Why Pup Play?
Exploring pup play often enables a person to let go of their human hang-ups and live 'in the moment'. It gives the human pup the opportunity to thoroughly amplify and explore the most basic of human emotions.
In my earlier years of pupness I would sometimes explain pup play as a form of role play and, for some people, it simply is just that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with role playing, yet I struggled with defining my own pupness and pup play as role play because it never felt like acting or role playing to me. So if being a pup is not role playing for me, what is it? It was actually through my spiritual explorations that I came to understand what being a pup and pup play truly are for me. I discovered that the concept of shapeshifting much more aptly described what I was experiencing when I would transition into full pup mode.
From my perspective, shapeshifting is not some overly-mystical 'woo woo' concept. Rather, it is the effort of shifting my perspective/energy so that I view and respond to my surroundings in a different way than I typically would. There are many ways that humans shapeshift, often unconsciously: ever been somewhere and wanted to avoid someone seeing you so you tried to melt into your surroundings and not stand out? Some folks are far more adept at the effort of shapeshifting than others are, but mostly it just takes practice and a willingness to be open and vulnerable to the experience. You must be able to trust yourself to allow yourself to delve fully into the experience. It isn't always easy. For myself, the energy of a pup is a natural aspect of who I am and far easier to shift my energy to canine energy as compared to other types of animal energies.
The following information about pups and pup play is simply my own pup-spective based on many years of experiences and observations of identifying as a pup as well as discussing with, and observing, other pups. The information offered is not ‘one-size fits all’ because pups are highly individualistic and other pups may have pup-spectives that differ from what is shared here. Take what works for you and leave the rest.
Pup – A pup is a human that manifests canine energy to varying degrees and may perceive/respond to its environment in a manner similar to a biological pup/dog. Not all individuals that identify as pup go into full pup mode.
Handler – A Handler is an individual that handles a pup during times that a pup is in full pup mode, may help the pup transition into and out of full pup mode, as well as ensures the pup remains safe and (hopefully) out of too much trouble.
Trainer – A Trainer provides more consistent and involved interaction with a pup and will create some consistent parameters and structure for the pup to follow.
Not all pups have Handlers or Trainers and not all pups feel the need to have a Handler or a Trainer. A Handler and a Trainer can be different individuals or a person can be both a Handler and a Trainer.
Some individuals may only have their pup/Handler or pup/Trainer dynamic when they come together for a session of pup play while others may have some level of that dynamic also extend into their human interactions with one another.
Full Pup Mode (aka: Pupspace or Pup Mindset) – When a human shifts their mindset and perspectives to perceive and respond to his/her surroundings in a manner similar to a biological pup.
Pup Play (aka: Pupping Out) – Interaction while in full pup mode. Such interaction can be as simple as curling up at the feet of a human, chewing on a toy, getting petted, or excitedly romping around and interacting with other pups.
Puppy Moshing – Pup play among a group of pups that would be similar to the interaction of biological dogs in a dog park: romping, playing, sniffing, barking, chasing, chewing, stealing toys, napping, etc.
Clothing is not what makes a pup: a pup is a pup no matter the outward attire.
Pups are highly individualistic in how they dress, be it in their human mode or during pup play. Many pups incorporate elements of leather, rubber or other fetish gear while other pups are more simplistic. There isn’t one ‘correct’ way: it is whatever works for the pup and/or is negotiated between the pup with their Handler/Trainer. A lot of it is the pup trying out various attire/gear to see what works best for him/her. A pup may wish to wear attire that will help keep them cool if they are going to be puppy moshing. At the same time, some pups prefer having more of their body covered to help protect from abrasions.
Kneepads - One piece of equipment highly advised for pups is kneepads. Many a pup will bemoan the challenge of finding knee pads that work well for them. There are all kinds of kneepads: volleyball, baseball, skating, carpentry, gardening, leather, etc. Try out many types of knee pads to find what works best for you as a pup: make sure to test them out by getting down on all fours and moving around in them a little. Two issues that occur with kneepads: 1) sliding out of place and 2) the back side of the kneepads bunching up and restricting movement and/or circulation.
Paws – Paws are something near and dear to the heart of many pups. Having the use of one’s human hands taken away can be a powerful step for a pup shifting into the pup mindset. Paws can be as simple as covering the hands with socks, mittens, ski gloves or boxing gloves. Others opt for paws made of leather, rubber, neoprene or other materials. Some pups make their own paws out of various materials. The important thing is to find paws that fit well. It is suggested that a pup put on the paws and test them out, moving around with them on, to see how the paws fit and feel during actual use.
