What is a pup?
For a simplified description, a human pup is a person who places themselves into a headspace that mirrors that of our canine companions. We seek a mental state that is simpler, and requires far less responsibilities, than we often have to deal with in our regular daily lives. Beyond that, all attempts for ridged descriptions crumble. Outside of the tenets of responsible kink play, there are few if any hard rules. There are as many ways to express your pup hood as there are breeds and jobs for biopups (what we affectionately refer to genetic canines) multiplied by all the colors of our own self-expression.
Human pup play has it’s roots in leather and BDSM culture, but chafes under the pull of formal rules and restraint. Upon initial introduction, one might never draw the relation between pup play and it’s founding kinks. You can be a pup without a Handler, without a Pack, without gear. Your environment and resources do not make you a puppy. Neither is it a status bestowed upon you by another. The only person who can decide that you’re a pup is you, and you do not need validation that you are a puppy from anyone else.
Rules, guides, suggestions…you know, those hooman things…
- Consent. This is the only SOLID rule, and it applies to all kink and all situations. You should never engage in behavior without consent. Consent can be withdrawn at any time. Respect others and their boundaries as you would like your own boundaries and comfort zones respected. In the context of pup play headspace, obtaining consent can be a bit murkier than when you can simply ask another person if something is okay. Try to approach all interactions with restraint and caution. Also be aware of and respectful of body language or verbal cues from other pups. When possible, you should try to ask for boundaries and comfort zones before entering headspace with new persons. On the flip side, remember that your own consent is equally important. There will be people who will not ask before touching, petting, or trying to command you. It’s okay to set boundaries before you enter headspace, and nothing will break headspace faster than suddenly feeling unsafe.
- Safe Spaces are important. There are some who push to make all public spaces Pup spaces. While the idea is appealing, you are putting yourself in a vulnerable state when in headspace. Additionally, in public locations there is an increased likelihood for conflict or animus (not everyone will appreciate the cute puppy at their favorite park). It is hugely important to ensure you have a safe space to Pup out, feel safe, and worry less about injury or conflict. A Safe Space can be your own home, a comfortable private setting, or an accepting public space where a like minded community can protect you.
- Gear doesn’t make the pup, but a lack of certain things can certainly injure one. You don’t need a hood, tail, harnesses, etc. to be a pup. If I had to recommend two essential item, they would be padded gloves and knee pads. Even these are not required, just a safety suggestion. While a hood might make you ease into headspace more readily, it wont keep the floor from turning your knuckles and/or knees into ground kibble.
Packs, Preferences, and Pup Society
- Packs are groups of pups who come together to function as a single unit for the betterment of all involved. Some packs are purely sexual in nature, some are socially oriented, and some are family groups. If you, as a pup, decide to join or build a pack, it will be up to you to decide what type of pack it will be and what the goals and ideals you want it to represent. As with any human relationships, Puppy packs require communication and trust to maintain and build. The decision to build or join a pack should not be taken lightly since decisions made afterwords will affect others beyond yourself. Puppy packs generally have a hierarchical structure. There can be as few as two layers for smaller packs or multiple layers in larger groups. Generally there is only one Alpha with one to several pups directly in his care. Those pups may themselves have pups under their care that can also be under the care of the Alpha. It is entirely possible for pups within a community to be in the care of a pup, but not accountable to his/her/their alpha. Such details are subjective and should always be discussed openly so as to reduce confusion.
- Pack Roles will be a hotly debated topic. We as a community can generally agree on verbiage, but not necessarily their usage/meaning. Many will simply describe pack rolls as: Alpha=Top, Beta=Switch/Vers, Omega=Bottom/Sub. For me, pack roles are not synonymous with sexual role preference. You can form packs with other pups without ever being sexual with one another. My sexual role has nothing to do with my place within a pack. I like to think of pack roles more in terms of what you contribute to a pack. There are also other roles that don’t follow a traditional hierarchy, or ones that exist around/adjacent to traditional pack structures. As with everything else, roles can be subjective, dynamic, and should be discussed openly.
Alphas are leaders and protectors of the pack. That doesn’t mean they have to be demanding or controlling. Any power an Alpha has is ultimately derived from the rest of the pack, since one can only lead others if they place their trust and belief in you.
Betas are like middle management. These pups can step up into leading roles when they have to, or take orders/instruction to help complete goals. Typically in a pack they answer only to Alphas and/or Handlers, and their range of responsibilities varies depending on their comfort level and discussed pack structure.
Omegas are the workpups. They want to be given instruction and tasks. Most Omegas will be uncomfortable taking on responsibility for other pups. These are service pups who get their joy from fulfilling others.
Gammas are protectors and guard dogs. They may be associated with a pack, but often exist outside the traditional hierarchy. These pups primary focus is protecting others.
Others. The nature up pup play is such that we tend to avoid strict labels or intense forms of structure and organization. Other role types are sure to be created or used over time. Existing roles may be refined, altered, or removed entirely. The biggest thing to remember is that if you aren’t familiar with something, ask for info. Don’t be too hung up on labels, since they are subjective and vary by group/region/pack/personal perspective.
Consent Matters. It’s your kink, make it what you want. Have fun. Don’t be hung up on labels. Ask questions, discuss things. Don’t rush into it. Arruff, ruff, ruff…. Bork, bork, bork
– Puppy Stolas (Founding Member of NCF-PAH)