How to train your puppy: pet play for absolute beginners

People are abuzz about the growing popularity of pet play, a decades-old kink that has moved from bedrooms to social spaces and from sexy power play to social mixers and dance parties. There’s more to pet play than muzzles, hoods, handlers and bridles, and the overwhelming amount of information on the internet opens a wide range of ways you can get into the scene.

To begin with, pet play is a thing between human adults of any gender, and specifically a power dynamic and way for people to lose themselves in a specific headspace. As a pet, you take on aspects of that particular animal, so ponies can clip clop and tow carts, puppies beg and bark and kitties will roll around with yarn. There are moshes, races, snuggle sessions, mixers, dances and more. Social structures become readily apparent within these spaces but a human pet can always choose to go solo.


Alex Wittwer


Let’s come at this from a puppy perspective to get a feel for the scene. 

A pup, human puppy, doggo, whatever they (we) choose to refer to themselves as, is often, but not always, accompanied by a handler, a human companion that trains and aids the headspace in the pup. A headspace, the term borrowed from BDSM, is the idea of losing yourself completely to the persona of the pup. In a strong headspace, you will bark, play with toys, beg and present yourself for social feedback that you find positive. Not every pup will have a fully formed headspace, but almost every pup has that moment when they feel like they’re becoming a puppy.

Pups, then, are social creatures, even if their social circle exists strictly online.

Naturally, when you feel like you’re becoming a puppy, there’s the all-important aspect of identifying yourself. Certainly there’s the idea of a generic dog persona, but most puppies have a fully formed concept of who or what they are. With the advent of online dogspotting groups there has arisen a robust language of reference. Big dogs are boofers, small dogs can be puppers, and almost every puppy is a doggo. Shoobs, shibes, corgos and other subsets abound in the world of pups.

As a couple of these terms imply, many pups take on a breed as their own. Asterius is a corgi, but there are many other breeds, real and imagined, that puppies assume as their identity.

Puppies are social animals, so in Pet and Handler groups, puppies and handlers chat amongst themselves and coordinate events. Most important for puppies is the mosh, essentially a padded space where pups can romp, play or even just hang out watching the crowd. Handlers will watch pups to ensure there’s no rowdy behavior that makes the other puppies uncomfortable, with especially good pups getting treats and scritches.


Coming from the BDSM scene, pets have a wide variety of gear for play, both social and sexual. Turning once again to pups, this gear can range from the iconic hoods and mitts, bodysuits and tails. Tails can be show tails, attached to a belt, or plugs, attached to, well, a puppy’s kegel strength.

Controversial, gear is often seen as limiting access to pups of limited means, but this should not be the case. Pup gear shouldn’t limit your ability to be a puppy. Hoods alone can cost well over $150, and more complicated gear can be many times that amount. All told, a fully outfitted pup can spend well over $1,000 on just a basic set of gear. It’s a major barrier, and as a result, pups should be told that they’re still a good doggo if they don’t have a hood or if their mitts are just a layer of socks around their hands.

Becoming a pet

If you’re feeling your inner puppy, pony, kitty or other pet, and you want to be social, then looking for a PAH organization or online group is the fastest and easiest first step. In Portland, PDX PAH ( would be your first stop, and their events (see our Queer VD Events list in this issue for example) are a great way to immerse yourself in the scene. Inclusive of all pets, PDX PAH has open arms (or paws) for your puppy, kitty, pony or other persona. For puppy info, can offer you a great deal of information on the scene and directories and links to help expand your understanding. Ponies find a great home at For other resources related to pets, googling can offer a great deal of resources for you and your inner animal.