Foot Coverings - Covering for the feet is suggested particularly if the pup scoots around on hands and knees. The tops of the feet can easily become abraded even when on carpet if the pup is scampering around on hands and knees. Foot coverings can be as simple as a pair of socks, wrestling shoes, leather foot coverings, or even wrapped up with vet wrap. Some pups wear boots yet this does have the potential for causing more bumps and bruises if the pup is moshing with other pups: it can be easy for the boot of one pup to knock into the head of another pup.
Hoods/Muzzles - Some pups wear hoods or even masks that are shaped to look like a dog’s muzzle. Remember that covering the entire head for pup play will heat the pup up a lot faster. Some pups prefer no hood because it limits their ability to feel things against their muzzle (face) or might inhibit their ability to see, drink/eat, and/or play.
Tails – Some pups enjoy wearing a tail attached to a butt plug while others might have a tail attached to a harness or sewn directly to a piece of clothing. Other pups feel their tail without having a physical one attached.
Other Attire - Whatever the attire, make sure the pup is able to move around (unless the intent is to restrict the pup’s movement!). Some pups will wear harnesses and jock straps while other pups may prefer full rubber suits. Some pups prefer to be naked whenever possible while some pups tend to use active sportswear to maximize mobility. There is no one set way for a pup to dress or look. A pup may need to adjust attire depending on circumstances (for example, a pup that is used to being naked may need to find clothing in order to go puppy moshing at an outdoor event in a public setting).
Female pups might wish to consider wearing a snug sportsbra if they are planning to romp and scamper since such activity can cause a lot of bouncing.
Hair - Pups with long hair might wish to consider tying it back or braiding it for puppy moshing. Long hair may accidently end up stuck under the knee/foot/paw of another pup or get caught on another pup’s gear and accidently get yanked hard.
Being in pup mode can be physically challenging at times. The human body is designed to move and function primarily in vertical alignment whereas the biological (i.e. four-legged canine) pup is built to function more in horizontal alignment in relation to the pull of gravity. The way in which a human pup simulates the moves of a bio pup can cause some strain on the lower back as well as neck, shoulder and other muscle groups. Physical problems, particularly muscle strain, tend to arise more often when the human pup is in full pup mode for extended periods of time (longer than a couple of hours) or is not used to being physically active.
Being in full pup mode can be as intense as an aerobic workout especially when a group of human pups get together for some puppy moshing! Romping, turning, rolling: the entire body is in movement. As with any physical activity, stretching before going into full pup mode is a good idea. However, stretching can easily take place when a human first enters into their full pup mode: it can be a perfect time for the human pup to start *feeling* their pupness emerge as they begin to stretch their legs and body, flex their paws, move their head side-to-side, etc. Getting somewhere while in full pup mode can take a lot more energy and effort so be patient when walking a pup because it can be difficult to keep up with the pace of a two-legged human. It's also nice to have a hankie, cloth or towel laying somewhere that a pup can wipe their face on, because a pup can end up sweating quite a bit when they romp and play.
During pup play, some pups will move around on all fours using hands and knees while other pups prefer to move around using hands and feet. My pupspective: whatever works for the pup! There are times I will shift between both styles of pup mobility: tending toward hands/knees and shifting to hands/feet if having to move over a longer distance.
Injuries can occur during pup play, especially if the pup has been involved in puppy moshing. There are times when a human pup may not notice an injury unless the pain is severe enough to cause distraction. It's a good idea to briefly look the pup over every so often, to check for injuries or potential problems, especially if he/she has been romping or highly active. This brief inspection can easily be done as one genuinely checking out the health of their pet, or in the context of petting, playing, grooming, etc. This becomes especially important when gear is used: the chaffing of paws against skin, twisted clothing, or the seemingly most common ailment of a pup: knee pads bunching up behind the knee, which in turn can limit movement and can cut off circulation. If the human pup seems to be favoring a paw, limping, whining, etc., it's best to take a few moments to look them over just to be sure everything is okay. Pay attention to whatever a pup seems to be focused on.
