The Internet is a strange and beautiful place which will happily educate you on any and all matters of human interaction and sexuality (whether you asked for it or not). Today’s lesson? Puppy Play, an obscure (and not strictly sexual) fetish that is all about dudes dressing up as dogs in elaborate latex costumes and then letting someone else treat them like the canine they are, treats, walks and all. Do these people also pee on the sidewalk, you may be wondering. Short answer: they at least pretend to.
The reason that puppy play is being discussed today (trust us, it’s going to be one of the main topics of conversation at your water cooler at least until Friday, when everyone will just start getting angry at Judy because she never cleans the fridge) is because Channel 4 is about to air a documentary on the subject, providing, as The Guardian points out, a sympathetic look at the practice.
Puppy play isn’t new, of course. It’s just getting its moment now due to the fact that people who are into it don’t have to wander around aimlessly looking for others who might be interested in having them beg for treats. Now puppies and their prospective handlers can find each other on message boards and websites dedicated to people living the lifestyle. And while one may assume that all people are doing is putting on expensive latex suits and having sex in them, it’s really about much, much more. For many, realizing that they’re “puppies” isn’t just about a turn-on, it’s about finding their identity.
Tom’s discovery of puppy play came about gradually. He knew he liked sleeping in a collar, had a fetish for skin-tight clothing – Lycra, rubber, even off-the-peg cycling shorts – then came a dalmatian zentai suit he found on eBay, a £1 orange lead from Pets at Home until, eventually, a man in a club walked up to him and said: “Oh right, so you’re a pup.” The realisation was not without its repercussions: it led to a breakup with his former fiancee Rachel and a move into a gay relationship with his new handler. Colin.
“I wouldn’t say it was the catalyst, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Tom. “Then I had this moment of panic because a puppy without a collar is a stray; they don’t have anyone to look after them. I started chatting to Colin online and he offered to look after me. It’s a sad thing to say, but there’s not love from the heart in me for Colin – but what I have got is someone who is there for me and I’m happy with that.”
Tom’s story is not unique. Among the other men interviewed — puppy/handler relationships tend to be homosexual for the most part, although The Guardian reports you see all types — several discussed the fact that being a puppy is about feeling connected and belonging to something. In addition, it’s about not having to be verbal and is similar to age play (where people pretend they’re babies and small children) in the fact that it’s about being carefree and at the whim of someone else. “You’re not worrying about money, or food, or work,” Tom says when discussing what it’s like to be a puppy. For him, it’s about being able to enjoy the company of others on “a very simple level.”