If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued by the phenomenon of pup play, then you’ve come to the right place. Some of you might be scratching your heads in confusion, while others might be wagging your tails in excitement. Either way, I’ve got a lot to share, and I promise it won’t be a ‘ruff’ ride! This guide is designed to demystify and delve into the world of pup play – a form of role play that’s more than just a kinky pastime, it’s a unique form of self-expression with a growing and welcoming community. From its historical roots to its modern-day manifestations, I’ll guide you through the general ins and outs of pup play from the perspective of a “handler” (more on this later). Whether you’re just sniffing around out of curiosity, or ready to fetch your first piece of gear, read on. There’s a whole world of welcoming wagging tails and excited human pups waiting for you!
You might have come across the term “pup play” and wondered what it was all about. It’s a subculture within the BDSM and fetish community that involves exploring your animalistic side by taking on the role of a puppy or dog. While the exact origin of it is unclear, it’s believed to have started in the gay leather scene in the 1980s as a way to break free from traditional BDSM roles to explore new forms of power exchange.
It has exponentially grown in popularity in the last few years and evolved into its own unique and tight-knit, inclusive community with its own customs and codes. Though not at all necessary, some pups like to wear gear like hoods, collars, leashes, and even butt plug tails. Gear or not, behavioral aspects are typically the baseline of being a pup, like tail wagging, begging for treats or playing fetch – which comes naturally for those who connect with the canine spirit. There is a breadth of pup expressions from just hooding up at parties every once in a while, to creating a pack and dedicating time in making it a lifestyle.
Essentially, pup play involves individuals taking on the persona of a “pup” and engaging in behavior that mimics that of a canine. It can be a fulfilling and even therapeutic experience. By assuming the mindset of a pup, individuals are able to let go of their inhibitions and tap into the primal side of themselves, relinquishing their human side for a while to bask in the present moment.
Imagine if you didn’t have to worry about that guy who hasn’t texted you back or that work deadline that has been creeping closer; that you could go to a place in your mind where that all melts away, even just for a little while. That’s what pup headspace can provide. It’s all about letting loose and having fun without the burden of societal expectations. You’ve seen how happy biological pups are just playing, sleeping, running zoomies or begging for belly rubs – they’re doing what they desire in that moment to achieve joy, not worrying about the future or past.
For those who participate in the pup community, it’s an important part of their identity and a way to connect with other like-minded individuals. It can be a fun and empowering way to explore sexuality, identity and community. It’s not necessarily about engaging in sexual activities (though most pups enjoy physical touch, attention and affection), but more about exploring a different type of headspace and relationship with the world and oneself. The sense of community within the pup play world is incredibly strong with people coming together to celebrate their quirks and kinks.
It’s not uncommon for people to jump to conclusions when they hear about pup play. I’ve heard everything from it “being weird” and “can’t take it seriously” to questions about it being connected to beastiality (it’s most definitely not). It is simply a roleplaying kink where individuals take on the persona of a puppy or dog. It’s all about embracing a different side of oneself and exploring dynamics in a consensual, safe, and fun way. Just as harmless and adorable as a bio dog is at the park is how you can approach human pup play, as an onlooker or a potential new pup or handler!
Maybe you’ve seen pictures on social media or hooded pups in your local bar. Whatever sparked your interest, getting started can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry, you’re not alone – many pups have been exactly where you are! The best way to start getting involved is to attend a pup event in your area or to join one of the many online communities like Pupspace. Here, you can meet other like-minded individuals and get a better idea of what pup play might mean for you.
To go a bit deeper into this world, let’s talk about handlers and packs. Handlers are the loving caretakers of pups, making sure they’re happy, healthy, and well-cared for. They take care of the pup both in and out of pup headspace, making sure they’re safe and protected. It’s a rewarding experience for me! As for packs, being part of one is like having a furry family who will always have your back. They might go on adventures, play together, and work closely with each other and/or their handlers to be the best pups they can be. It’s a great way to connect with others who share your interests and to develop some seriously close bonds. Just like our biological furry friends, we humans thrive on social connections and having a community to belong to.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, so do some further research (links below) and learn more about what exactly pup play entails and what it might mean for you. Whether you’re into the gear, the roleplay, the headspace benefits or the entire lifestyle, there’s plenty to discover about this fun and unique world. It’s a journey that looks different for everyone, so don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun along the way. Woof woof!
As someone who actively participates in the pup community, I understand the desire of having gear. But let me be clear, gear is not what makes the pup! Pup is a state of being that gear does not create, but it can enhance. Collars, leashes, and even custom-made hoods can all play a role in helping you fully embody a pup persona. But beyond just the gear, it’s also essential to have a clear understanding of the role you want to play and how you want to engage with others in the community.
If you do want to gear up, take the time to invest in items that fit properly and that you feel completely embodies your pup persona. Gear isn’t cheap, so make sure you spend your money on items you see yourself in for years to come! If you don’t feel 100 about it, don’t buy it. Wait to find pieces (off the rack or custom) that give you a somatic reaction. I think it’s better to wait and save for an item that is totally you than to settle for something you can get right now or for a “better price”. Remember, gear doesn’t make the pup!
Now that you’ve read the CliffsNotes of pup play, let me tell you a bit about my journey into this world. I went to a pup play workshop in 2011 put on by Avatar Los Angeles, curious about the new fetish/kink that was just starting to make its way into the local leather bars (the scene looked totally different than it does today). They divided the class into pups and handlers to guide each of the respective participants in their roles. I went in curious as a pup, and though I went into headspace very easily, when I was brought out of it, I realized that I didn’t identify as a pup myself. I identified more with the handler role, but I was 24 and at the time in the budding pup community, all the pups in the class were around my age wanted an older daddy type to handle them. I put the idea of being a handler on the shelf.
Fast forward 10 years and I have a pup of my own named Pup Fable. Like all pup personas and dynamics, ours is uniquely our own and takes clear communication and comprehension to keep it going healthily. Not only do we participate in the pup community with role playing at events and at each of our homes, but we’ve taken our dynamic into other parts of our lives. My role as a handler expresses itself in all of these areas with care and love, thoughtfully mixing the dominant role for Pup Fable with the lateral role of friend and collaborator with his human side, Cazden Hunter.
The decision to enter into a pup/handler dynamic (or joining a pack), is a responsibility. Caring for something besides yourself (pup, handler or packmate) cannot fall by the wayside. We all know pups are not bio dogs, they are humans with emotions, needs, wants and personalities. If you think this is for you, just take your time. If it’s meant to be, it will still be standing there for you. And if you do find a pup/handler/packmate where this aligns for you, your world can grow and level-up in a way you didn’t dream was possible!
Pup play is a diverse and colorful world full of camaraderie, expression, and fun. If you’re curious about dipping your paws in, I encourage you to lean into that and see where it takes you – you’re likely to find something exciting and fulfilling! It’s not about conforming to a certain way of doing things, but rather, finding what suits you best and celebrating your individuality. Take your time to explore, invest in the right gear, and above all, have fun! Just remember to prioritize communication and consent in any interactions and let yourself get lost in the pure, unadulterated joy of exploring new territory. Don’t let fear or judgement hold you back – embrace the unknown and discover all the amazing possibilities that await you in the world of pup play. Now be a good boy and embrace your inner pup. Woof!
Check out these resources for more on pup play and my favorite retailers!