The German Shepherd is the third most popular companion canine in the United States today. These dogs are unmistakable, with their alert ears and intelligent eyes, their strong and powerful bodies, and their regal posture.
But the German Shepherd can also be prone to some health issues that dog owners need to know about. And German Shepherds are known to be a sensitive dog breed, especially when their daily needs are not being fully met.
In this article, we take a much closer look at why your German Shepherd might stretch, from normal and healthy behavioral (communication) reasons to reasons that might prompt a call to your dog trainer or your canine veterinarian.
Why Does My German Shepherd Stretch So Much?
There are lots of reasons why a German Shepherd might stretch a lot. There are also lots of different ways that dogs will stretch their bodies.
As long as there is no reason to suspect an underlying health issue, the simplest explanation is often the right one – stretching simply feels good!
We will explore the other, lesser-known reasons why a GSD might stretch a lot in this article. We will also talk about what different types of stretches mean.
Learn More About Dog Communication Styles
In this helpful short YouTube video, you can learn more about how your dog uses its body to communicate with you.
From tip to tail, you can watch how your dog moves to learn what they want to tell you and how they try to express their needs and wants.
Learn the Meaning of Different Types of GSD Stretches
As the K9 Development Centre explains, there are lots of different ways that your dog might stretch – and each one of those stretches is likely to have a slightly different meaning.
Let’s take a look at each of these common stretches and decode their meanings.
Your dog wants to play
Dogs will often start stretching to indicate to their owner or another dog that they want to play.
Here, there is usually a lot more going on than just the stretching behavior. Your GSD may whine or bark, wag their tail, stare or wiggle to indicate excitement and eagerness.
You may also see your dog stretching with a favorite toy in their jaws – this is often a clear sign that they want to play and also what type of play they want.
Your dog wants to make friends
When your dog meets other dogs, there is a lot of communication taking place. Stretching can be a handy way to say “let’s be friends!”
A dog that wants to communicate submissiveness may actually lie down on the ground and stretch its front legs out, as this Vetstreet photo gallery illustrates.
Your dog wants to mate
When German Shepherds hit puberty and become sexually mature, they become interested in mating.
In particular, an unfixed female dog may stretch her hindquarters up in the air to signal readiness for mating.
Your dog wants to say hi
Clicker Training calls this the “I love you” stretch or the “greeting” stretch.
This is a special stretch that your German Shepherd will only do with you and others they really love.
Often it is accompanied by a sweet expression and a gaze right at you – you can tell if you look at your dog’s face and see their nose is pointed right at you.
The front legs are lowered and the hindquarters are lifted in this stretch. Usually, the dog’s front elbows are elevated off the ground. Sometimes the reverse is the case, however.
Your dog wants to cool down
Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital points out, there is another type of stretch that dog owners often call “the sploot.”
Half split, half scoot, and all stretch, the sploot can have several different meanings. But one of the most common reasons a German Shepherd will sploot is because they want to cool down.
The German Shepherd is a working dog breed that has a thick, double-layer coat in adulthood. That coat can get quite hot in the warm season.
So if your dog comes across a cool floor or some cool grass, lying belly-down in the grass with the hind legs back is a great way to cool down fast.
As a side benefit, the sploot stretch is also a handy hip-opener, which we will talk about in the next section here
Health Reasons Why Your German Shepherd Is Stretching
As we mentioned earlier in this article, there are two main reasons why you might see your German Shepherd stretching a lot: behavioral (communication) and veterinary (health).
German Shepherds can be particularly prone to some of the health issues we talk about in this section.
If you suspect any of the problems we are about to discuss, do not wait – bring your dog in to see your veterinarian right away for an evaluation.
Your dog has joint pain
German Shepherd dogs are one of the dog breeds that tend to be particularly prone to joint issues such as dysplasia (malformation of the ball and joint socket of the hip, shoulder, and/or elbow/knee).
As this popular German Shepherd dog owner forum explains, sometimes stretching indicates joint pain or stiffness.
It can also potentially indicate patellar luxation (“trick kneecap”) where the knee joint pops out of the socket and then stretching can help pop it back into place.
Often there is a maneuver GSD owners call the “bunny hop” that accompanies stretching related to joint pain. It is also not uncommon to see dogs favoring the affected side by limping.
As Fetch by WebMD points out, hip dysplasia often starts to appear as early as five months old. But in mild cases, there may not be any obvious signs. Larger dogs are also more prone to hip dysplasia.
Your dog’s stomach is twisted
German Shepherds have deep chests. Dogs with deep chests are more prone to developing a sudden, life-threatening (and often fatal) condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus, or simply “bloat,” as Ethos Vet explains.
Veterinarians still don’t understand exactly why bloat occurs. But it is so deadly there is a simple preventative surgery you can ask your vet to do when your dog gets neutered or spayed.
If you see your dog stretching with belly on the ground, check for signs of drooling, belly noises, or skin that is hot to the touch. If the stomach feels tight and bloated, get your dog to the veterinarian right away.
Your dog has a severe upset stomach
Even if your GSD doesn’t have bloat, there is another condition called pancreatitis that also requires urgent medical attention.
Pancreatitis in German Shepherds can be caused by a number of underlying health conditions, including canine diabetes, genetics, issues of overweight or obesity, diet, age, and even the timing of a spay/neuter procedure.
Pancreatitis begins when the pancreas becomes inflamed and cannot do its job of producing enzymes that help your dog’s body to break down and digest proteins.
Your dog is itchy
“Butt scooting” is a common behavior that dog owners see when a dog has a health issue in private areas.
But stretching out against a hard surface or the ground can also be a way of scratching when your GSD has skin atopy, an allergy that causes itchy skin.