The term “play date” has always seemed silly to me, probably because it didn’t exist when I was a kid. Back then, we didn’t have play dates. We just played at each other’s houses while our moms had coffee and gossiped.
But as much as I think the term is silly when it’s applied to humans, I think it’s invaluable when applied to dogs.
Now that we know more about the best ways to keep our dogs in optimal physical health, we’re also beginning to think about their mental health and selecting activities that enhance both. Dog play dates meet both those criteria — and more.
Veterinary experts agree that dogs need about 30 minutes per day of brisk cardiovascular exercise. Although walks and hikes do the job, so does playing vigorously with another dog.
If you have a young and/or high-energy dog that needs more exercise than you have the time to give him, regular play dates with another similarly active pets are the answer.
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A bored dog is a bad dog. Visits with other dogs will keep him alert and expose him to new situations, which will further exercise his problem-solving skills. Older dogs will perk up when they have the chance to sniff out new yards, keeping their minds honed and sharp.
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If your dog is young or isn’t well socialized for his age, interacting with other dogs will improve his manners. A huge benefit of puppies spending more time with their mothers is that they learn manners not only from Mom but also from their interactions with their littermates.
Watch these dogs play together (and possibly learn from one another):
Play dates give your dog the opportunity to compare his skills with other dogs and perhaps learn something about sharing toys.
The best benefit of dog play dates is the opportunity for socialization with other canines and humans. Although I don’t recommend taking a dog who hates kids and dogs to visit your friend who has kids and dogs, you can definitely use play dates as a tool for helping your “normal” dog become accustomed to other dogs and new people, especially if he’s shy or has had a sheltered life.
Of course, you can expose your dog to all these benefits by taking him to the park, but that wouldn’t give you the chance to sit with the other moms, have coffee and gossip!