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Dog Daycare Play Styles – the German Shepherd Play Style

German Shepherd Play Style

We’ve been exploring dog play styles of late here at Unleashed Joy, and our latest notes are related to the German Shepherd. We recently had the great opportunity to dog sit two German Shepherds (or GSD – short for “German Shepherd Dog) that live next door to the Unleashed Joy facility. We already knew a bit about the German Shepherd play style before, but this gave us the opportunity to watch two GSDs play with one another.

These two typically would have simply stayed in our facility with us and attended daycare, but one of the GSDs is still a bit young and rambunctious for daycare and crate-free boarding!


I’ll just bite your face here a little and then we can go back to growling at one another and romping around.

So, each day we spent time with these two GSD “siblings,” taking them for walks, feeding them, playing with them, giving them lots of love (of course!), and spending time in their home so they’d feel comfortable.

What we saw about their play style is that it conformed, in some senses, to the typical expectation for German Shepherds. In outside play, GSDs will often be “cheerleaders” while other dogs play, i.e. – they play the role of “play police” and will jump into the fray when they feel the need to do so (perhaps feeling that something is getting a bit out of hand). Because we didn’t have these two in a group setting, we didn’t actual witness that play style. What we DID see, however, is another common German Shepherd play style, i.e. – Chasing.

German Shepherd Chasing Play Style

Our two charges – pictured in this post in what must be frightening to most people who don’t know the dogs – love to chase one another around the house. They instigate this play with one another by grabbing a coveted toy or bone and then running away or, alternately, doing an odd little “dance” that tells the other to run…because I’m coming after you.

We then witnessed a 110-pound GSD chase the “smaller” GSD (just 90 pounds) around the house. It was, to put it mildly, a sight to behold. Outside, the older and smaller of the two dogs will chase a tennis ball all day long if we would have kept it up. The younger did so as well, though he’d often want to take a break to romp with his older brother.

German Shepherd – Tug and Wrestling

These two wrestled with one another to some extent, but rather than jumping on one another, or exhibiting the related “body slamming” play style, we really saw them play what we call “bitey face” more often than not. For those who don’t know, dogs will often “bite” one another’s faces (gently) when they play. This looks terrifying, and one must always watch for prey drift whenever something of this nature is occurring – though we don’t often see dogs of vastly different sizes playing “bitey face.” However, for dogs that are nearly the same size (and that live together 24/7), it is not reason for concern…(despite how frightening that picture is.

Tug came into play not when the dogs were playing with one another, but when we played with them. Grabbing the end of a toy and giving either of them the other end always resulted in a great game of tug that, alas, they always won (these boys are strong!).

The German Shepherd Growl

Just like “bitey face,” the patented GSD growl is pretty common when the dogs are playing. It sounds menacing, and it can be in certain situations…just not during play. The older of these two boys likes to growl after he’s greeted you at the door (following some huge barks that come out before he realizes who’s entering the house), and even more during play.

These two are very vocal with one another when they play. If you do happen to hear your German Shepherd growling while playing with other dogs or with you, it’s pretty natural. Do not automatically assume that something is wrong if he’s growling during play because, if what we’ve read and witnessed is an indication, it’s perfectly natural and part and parcel of the typical German Shepherd play style!

We’ll be delving into the topic of dog play styles quite a bit more in the future, as it is one of the more fascinating dog training topics. Until then – happy playing!

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Redd Wolf
Redd Wolf
17. 10. 2023

Very accurate! “Bitey face” was my German Shepherd’s favorite game, followed by “tag” (taking turns chasing each other). photo of “bitey face” game:

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