Like many scenes in the world of kink, puppy play at its simplest is a form of role play. It falls under a broader category of role play types called “pet play.” In pet play, humans act stereotypically like different animals before and during sex.
Like all forms of role play, puppy play is as simple or complex as you make it. Some pups — myself included — love the pup headspace and extend it past the bedroom into daily life. We do this by wearing collars, barking at/sniffing guys on the dance floor, and sitting/kneeling whenever our handlers/boyfriends say, “Sit.”
There is an inherent power dynamic in puppy play, and many pups would say there is a Dominant/submissive relationship. Pups are automatically submissive to handlers. A good pup loves getting scratches, treats (sexual or otherwise), and led around on a leash by a handler. And while this is certainly not always the case, handlers are typically tops and pups bottoms (alpha pups being a common exception — see number 11).
Puppy play is implicitly, if not explicitly, a sex role play, but some pups and handlers have removed the sex aspect of it and turned puppy play into a practice more akin to yoga — a de-stressing activity that frees them from the daily rigor of life. While I’m certainly not one such pup, I think that reveals something important about role play itself. There can be a therapeutic aspect to adult pretend games, if only because they remove you from your daily headspace and allow you to be imaginative. We know the positive effects that playing has on children, but few cultures have spaces for adults to do the same.