Is there Puppy Guarding?

Big Time Puppy Guarding

The year was 1995, my first year teaching.  I was at Hyde Elementary School in Washington, DC.  While on recess duty, monitoring a game of Capture the Flag, I noticed a fifth grader approaching me with a full head of steam, taking very heavy steps with an even heavier scowl.  “Alex is puppy guarding.”

“Alex is what?” I responded.

“I was standing in the safety zone and Alex wouldn’t let me out.  There’s NO PUPPY GUARDING!”

According to puppy guarding is when a person guards a “safe” or “base” spot during a game of tag, forcing the person at the base to get tagged when they come out.

Puppy Guarding Defined by the Experts

I had never heard this before.  In my four years of college, studying everything PE, my professors neglected to mention anything about puppy guarding.  

Throughout the remainder of my rookie season at Hyde, I would hear the term puppy guarding regularly.  Anytime I would introduce a new tag game, inevitably a hand would go up to ask, “Is there puppy guarding?”

For the five years I spent at Hyde I assumed puppy guarding was unique to the school.  I thought some clever, puppy loving student coined the phrase and introduced it to the rest of the school.

Fast forward to the year 2000.  I began my second teaching job about 5 miles across town at a small independent elementary school.  Low and behold, on the very first day of school, during my first class, a hand shot up like a rocket as I was introducing the closing activity.  “Is there puppy guarding?”  

What-what-WHAT!!  Puppy guarding must be native to Washington, DC much like Go-go music, I thought.

Jump ahead to 2007.  My next stop was Atlanta, Georgia, more than 600 miles south of Washington, DC.  “Is there puppy guarding?”  Oh my!  There it was again the very first time I introduced a game with a base.  WHOOOAAA!

So apparently, puppy guarding is commonly used up and down the east coast of the United States.  I can’t help but wonder if it’s a national phenomena or even global.  Just how far does the expression puppy guarding reach?  Where was it first used?  When was it first used?  Do any of my colleagues or fellow PE teachers remember using it as a kids?

Somewhere throughout my twenty years of teaching, I’ve added puppy guarding to my vernacular.  Now, many of my explanations of games will include whether or not puppy guarding is permitted, in an attempt to beat my students to the punch.

So when playing your next tag game, make sure you don’t break the number one rule – with the most mysteriously cute name:  puppy guarding.

Oh yeah, and why puppies?

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11 thoughts on “Is there Puppy Guarding?

  1. Agreed—I can not understand where that term comes from! It drives me crazy! haha When I ask the kids who says it or where they use it they never know. It is that crazy term they all know and use but can not pinpoint….because we as PE teachers do not use it. Interesting how that happens!


  2. Winnipeg Manitoba Canada and my n-6 students talk about puppy guarding. I usually tell them if they don’t want to be puppy guarded then don’t go in a hoop or safe zone. It usually ends the puppy guarding conversation.


  3. I teach in Missouri and “puppy guarding” is a coined phrase here as well. Your article is spot on for what I have experienced as well. So, I don’t know where it started or how or when or why…. but puppy guarding is real and the struggles are real.


  4. Haha! I love this. I will post on this soon, but I play Capture the Flag…With Zombies! I basically walk around slowly and I am eligible to tag anyone at any time. Try it! Let me know if it helps!
    Have a great day,


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