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Two English Researchers Just Published the First-Ever Study of Puppy Play

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If you’ve ever been to the Eagle or spent enough time on Tumblr, chances are that you’ve encountered puppy play, an increasingly popular form of fetish play in which a person acts like a puppy and another person acts as their owner (or “handler,” in puppy play parlance).

Pups will sometimes dress up in dog masks, harnesses, knee pads, collars, mitts and dog tags and “mosh” with other pups in a public setting — usually a play area with floor mats. They’ll bark, roll around, chase each other and generally act like puppies. Their handlers can watch from the sidelines or get directly involved, getting their to pup perform tricks or disciplining them if they act disobediently.

Sex isn’t always involved with pup-play, but it can be — some pups will wear doggy tail butt plugs, service their handlers, roll around naked with others or do it doggy style.

Two researchers in England recently completed possibly the first-ever study of pup play. Through in-depth interviews with over 30 gay and bisexual pup players from around the U.K., they sought to understand pup play’s psychological and social underpinnings.

The researchers concluded that most pup players enjoy the sexual satisfaction and relaxation that pup play brings. Some pups say that pup play allows them to enter a “pup head space,” allowing them to let go of their personal baggage and just play. Unicorn Booty contributor Matt Baume once explained its appeal:

If you’re having trouble understanding the appeal of puppy play, just imagine how amazing it would be if there were a form of group relaxation where you could empty your mind of all your cares, forget all of your responsibilities, lower all of your defenses, and bypass small talk forever. Now imagine that vigorous cuddling and praise are key components of this relaxation technique. And did I mention snacks? You get snacks. Awesome. Why aren’t we pupping right now?

RELATED | 10 Unusual Fetishes and Their Psychology, from Toe Amputation to Male Pregnancy

Baume goes on to explain that pup play can help people who are shy, neurotic or obsessive make friends, calm down, overcome fears and gain more self-understanding. Pup play has also increasingly become a part of International Mister Leather and other world leather events, giving queers of all sorts a chance to play, relax and (if they’re feeling naughty) to give a dog a bone.

And while pup play may sound a bit like zoophilia and beastiality, the aforementioned researchers made sure to note, “We classify pup play as a kink, and find no evidence for the framing of it as a form of zoophilia.” Phew!

Their study will appear in the April, 2017 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

(featured image via pahswithoutborders.com)