Different Breeds and Their Distinct Style of Play
Julie Jacobus
Assistant Daycare Manager

Different dogs can have many different styles of play. This is influenced by genetics, early socialization (as early as with their littermates), and breed type. It's a good idea to identify your dog's play preferences and make sure his friends have a similar style. It's fine for the different styles to play together. But it is important for a dog to have learned (there's that early socialization thing again!) what it looks like when another dog doesn't like what they are doing. A dog with good social skills will tone it down or move on to someone similarly inclined.

In daycare, we separate the dogs into different playgroups and play style is one of the main drivers of that decision. Our Daycare Attendants work to understand your dog's play style and help all the dogs play well together.

Let's take a closer look at the major breed phenotypes, and common play styles:

The Sporting Group includes breeds that assist in hunting, either by locating game (Pointers and Setters), moving/flushing game (Spaniels), or retrieving downed game (Retrievers). Many of these breeds require a lot of physical exercise and may retrieve not only game, but also newspapers, shoes, and other household items.
Sporting Group includes: All the Spaniels, Retrievers, Pointers, Setters, etc.
Common play styles: body slamming, neck biting, wrestling

The Herding Group includes breeds that help humans to control the movement of other animals. Depending on what kind of livestock they are bred to work with, these dogs may achieve their goal by stalking, staring, nipping, or barking. Not only do they react to human commands, they also use their own judgment. Members of these breeds are highly intelligent and need lots of mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. Some herders are high strung, and may try to interrupt rougher players by barking and nipping.
Herding Group includes: Cattle Dogs, Border Collie, Corgis, Australian Shepherds, etc.
Common play styles: chasing, nipping, light wrestling, stalking

The Hound Group were bred to help humans pursue and catch quarry, either by using exceptional sight and great speed (Sight Hounds) or by tracking scents (Scent Hounds) or both. It is hard to list general traits, as this group is very diverse. Many hounds produce a distinct bark (baying) and don't hesitate to use it.
Hound Group Includes: Afghans, Borzoi, Whippet, Greyhounds, Dachshund, Beagle, Basset, Bloodhound, Plott Hound, etc.
Common play style: Scent Hounds tend to follow their noses and may be more independent breeds. Sight hounds enjoy chase. Both the scent and sight hounds can be social dogs that like to bay with enthusiasm.

The Terrier Group were originally bred to hunt vermin and rodent, as well as to chase small game. Terriers are determined, brave, and clever, and have a high prey drive.
Terrier Group includes: Airedale, Jack Russell Terrier, Norfolk Terrier, Schnauzer, Scottie, Westie, etc.
Common play style: body slamming (esp. for stocky/muscular terriers), wrestling

The Working Group were developed to assist humans with specific tasks, such as guarding, sledding, and rescue. Many members of this group are fast learners and grow into dogs of considerable size. Due to their strength and independent spirit, they require proper handling and training. Protection breeds tend to be wary of strangers. Many of the northern breeds used for sledding like to roam and are excellent escape artists.
Working Group includes: Akita, Boxer, Doberman, Mastiff, Husky, Rottweiler, Newfoundland, etc.
Common play styles: various due to high diversity in this group

The remaining two groups, the Toy Group and the Non-Sporting Group, contain breeds so diverse that it is impossible to generalize even the most basic behavior traits. Members of the toy group are often smaller versions of other breeds, while the Non-Sporting Group contains breeds that don't fit into any other category. Today, members of both groups are bred solely for companionship.
Toy Group includes: Chihuahua, Maltese, Poodle, Pug, Yorkie, etc..
Non-Sporting Group includes: Bichon Frise, Bulldog, Chow Chow, Lhasa Apso, Dalmatian, Boston Terrier, etc.

These are all examples of breed play tendencies and, as the commercials say, individual results may vary. As for mixed breeds, you often see the tendencies of the predominant breed in the mix.
What makes your dog's play style unique? Have you noticed any breed-specific traits that emerge during play dates? Has your dog ever gotten into an argument with another dog (or the dog's human) because of miscommunication or misunderstood play style?