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Backyard Set-Up for Doggie Playdates

The Inspiration

Last year our friends got a sweet pup named Murray. We are always looking for social opportunities for our dog August, so we started doing weekly playdates. We chose my parent’s backyard which was neutral territory for both pups. They chase each other, wrestle and sometimes just lay in the grass and slobber on each other. By the end, they are exhausted and happy. A backyard set-up for doggie playdates is simple and it turns out these social gatherings are beneficial for both dogs and humans.

Playdates are Not for Every Dog

Our other two dogs don’t play with Augi. They are a little older, but the real issue is when Scout and Mortimer met, they did not get along. There was serious doggie-drama for a while. Thanks to our behaviorist and trainer at UT, the dogs have learned to live in harmony. It took a lot of time, work, and patience, but they can now sleep next to each other in peace. However, high energy playing is not in the cards for these two and, therefore, not with Augi either.

So we have been searching for other opportunities for Augi to be social. He goes to a Doggie Daycare called Happy Yap three times a week. It’s a beautiful place with big fields where he enjoys hours of supervised play with other pups, but we still needed a solution for the weekends.

The Potential Dangers of Dog Parks

I used to be all about the dog park, but some of those experiences increased Scout’s reactivity. Dog parks can often be problematic and since you don’t know each dog’s history or temperament, there is potential for your dog to learn bad behaviors or even get into fights. Plenty of people and dogs enjoy them, but it isn’t something I am up for anymore. So when our friends asked if we wanted to do a small play date, we jumped at the chance. 

The Joy of Doggie Playdates

I am so hypersensitive about dog aggression that I avoided the first few playdates. Part of our training to get our other two dogs to be buds was to be hyper-vigilant about detecting the slightest signs of aggression so we could redirect the behavior before it escalates. It’s hard to turn that off and relax with friends at a doggie play date.

My husband would come home from the playdates with plenty of pictures, recounting every little moment in detail. It sounded amazing. I knew I was missing out and wanted to hang out with our friends. So, I pushed through my fears and made it to a few playdates. 

Backyard Set-Up

There was a ritual that had developed; they gathered chairs in the shade, got the dogs fresh water, removed all the toys in the yard, broke out the coolers with frosty beverages, and began to catch up on their week while the dogs started their routine.

My dad began to ask us if we were ”having a dog park today?” I think he enjoys watching it as well. My parent’s adorable Labradoodle, Tasha Belle, would join us for the doggie playdate. She would corral the boys around the yard, squeeze in a good chase, and like a typical Southern Belle, would saunter back upstairs to rest in the AC.

Lessons from Doggie Playdates

Backyard Doggie Playdate Set-Up

It was incredible to watch little Murray take on Augi. He is small but mighty and has no worries about giving this dog four times his size the doggie butt-check. Augi loves it and even lays down on the ground, so Murray has a better wrestling advantage. Augi especially loves it when Murray chases him around the yard. They dive into this large section of bushes at 50 mph and then pop out on the other side.

Murray is absolute proof that it doesn’t matter what size you are; with a little confidence, you can hold your own against giants. It’s fun to watch, and Murray’s confidence helped me relax while they were playing. 

I loved chatting and hanging out with my friends. The past year has been challenging for the entire world, but we had a safe place to talk through our concerns in this little backyard. We shared updates on interviewing for new jobs, challenging projects, and keeping our loved ones safe in the new world order. 

And then came the news that our friend got one of those jobs she was interviewing for, and they would be moving to Maryland. Now each doggie playdate seemed even more precious. I wondered if Augi would miss his friend Murray. I was certain I would miss my friends. 

We have just one more doggie playdate this weekend before Murray takes off on his adventure up North. I am very grateful to have met this feisty pup. He shared a little bit of his confidence with me and taught me a thing or two about relaxing. Thanks, Murray! Good luck in Maryland. We will miss you.

Backyard Set-Up for Doggie Playdates – in Five Easy Steps

  • Make sure there is a fair amount of space for running around and clear all hazards.
  • Provide access to freshwater
  • When it’s hot outside, create a shaded space for dogs to cool down. If there are no trees, a sunshade or umbrella can work.
  • Remove toys and as many sticks as possible. We found the dogs would get distracted by toys instead of playing with each other.
  • Find a relaxing space to sit with your friends and enjoy some human social time. And if you feel stressed, channel your inner-Murray and allow yourself to relax.

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