You’ve probably heard about it from the growing number of gay men (and women) getting into it. Puppy play is the new kid on the kinky block. But before you go out and buy a collar, you need to know some basic information.
Puppy play is one of countless different “scenes” in the world of kink. Scenes usually involve a certain power dynamic—a dominant role and a submissive role. Some scenes, like “slave and master,” have extreme power differences between roles. Some slaves hand over all aspects of their lives to their “masters,” including their finances and living space.
In my opinion, pup play falls on the opposite end of the spectrum than “slave and master,” and I believe this is part of its growing appeal. The power dynamic is very relaxed. In fact, some have argued that there is no power difference at all. You treat pups as you treat our canine counterparts, with love and affection. (No, actual canines are not involved.)
I’m a pup. When I meet a “handler”—someone who prefers the domimant side of the scene—I bark, wag my “tail,” and (if he’ll let me) bury my face in his crotch. This is me in my “pup” headspace. When a guy scratches my head and says “good boy,” he’s in his “handler” headspace. I think puppy play is great for kinky beginners, and here are my reasons why. (All Instagram images are my own.)
1. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but the dog is still standing.
I know curious people who use pup play as a way to learn more about kink and BDSM. Curiosity is a natural part of the pup headspace—what actual dog doesn’t want to sniff everything new all the time?
Remember: kink and BDSM are not synonymous, though many people use them interchangeably. “Kink” a broad term for any sex practice outside vanilla, in which certain furnishings (toys, paddles, rope) and certain wear (harnesses, gas masks) are utilized sexually. BDSM is an acronym for “bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism.” Many kinksters (kinky people) enjoy BDSM, but not all of them. For instance, someone might exclusively be into fisting, and that is not part of the BDSM acronym.
2. The pup headspace is extremely liberating.
Most people live stressful lives. I balance a schedule, navigate traffic, try to save money, and go to the gym five or six times a week. My pup headspace is a chance to break from all that.
I didn’t start as a pup. I stumbled into it from much more intense BDSM play. So I can say from experience that this liberating, therapeutic aspect is not exclusive to the puppy scene. Many fetishes and areas of kink, including and especially BDSM, allow you to separate temporarily from everyday life and release pent-up emotions. The result is similar to what some people get from yoga or running. I feel de-stressed and “cleansed” after a hard session.
3. The. Sex. Is. Amazing.
I’m a “beta pup,” which means I’m sexually submissive (a dominant would be an “alpha pup”). For me, the pup headspace lends itself to great sex because the puppy headspace is automatically submissive to handlers. Note: someone can be an obedient and submissive pup to his or her handler and still be dominant in bed. The “headspace” is submissive, but that doesn’t require you to be a bottom. I know at least one pup that fucks his handler—but only when told to do so.
Since I am a submissive bottom, the headspace adds a nice layer to sex. It’s one thing to be pounded by a great top. It’s another thing to be pounded by a great top who, after playing fetch and wrestling on the floor, grabs your collar and says “good boy” as he bends you over, doggy-style. (You can’t respond because you’re wearing a muzzle.)
4. Pups are a tight-knit community.
The pup movement is new, especially among fetishes that have been around for generations. Even so, pups and handlers seem to be very proactive at creating a close community. (We also have the luxury of social media, which leathermen in the 1970s didn’t have.) I know pups and handlers across the United States and feel confident that if I needed a place to stay in any city, someone local would lend a paw. We look out for each other.
5. Sex is not a requirement.
If you have any sexual hangups, no worries. Although puppy play is implicitly a sexual fetish, it does not explicitly require penetrative sex (nor, for that matter, does any kink scene). It does require a degree of performance, but if you have an adventurous sex drive and can get past the initial silliness of acting like a dog, you’re all set.
6. The gear is really cool—but not necessary.
Puppy play has a vast array of gear that goes with it. I have a “tail” (a butt plug with a curved, canine-like tail attachment) that I shake and wag and look adorable with. I also have a neoprene puppy hood with floppy dog ears that covers my mouth and resembles a dog snout.
Gear like this is fun to wear. It’s also pretty expensive. My puppy tail from SquarePeg cost $60. My hood cost $109 from Mr. S Leather in San Francisco—long considered the best leather and fetish supplier in the country. Top-of-the-line leather pup hoods can cost upwards of $300.
Since pups tend to spend time on all fours, many wear knee pads. On top of that, many enjoy wearing leather harnesses, especially to bars, parties, and social events. Leather is a fetish all on its own, and leather harnesses can be extremely expensive, especially if you get them custom-fitted (recommended). Thankfully, you don’t need any of this stuff. All you need is the mentality.
7. Getting collared is surprisingly romantic.
When my boyfriend at the time decided to collar me, we went to Home Depot. I measured different chains around my neck and asked a (very confused) sales associate to cut them. Then we went to PetsMart and bought locks and tags. I’ll never forget sitting in the car in the parking lot when he locked the collar around my neck. It was arousing, sure, but also incredibly sweet.
8. The relaxed power dynamic can make pup play seem less threatening than other scenes.
I have friends that dived into scenes like “slave and master” without knowing what they were getting into. There’s nothing wrong with doing so, but you risk getting hurt or having experiences that scare you away from further exploration. Kink is filled with extremes and people who push them. And while extreme bondage, mummification, intense pain, breath play, fisting, and other practices look awesome in porn (and are awesome when done correctly and safely), I believe they require some working-up. Start with the basics.
That’s what makes puppy play so approachable—it’s not an extreme. It’s a playful scene and one that requires the least amount of practice: all you have to do is bark.