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When fellow Tabooless writer, Zack Zoetic, and I went to the Taboo Show in Montreal, we saw a huge range of kinks and fetishes on display. We saw fire dancers, burlesque, phallus-shaped everything and way off by the dungeon, we saw some human-pups.
I had seen more and more puppy masks over the years, saw human-pups in the PRIDE Parade and become intensely curious about the community. This month, I did a deep dive into Puppy Play. I became so immersed in the subject that I have come out the other side with a handy little Puppy Play 101 Guide for new pups!
What is Puppy Play?
Puppy play is a subsection of pet play in the kink community where people take on the physicality and role of a dog. For some, this is sexual and for others, it isn’t. This play can be a great many things, but it is absolutely not bestiality. Human puppies have the ability to give consent. Bio-dogs do not. They are two separate things. The appeal with puppy play is about becoming a dog, and all that goes with it.
I was surprised to discover that puppy play can actually be traced all the way back to 17th century Europe! As you might imagine, there’s not a whole lot of information about it from that time. Puppy play has been kept very much under wraps for a long time.
It really grew in visibility in the 1990s with the advent of the internet. At that time it was very much associated with the leather scene among gay men, and still largely is today. Don’t worry though! There are plenty of pups of all genders and the numbers are growing! There are nearly 14,000 members of the Puppy Play group on FetLife and this trend seems to be on the rise.
There are some definitions and ideas to cover before we really go further. Within the pup community, there are pups, handlers and companions.
Human-pups: These are the people who get down on the floor and behave like a puppy.
Handlers: Handlers are the humans that remain human. Sometimes handlers will be exclusive handlers to one pup, but often handlers will handle many pups, as there tend to be more pups than handlers in the scene. Handlers take care of the pups and make sure they’re safe, hydrated, fed and trained.
Companions: There is much less mention of companions in the community, but they exist! If you want to get involved but don’t want to be a pup or a handler, this role is for you. Companions retain their personhood and can interact with human-puppies as you would with bio-puppies.
Strays: Strays are human-puppies who are not collared or do not have a handler.
Why be a puppy? Is it all about humiliation?
There are as many reasons for enjoying puppy play as there are pups who play! Some people in the community absolutely do love a dynamic between pup and handler that evokes feelings of humiliation, but that isn’t the majority. For the most part, it is just the opposite.
Most pups enjoy being cared for in a loving and affectionate way. Positive interactions like saying “Good dog!” and giving ear scritches show that they are loved and valued. For handlers, it can be just as rewarding to have their dogs look up at them with absolute, unconditional love and a willingness to please.
Puppy Headspace aka Pupspace
A large appeal for human-pups is the puppy headspace. For many, it is a form of escapism; a way of clearing your mind and allowing the complications of regular human life to fade away. As a puppy, thinking becomes simplified and life can be experienced in the moment. Puppies don’t plan for the future or ruminate on the past and so for that reason, going into pupspace can be a huge stress reliever.
As a human-pup, interactions are wordless, though not silent. Human-pups learn to communicate through body language, woofs and tail-wagging. Without words or complicated thoughts to focus on, pupspace allows human-pups to experience the world in a more sensual way. They can perk up their ears and smell their way around the room in a way that is altogether different from how humans experience the world.
Pupspace also offers the opportunity to get in touch with your playful side. Puppies like to roll around with other puppies, maybe take a few playful nips here and there and generally have fun. Puppy play can bring that simple joy into human-pups’ lives and the lives of other members of the community.
A puppy name can do a lot to help get you in the right pupspace as well as communicate information about you as a pup. Make sure your name feels right to you. There is a lot of debate as to who should name a puppy, but ultimately it’s up to you! You can choose your own name or allow yourself to be named by your handler.
This could be a great opportunity to practice communicating with your handler while in the puppy headspace. Your handler could suggest names and watch for your reaction to them until you find a name that fits perfectly!
The important part about puppy play is about getting in there and having fun. You do not need any gear to get into this kink. BUT there’s a lot of really fun gear that you can absolutely get into! Remember: whatever gear you decide to get, make sure you look up proper cleaning and maintenance procedures for the material.
Another important note is that gear is not consent. Just because someone is decked out in pup gear does not mean that they consent to being touched by anyone they don’t already have a relationship with. Negotiating consent as a human-pup may look a bit different than as a human, but the same ground rules apply. Start slow and be observant. Sniff it out.
One of the most visibly noticeable bits of gear you can have is the mask or hood. Hoods can have a nice sensory deprivation effect that can help you go into the right headspace a little more easily. For some, it can even enhance some of your other senses.
You can totally get crafty and make it yourself, but there are plenty of options online that are made of great materials to help you get into the right headspace.
