MANCHESTER, U.K. — In the midst of national discussion on transgender issues, the trend of men dressing up and behaving like dogs, known as “pup play,” was recently discussed in a new documentary on “The Secret Life of Human Pups.”
The documentary, produced by Britain’s Channel 4, features a variety of English men who live like dogs in their private lives—a movement that often involves living with a handler, dressing in a rubber canine suit, barking to communicate, fetching balls, having your belly rubbed and other dog-like behavior.
“In the U.K., there are estimated to be 10,000 human pups: men who dress in elaborate dog suits and behave like dogs. This remarkable documentary explores their hidden world,” a description of the production outlines.
Director Guy Simmonds says that he wasn’t aware that the concept was so prevalent in the country until researching the matter in greater depth. He decided to film a documentary on the subject after running across online photos of men engaging in pup play.
“On the surface you’d think it was a few people dressing up as dogs behind closed doors. But the more we researched it, the more surprised I was to learn how large the community was in the U.K.,” he told Newsweek. “They’ve got their own social networking sites, events and competitions.”
Among those included in the documentary is a 32-year-old man named Tom, also known as Spot, who enrolls in the Mr. Puppy Europe competition in Antwerp. Tom states that men such as himself like to dress as a dog as a means of escapism from the pressures of adulthood.
“You’re not worrying about money, or food, or work,” he explains. “It’s just the chance to enjoy each other’s company on a very simple level.”
“Life is getting more hectic nowadays, so much pressure on work and life,” a 42-year-old man who goes by the name Chip explains. “Some people drink, there’s drugs. … You’ve got to be civilized in our society. When you’re in puppy mode, all that goes away. We don’t care about money; we don’t care about what job you’ve got, or the bigger car.”
Psychotherapists opine that the desire to belong in pup play circles may stem from childhood trauma.
The men interviewed in “The Secret Life of Human Pups” have common 9-5 jobs, but after leaving work, they regress to their puppy phase.
“The only time I’m not a pup is during work,” one man explains. “My partner comes home from work and he’s like, ‘Hey pup,’ and I’m like ‘Woof!’”
However, some assert that being canine is actually a part of their identity.
“Even when I worked in PC World I would sometimes walk up to people and nip at their shirt,” a man named Kaz, who eats out of a dog bowl when at home, told the Guardian. “I got in trouble once; someone walked into the PC repair center and I had part of their dad’s computer in my mouth.”
Tom’s desire to live like a dog resulted in a broken engagement as his girlfriend Rachel was uncomfortable with the concept. He now lives with his handler, Colin.
“I wouldn’t say it was the catalyst, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he states. “Then I had this moment of panic because a puppy without a collar is a stray; they don’t have anyone to look after them. I started chatting to Colin online and he offered to look after me. It’s a sad thing to say, but there’s not love from the heart in me for Colin—but what I have got is someone who is there for me and I’m happy with that.”
David, who goes by the name Bootbrush, lives with his “handler” as well.
“Some pups are solo, of course, but for me the puppy identity is focused on the bond between me and Sidney, my handler. I’ve been collared to him for 10 years. If anyone comes near him I growl like a little bull terrier,” he explains. “And I’m a people-pleaser in my human life. I get a great deal of pleasure from making other people happy.”
Tom says that, like homosexuality and transgenderism, he just wants the lifestyle to be affirmed.
“It feels like you can be gay, straight, bisexual, trans and be accepted,” he told the Guardian. “All I want is for the pup community to be accepted in the same way.”
However, not everyone approves of the idea as some who have learned of the movement or have seen the “Human Pups” documentary have called it “weird,” “bizarre” and “confusing.”
As previously reported, earlier this year, a 20-year-old Norwegian woman who wears fake cat ears and a tail told reporters that she feels like a cat trapped in a human body.
“I realized I was a cat when I was 16 when doctors and psychologists found out what was ‘the thing’ with me,” she said. “Under my birth there was a genetic defect.”
“You are born like this?” the interviewer with NRK P3 Verdens Rikeste Land asked.
“Yes, I’m born like this,” Nano responded. “Born in the wrong species. … It’s obvious I’m a cat when I start purring and meowing and walking around on four legs and stuff like that.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster once said, “If the power of the gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end.”