playing field and can help socialize shyer small dogs. If you can’t find a small dog group in your area, start one.
Tips to Starting a Small Dog Play Group
- Limit the size of the dogs: Size, typically done by weight, is important. A heavy dog can sometimes injure a smaller or lighter dog accidentally during play. A whippet, for example, is not “small” like a chihuahua but is very light weight and can definitely be part of a small dog group.
- Play styles: Some breeds play differently and it’s important to see if all the dogs in a group will get along. A good idea is to have a test play group with any new dogs to see if they understand each other’s body signals. If all the personalities work out, you’re good to go!
- Age: Older dogs can’t always keep up with the younger ones. You may want to find a group that has dogs that are around your dog’s age or has a mix. If your dog is young, a senior dog can help socialize your dog and teach it some proper play methods but the senior dog may also become quickly annoyed and tired.
- Vaccines: Make sure the dogs you’re allowing your pup to interact with are up to date with vaccines to cut down on risks of getting something. Make sure your dog is also up to date.
- No Food: To avoid fights over treats, leave food at home. If you do take treats, be very careful when giving one that your dog isn’t ambushed by another who desperately wants it and will do anything for it. Some dogs are amazingly greedy!
- Keep the group small: A smaller play group allows for all the owners to watch their dogs and allow their dogs to get to know each other. If the group is small enough, maybe the play groups can be hosted in someone’s backyard.
- Getting the word out: Use fliers that you can hang in the local pet store and your vet’s office and use social networks like Meetup, Twitter, or Facebook to find people and their small dogs.
The benefits of a small dog play group are enormous. It burns off all that energy your dog has, helps their socialization, and gives them an hour or two of fun without feeling nervous about being stepped on by a big dog.
Image from Morris County Dog Park