Oxygen intake and breathing patterns can also change for a human going into full pup mode as he/she begins to emulate the breathing patterns of a bio pup. Often, a human pup will begin to breathe primarily through the mouth and breathing patterns will become shallower and quicken in pace. This altered breathing pattern is notable because it can sometimes lead to hyperventilating or even fainting if the shallow breaths hamper sufficient oxygen intake. It might also explain some of the light-headedness or "buzz" that some human pups experience while in full pup mode. This type of breathing can also result in the mouth and throat drying out quickly leading to an increase in thirst.
Paying attention to a pup's breathing pattern can help a Trainer/Handler discern the pup's condition, especially when walking or exercising the pup, and adjust the pace of the activity accordingly.
It can not be stressed enough: it is crucial to provide an ample, clean, accessible water supply for anyone actively moving around in full pup mode.
Many pups do fine with a water bowl that is large enough for them to get their face into for lapping and sucking up water. One suggestion is to use what is called a “sippy bowl” (a bowl with a short plastic straw molded directly into the side of the bowl) as a water dish. This type of bowl enables the human pup to either lap up water or, when really thirsty and needing to intake more fluid, sip or suck the water through the straw hole. Cutting the straw down to almost the edge of the bowl makes the straw opening almost unnoticeable and removes the risk of a pup poking their eye out when leaning down to drink. Some human pups scoff at “sippy bowls”, saying it's not being what some would term a "true pup". Yet a bio pup's tongue is designed to curl up backward and act as a scoop when lapping water into the mouth. It's sad to admit that human pup tongues are rarely that talented so their intake of water, via tongue, is limited. Lapping water is fine, however, having that straw opening option helps make sure the pup is able to get sufficient fluid intake and avoid dehydration.
Rinsing out the water dish before using it is a good practice. It's also a good practice to place the water dish away from where people might be standing or where bio animals can get to it to avoid the dish from being kicked over, stuff falling into the dish or finding the water dish being used by a bio animal. While some pups are okay with sharing water dishes, many pups prefer their water dish to not be shared with other pups: it is good to discuss the pup’s preference about this before the pup goes into full pup mode.
The human body was designed to normally ingest food while in a vertical position. During pup play the pup is in primarily a horizontal position: the pup’s head bends down to get the food and often ends up at a bent angle that is lower than the position of the digestive tract. This means that, for some pups, food might take longer to ingest and digest. It can also mean the possibility of more air getting gulped in with the food, which might end up causing some stomach discomfort.
While there are some pups who do like dog food manufactured for bio dogs, it has been my experience that most human pups prefer to stick with human food. Most dog foods/snacks are not processed at the same level of sanitation and quality as human foods, nor are the taste buds of a human pup the same as a four-legged canine. This is pup play: not a game of iron-stomach challenge. It's helpful if the food is either soft enough to bite apart or cut into fairly small pieces.
A human pup's food dish should be large enough for the human pup face to get into and actually mouth up the food. Four-legged flat-faced breeds of bio pups such as pugs and bulldogs face this challenge as well. One type of food dish that works well for short-muzzled pups (bio and non-bio) are pie tins since they are fairly wide, shallow and still have enough raised edge to help keep the food inside of the dish. Plates with a raised edge also work fine. Of course, many pups prefer a standard dog dish and simply look for a large enough one that the pup can get their face inside of so they can get to the food.
A suggestion to consider is to have a small damp folded towel near the food dish. "Pup purists" may decry this practice as being untrue to the spirit of pupness, yet a human pup's tongue is (usually) not designed to be long enough for cleaning off one's own muzzle. Also, if there isn't something nearby for a pup to wipe off a messy muzzle, he/she ends up having to find something else to wipe his/her muzzle on… most likely the pants worn on a nearby human leg.
Being in full pup mode gives a person insight into how a four-legged pup can end up sleeping so much of the day! After some active time in pup mode, a pup needs rest. It's important for a Trainer or Handler to recognize when their pup needs time to relax or rest.
It is a mistake to think every single moment of interaction with a pup has to be filled with lots of activity. A pup can get tremendous joy just from following their Trainer/Handler around as he/she is preoccupied with other matters, or curling up in a ball at their feet or beside them while the Trainer/Handler is watching TV or preoccupied in some other way.
Depending on the pup, sometimes being leashed up or crated/caged is what the pup needs; to basically be forced to do nothing but rest while still in full pup mode. If you want a pup to truly rest, make sure they have enough space to legitimately stretch out and relax their muscles and make sure it is a peaceful atmosphere. Expecting a pup to rest may not be feasible if heavy construction noise or acid rock is being blasted next to where the pup is trying to rest.
