The Psychology of Puppy Play: A Phenomenological Investigation

Darren Langdridge*, Jamie Lawson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
372 Downloads (Pure)


This article presents a phenomenological investigation into the experience of engaging in a sexual practice known as “puppy play,” where participants role-play being puppies or handlers (those that look after or own puppies), often within a dominance/submission sexual context. Only one previous study has been conducted on this phenomenon, and the present study sought to provide new knowledge about the meaning of this practice for participants. We conducted a qualitative analysis of data derived from 68 individual experience descriptions and 25 semi-structured interviews with puppies and handlers. Through the use of a phenomenological methodology focused on experience, we identified the key constituents that comprise this phenomenon and help make sense of peoples’ desire to participate. The five themes include: (1) sexual pleasure; (2) relaxation, therapy, and escape from self; (3) adult play and vibrant physicality; (4) extending and expressing selfhood; and (5) relationships and community. We discuss this practice/identity in the context of enjoyment of the dominant/submissive sexual element, the perceived benefits of a form of mindful adult play, the opportunity to explore aspects of selfhood, and the value of relationships and community membership.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2201-2215
Number of pages15
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number7
Early online date8 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • puppy play
  • phenomenology
  • psychology
  • mindfulness
  • well-being
  • community


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