It can be a bit overwhelming to choose from the huge range of hoods out there, so I wouldn’t recommend rushing to buy one right away (unless one really howls at you!).
Take some time to explore your own puppy headspace at home or with other pups or handlers. There are so many types of dogs out there so you have a lot of space to explore your own way of relating to pupspace. Maybe you’re an old, trusty dog, or a young and rambunctious pup who isn’t always the most aware of their surroundings. Once you have a sense of your puppy personality, it’ll be easier to find a hood that signals the qualities you feel.
Mr-S-Leather is one of the more popular places to find affordable neoprene headgear or premium leather hoods.
The Stockroom is always a great place to find affordable leather fetish gear. And while their Pup play selection is a bit limited, their muzzles and hoods are definitely worth considering.
Wruff Stuff specializes in masks/muzzles that are largely made of neoprene, a fabric that is gaining in popularity for its versatility, comfort, and machine-washability. They also have a nice selection of dog ear caps that are just great for showing off your colors in public.
Rubber Dawg is another great option if rubber stands out to you.
There are ultimately two basic types of tails, and then variations on those. There are show tails that can clip onto a harness or belt and do not penetrate the body. These are what you would likely wear to a mosh (meet-up with the local community of puppies), or if you’re not into butt stuff.
Then there are plug tails and those can get pretty fun! Plug tails have a way of making sure a pup stays very happy while wagging their tail!
SquarePegToys® is definitely the best brand for plug tails as well as show tails. They’re all made of medical-grade silicone and come in a range of sizes and colors. Just make sure to buy a holder if you plan on getting a show tail.
Oxballs also makes some pretty beautiful silicone plug tails, though you’ll be a bit more limited in terms of choice.
Collars, Leashes & Harnesses
Collars can really help bring you into the right headspace and they can also signify a great many things! Collars can be like wedding and engagement rings and taken just as seriously. Just like in BDSM, sometimes there are even collaring ceremonies very similar to weddings!
The Stockroom has a great selection of affordable leather collars worth checking out. But collars are pretty easy to find almost anywhere because they aren’t purely a puppy play item, so go out and find whatever you like or wait for your handler to get you one!
Leashes can be simple dog leashes that attach to your collar, or you can go for a full-body harness. It is much easier to find a harness that will fit your body if you don’t have breasts, but fortunately, with the popularity of bondage gear, there is an endless variety of harnesses! Find whatever works for you and makes you feel good!
Knee pads and Paws
Padding for your hands and knees are probably the most important gear to get, though they are less sensationalized than other gear. Fortunately, you can use sports & construction padding pretty effectively. Just make sure you have something to protect your knees and knuckles if you’re going to be spending hours running around on all fours!
Mr-S-Leather has tons of choices when it comes to puppy paw mitts. They have open and closed paws and most models come in a large range of colors.
The Stockroom is a bit more limited in options but we’re still big fans of their premium leather paws and knee pads.
Wrestling Knee Pads are also a popular affordable option for those who aren’t ready to invest in leather pads.
Incorporating other kinks
The cool thing about puppy play is that it’s so versatile! Into BDSM? Discipline your pup for bad behavior! Into watersports or scat play? Get into housebreaking with puppy pads or backyard bathroom breaks. Oral fixations? Get some chew toys!
One thing to keep in mind as you’re incorporating different elements of puppy play is that dog food is meant for bio-dogs, not human-pups! DO NOT EAT DOG FOOD. Having said that, there are many human foods you can eat that are like dog food and treats. Homemade bone-shaped cookies, beef jerky, Scooby snacks, cereals or beef stew are some favorites in the community.
You can eat these foods out of a nice dog bowl to enhance your experience, but be aware that human digestive systems work while vertical. Avoid eating your food from the floor like a bio-dog. This could lead to choking, and we prefer that experience to be something you do carefully and deliberately. No one wants to be surprise-choked (unless, of course, this has been EXTENSIVELY discussed beforehand!).
Community and Competitions
You definitely don’t have to share this side of yourself with anyone if you don’t want to. If you would like to meet other pups and handlers, there is a community for you! Puppy play has exploded in popularity and continues to grow. You can find others through sites like FetLife, that has groups and discussion boards that are location-specific. Many cities have moshes you can attend where you can play with other pups and get involved in your community.
There are even competitions! The International Puppy Contest takes place annually in different cities across the US. In Europe, there are Mr. Puppy contests both for individual countries and one for all of Europe. There’s even an Australian Pup and Handlers Competition as well as a puppy Contest in Toronto, Canada.
Puppy play, like any kink, is what you make it. Stay curious and observe how you react to the different elements. There are different draws for each person and there is space for all of it. If you’re curious about puppy play, start exploring and develop your own idea of what you want it to be for yourself.
Featured art by Marie-Maxime Giguère