The Dog Dish

In conversations with folks in and out of the puppy community, I heard curiosity from all sides. Folks wanted to know how other people use collars. Pups have their norms and expectations (as much as anything can be called “normal” for puppies). Folks in the broader BDSM community wanted to know whether what they think is “normal” applies in puppy spaces.

As you might guess, collar use in the human-puppy community borrows from use by canines and use by humans. Puppy play creates an in-between space. That blending creates something uniquely suited for the needs of pet play. That means, of course, that pet-play collars are never simple and straightforward. But if you want something fundamental to keep in mind to help you wrap your head around a collar (see what I did there?), the interviews in this episode reveal two basic and easy-to-remember themes.

Collars Theme #1

The first theme of this show is important: Collars symbolize a relationship. They represent the relationships between people, between the wearer and the surrounding community, between their history in BDSM/kink and their current uses today, and between the meanings outwardly expressed and inwardly understood. With all this tug-of-war going on, it should be no surprise that collars don’t always mean the same thing to everyone.

Collars Theme #2

What this episode cannot and will not do — and what it has taught me should never be done — is to identify one clear and absolute meaning, protocol, or ritual behind all collars. Every relationship, every person, and every physical item means something different to everyone involved. Many times, the physical item represents a rich and meaningful history that’s very personal to the wearer. If you want another easy-to-remember rule of thumb, it’s theme #2 of this episode: Collars signify stories and the potential for conversation.

Anything beyond those two things — they symbolize a relationship, and they signify stories — anything beyond that would be presumptuous. It would involve applying an outside frame of reference onto another person’s inner situation or experience. That approach can easily lead to incorrect assumptions.

What We’ll Learn

For this episode, I spoke with folks both inside and outside the puppy community to take a broader view of how collars work in various situations. This episode explores what they mean, how they work, and why people wear them. Let’s see whether we can sniff out some details and learn how collars work in puppy and BDSM communities.