Eventually mother nature calls and a pup will have to "go". Some pups will prefer to remain in full pup mode and lift a leg to relieve his/herself just as a bio pup would. For other pups, the tug of biological needs may begin to shift them out of their full pup mindset and they may prefer to use the bathroom as a human would and then quietly return back to their full pup mode. Male pups seem to have a much easier time with this matter since they can basically lift a leg, shake and go. Female pups have a bit more challenge in terms of… the logistics. It becomes even more of a challenge if the pup is wearing clothing during pup play. This activity should be fully discussed and agreed upon before pup play begins.
When in full pup mode, a pup often begins to respond and react more as an animal and may lose much of his/her human cognition of what is going on. Pup play can become a matter of reacting and responding with reduced, or no, human thought. Going into full pup mode can be like going underwater: the pup may have a feeling of ‘going under’ and may stay near the surface or find his/herself going down deeper and deeper. Sights, sounds and smells are often perceived, and responded to, differently when a pup is in full pup mode.
The world certainly becomes a simpler place when in full pup mode: one in which there are no worries, no angst, no emotional baggage, no responsibilities and no insecurities. The pup is typically open in expressing what he/she wants whether it is to eat, sleep, play, or receive affection. The pup is able to revel in each moment and gives little or no thought to the past or future.
Full pup mode is often like a trance-like state of being: the pup becomes fully open and receptive to what is going on around him/her: it's a highly vulnerable state of being. The greater the trust a pup has with the person he/she is interacting with, the safer and more comfortable the pup feels and the more likely the pup is able to go deeper into the pup mindset.
Coming out of full pup mode can be similar to a sleepwalker suddenly wakened: a person abruptly brought out of a deep pupspace might feel quite disturbed or disoriented. It is important for a pup to learn what is needed for him/her to transition more easily in and out of full pup mode and, before shifting into that full headspace, communicate such information to any human helping them with such transitions.
Pup play involves shifting emotional gears: a shift of feelings and emotional responses from a complex human perspective to an open, simplistic perspective of a puppy and eventually back again. The deeper the pupspace, the bigger the shift. The time of transition between the two perspectives can be extremely awkward. As a pup gains more experience in the shifting process, it usually becomes a little smoother and easier to handle.
While in full pup mode, a pup's emotions are left wide open and honest. There isn't any second-guessing: he/she is apt to express (without using words) exactly what he/she feels in that moment: happy, sad, scared, suspicious, loving, bored, etc. There is no worry about what others might think about those feelings: the pup just expresses what it feels and that's that.
Sexual/sensual elements exist within pup play by virtue of exploring an animal mindset - a kind of primal instinct - that evokes natural responses to what the pup feels in the moment without the pup placing value judgments on his/her responses (i.e. analyzing or over-thinking his/her responses). Even simple activities such as being petted or curling up to nap next to someone might be construed as sensual experiences. Pup play is NOT sexual interaction with biological animals.
Some pups integrate sexual responses and interaction into their pup play while other pups do not, and some pups may do so to a limited extent. There is no right or wrong: it is a matter of what the pup is comfortable with or what is decided upon by the pup and their Handler/Trainer.
Sexual integration may occur either by blending human and pup modes (example: a Handler/Trainer sexually penetrating the pup, or a pup sucking off a Handler/Trainer, etc.), or by having a human pup sexually interact with other human pups (example: a pup humping a leg, or a pup being 'mated' with other human pups, etc.).
For many human pups, sex is not part of their pup play. The two main reasons are:
a) Sexual interaction done with a human pup that would *not* typically be done with a four-legged canine can cause confusion and an uneasy feeling if the human pup is in the mindset of responding as a four-legged pup and expects to be treated as such; and/or
b) Often sexual interaction will evoke human sexual responses and that human-ness will pull the pup out of a full pup mindset.
As with sexual aspects, the same holds true for s/m. Some pups do enjoy having s/m incorporated into their pup play while other pups do not. It is a matter of what works for the individual pup and what they might negotiate with a Handler/Trainer.
Quite a few human pups find their pup space to be a spiritual experience. Pup play can transcend the physical experience and enable the heart and spirit to explore a realm far removed from the familiar human realm. For many pups it is a form of surrender.
In a sense, going into full pup mode is an out-of-body experience because the pup stops experiencing and responding to things as a human and begins to experience and respond to things as a completely different being (i.e. a pup). Being a pup can be a time of being in the ‘now’ – in the moment - and opening up one’s heart and spirit in a very vulnerable way.