The quest for muscle mass isn’t only limited to humans – many people are interested in helping their pup bulk up too.
While you aren’t likely to add a ton of muscle to your dog, there are strategies you can implement to help him develop a bit more bulk and enjoy some additional bonding time in the process.
3 Steps for Helping Your Dog Gain Muscle
Building muscle is a pretty straight-forward process that involves three distinct steps. You will have to address each one to obtain the results you desire.
- Feed your dog a nutritious diet. Your dog needs a high-protein diet to ensure he has the raw materials necessary to create more muscle tissue. Minimally, your dog needs about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. So, your 50-pound pit bull needs about 50 grams of protein per day. Check our our list of the best dog food for gaining weight, as these formulas are packed with protein. Make sure to check out our list of the best high-protein dog foods too!
- Provide your dog with exercise, preferably involving some resistance. Exercise strains the muscles, causing small rips and tears in the fibers. Later, your dog’s body will rebuild them, making them even bigger this time – it’s the body’s way of preventing such tears in the future.
- Ensure your dog gets plenty of rest. After stressing your dog’s muscles, he needs time to rest, and allow his body to repair the muscles. Without proper rest, your dog won’t add any additional muscle mass.
Start Dog Muscle Building Slowly & Progress Gradually
Body builders don’t just start off bench pressing 400-pounds – they start off with much lighter weights and work their way up to the heavier ones. The trick is, they increase the weight a little bit each day or week. This allows them to challenge their muscles continuously and build muscle mass.
This same progressive game plan is the best way to help your dog gain muscle mass too.
Not only because it is effective, but because it helps prevent muscle strains and other injuries that can occur if your dog tries to do too much too fast. This is especially important when working with young dogs, whose bodies have yet to mature.
Don’t Try to Exceed the Natural Form of the Breed
For the most part, it is not very likely that you’ll turn your dog into an anatomical freak with muscles that are too big for his body (unless you’re some kind of mad scientist). However, it is important to keep your dog’s breed in mind when trying to add muscle.
Most people trying to bulk up their dog own pit bulls, American Staffordshire terriers and other physically imposing breeds, and these dogs often tolerate the additional mass well.
However, trying to bulk up your greyhound, whippet or Afghan is probably not a great idea. These types of breeds are built to be long and lean, and they can develop problems if forced to continually carry too much additional weight.
Warm Up and Cool Down Your Pooch Appropriately
Just as it is important for you to stretch your muscles before lifting weights or going for a run, it is also important for your dog to warm up his body gradually before engaging in vigorous exercise. This will not only allow better eventual performance, it will help avoid strained muscles and other injuries.
Some people try to train their dog to stretch on command, but this isn’t always possible. You can try to encourage your dog to stand on his back legs and place his paws on your chest to help him stretch a bit, but this may be counterproductive to your basic obedience training – many owners struggle to keep their dog from jumping up on people in this way!
If nothing else, consider giving your pup a little massage on his major muscle groups before exercising, as this may help increase blood flow to the areas and allow for more fluid movement.
Also, remember that it is wise to cool-down gradually at the conclusion of the exercise regimen. A good way to do so is to go on a slow, casual stroll immediately following the workout. Such walks needn’t be long, but they give your dog’s body a chance to cool down before he goes back inside and plops down on the kitchen floor (my dog can’t be the only one that loves laying on the cool kitchen floor after exercising).
Good Exercises for Your Bulking Up Your Dog
It can be a little challenging to devise ways to exercise your dog. They lack the thumbs necessary to grab a barbell, and they lack the attention span to participate in a spin class (not to mention the whole bike riding difficulty). Ultimately, you must tap into your dog’s natural instincts to work and play.
A few of the best exercises are listed below. Some will work better for some dogs than others, and you may need to experiment with your pup to determine the ones best suited for him.
Weight Vest Activities
Weighted vests are a great way to increase the resistance your dog feels when walking around. Most such vests allow you to adjust the amount of weight in the vest, so start slow, by only adding about 5 to 10 percent of your dog’s body weight.
Over time, you can gradually increase the amount of weight in the vest, in accordance with your veterinarian’s guidance.
Weight Dragging or Pulling
Weight pulling is an activity that involves fitting your dog with a harness that is attached to a heavy weight. Then the dog is allowed to walk forward in an effort to drag the weight behind him.
Many dogs love this activity, and as long as it is carried out safely, with the proper equipment and training, it can serve as a great exercise.
Swimming is a remarkable exercise that works out all of the major muscle groups, and many dogs love taking a dip in a lake or pool. It’s also a great exercise for arthritic dogs!
Always be sure to keep safety in mind, and never allow your dog to swim in strong currents or in areas where you could not rescue him, should he get into trouble or tire. You may want to invest in a dog life jacket for additional safety, as well as consider pool or boat ramp designed to help dogs out of the water easily.
Spring Pole Work
Spring poles consist of a knotted rope that is attached to a spring-loaded anchor. It works by providing strong resistance, while your dog tugs on the rope. Most spring poles are mounted so that the dog reaches up to grab the rope, but other orientations are possible.
Assuming you have a willing pup, who is not frightened by the motorized device, you can train your dog to walk on a doggy treadmill.
Treadmills not only allow your dog to walk for miles without leaving the house, but because you can raise the resistance level or degree of incline, they can help develop muscle more effectively. Be sure to supervise your dog’s treadmill time and keep his safety at the forefront of your mind.
Remember to keep your pup’s health and well-being in mind as you set out to bulk him up. Always consult with your veterinarian before initiating an exercise regimen and consult him or her regularly to ensure your dog remains healthy.
If at any time your dog shows signs of exhaustion or suffers an injury, you must stop immediately and take the appropriate steps.
Have you ever tried to bulk up a dog? What kinds of techniques did you use? Were they successful? Let us know all about it in the comments below.