Hi pups (and others)!
Today I’m going to talk about how to get more out of puppy play, by looking at your persona and pupsona (your puppy persona). Your identity as a pup is fundamental to your role-play, but it can be difficult to know where to start developing your puppy character. So let’s think about that.
Although I’ll be using the term ‘pupsona’ through this, and talking about puppy play, the following advice is equally valid for any form of role-play.
Your persona is the way you present yourself to other people. It’s a bit like an invisible mask, made of all the behaviours and attributes you display socially. Your persona exists so that you can make a specific impression on others without necessarily exposing your true nature. It can be changed consciously, but most of the time people don’t think about it (or even realise it exists).
When we’re in role as an animal, we have an amazing opportunity to experiment with persona. We get to suspend our everyday human persona for a while, and explore some of the stuff we’d normally keep hidden away. Your pupsona can allow you to take on attributes you’d normally avoid, or play up specific behaviours you wouldn’t normally. For example, whilst everyday me is a workaholic, my pupsona is pretty lazy and will happily lie down in a dog tunnel during a competition and not come out for love nor biscuits. Personas change between roles, too: my ponysona is extremely competitive and pretty bad-tempered - pretty much the opposite of my human self.
Thinking about how you build your pupsona is a great way to open up new ways to play. Allowing yourself to experiment and explore your pupsona in a safe environment lets you find out about your puppy self. You might find unexpected interests, or new ways to engage with other players. Having a clear idea of how to get into your pupsona can also help you to access headspace more quickly. All of these aspects can greatly enhance the pleasure and satisfaction you get from role-play.
So, with that in mind, here’s an exercise to help you start thinking about your pupsona. It’s drawn from theatre-making, and is intended to give you a structure for your pupsona to develop organically from. It’s called:
The Breed Characteristics Exercise
Thinking about which breeds of dog we identify with, and why, can help us to find characteristics to explore in our pupsonas. Because we associate different qualities with different breeds, finding a specific breed can give us something tangible to focus on as we get into role.
1. What’s my breed?
Think about which breed/s of dog you are drawn instinctively towards, and why. What do you associate with that type of dog? For example, I identify with the husky breed. I love their playfulness, intelligence, and energy. They work best in a pack, but can think independently and don’t always follow instructions. They’re also absolute goofballs; cheeky and argumentative one minute, and looking for cuddles the next.
2. Summarise characteristics
Find the aspects of your breed that mean the most to you, and that you feel comfortable exploring. Try to summarise them in a few simple words, so you can easily remember them when playing. For me, it’s playful, independent but affectionate, and goofy. Those words instantly conjure a clear and easily-repeatable image in my mind of a husky.
3. Start playing!
When you start playing, use those words as ‘rules’ to guide your behavioural choices as a pup. Think of them like scaffolding to help you stay in role as a pup. Whatever you do as a pup, whether with someone else or on your own, focus on those guiding characteristics. Really get stuck into them. If you’re a playful pup, be the most playful pup you can be. Chase those balls! Maul those rope toys!
In this exercise you don’t have to be all of the things all of the time. At different times, different characteristics will take on different levels of importance - and it’s entirely up to you when. For example, if someone throws a ball for me, I can choose to be playful and engage in the game. Alternatively, I might be independent and ignore the ball. Either way, I’m being truthful to my pupsona.
4. Review your characteristics
After you’ve been playing for a while, review how your characteristics are working for you. Is there an characteristic you don’t think works? Have you discovered something about your pupsona you weren’t expecting? Again, this is your puppy identity, and there’s no right or wrong way to develop it. If you find something doesn’t work, or feels uncomfortable, let it go! And if you find yourself drawn to something unexpected, go and give it a sniff!
And that’s it. Rinse and repeat. The more you explore your pupsona, the more you’ll discover about who you are as a pup. It seems obvious, but it can be easy to forget. The important thing is to be open and to have fun.
As ever, take care and play safe,