6 Tips for Building Lean Muscle in Bigger Dogs

Turn your runt of the litter into the alpha of the pack!

By December 10 | See Comments

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6 Tips for Building Lean Muscle in Bigger Dogs
Photo by David Taffet on Unsplash

If you own a bigger, athletic dog that's not in peak form, it can be challenging to transform your canine into the desired specimen. Thankfully, with our helpful tips, your furry friend will be happier, healthier, and carved out of granite!

In most cases, your dog is an extension of your personality. It’s why many owners end up with canines flaunting impressive physiques.

It’s a matter of pride, really. When you’ve got a massive Mastiff, a powerful Pitbull, or a daunting Doberman strolling around the premises, you can’t help but take joy in their confident, brawny poise. Additionally, muscular breeds act as the perfect guard dogs and offer families that extra bit of security.

So, what happens when your feisty friend is holding a few extra of the wrong kind of pound? Or too few? Maybe you’ve been busy at work and haven’t been as focused on his or her diet. Perhaps your dog is coming off of an injury. Or possibly, they are the runt of the litter and have yet to bloom into the specimen you expected.

Either way, you want your pup to channel their inner Arnold Schwarzenegger and start to lean out, tone up, and put on the healthy muscle needed to be alpha of the pack. And we have the tips that’ll help your canine reach its peak form:

1. Burn Calories During a Trip to the Vet

Before your dog embarks upon any fitness journey, you need to ensure that the safest practices are being adhered to. Sure, your intentions may be pure, but a poorly thought out regimen could do more harm to your furry friend than good.

Age is a primary deciding factor in dictating the level of strain your dog can handle.

The vet will let you know if your dog is too young (under a year is always risky) or too old. They’ll also assess your dog’s development, muscle growth, and joints to see what level of exercise they can handle.

2. Push Your Dog’s Diet to the Max

It’s a principle that is identical for both dogs and humans - the best muscle gains are made in the kitchen.

Lesser quality dog food is likely the main cause for your pup’s poor physique. A doggy-diet consisting of foods rich with protein, natural meats, and healthy ingredients are a must in building lean muscle. Corn-based by-products and “mystery” meats have little to no nutritional value.

Below, is a helpful list of dog foods specifically catered to athletic dogs:

• Bully Max High Performance Dog Food

• Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20

• Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Canned

• AvoDerm Natural Dog Food

• Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High-Protein Kibble

• Dog Protein Powder by Muscle Bully

The above products are not only brimming with protein and quality meats, but also vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and quality carbohydrates.

3. Pumping Doggy-Iron

Now it’s time to look at some exercises that will promote lean muscle development in your dog:

Four-Legged Squats: As the foundation of leg strength, squats for dogs only require your pup’s body weight. Movements such as the labby limbo encourage your dog to both squat down and back up. Find balance in exercising the front and hind legs.

Weighted Vest: Your dog will work much harder and increase muscle at a drastically increased rate when equipped with a weighted vest during daily walks and playtime.

At the beginning of your dog’s progression, start with weights no greater than 5% to 10% of their body weight, and never add more than 20%. As an added bonus, any potential behavioral issues will likely subside because your dog will feel like they are working, which will evenly distribute energy and contribute to a better mood.

Provided weight pulling isn’t an option for your pup, spring poles build up bulk in a similar way.

Jumping: Optimal speed and power require effective fast twitch fiber muscles—which are activated through the act of jumping. Your dog can emulate human “box jumps” on their target platform. Or, simply find an open field and have them jump to your hand as you vary the height.

Jumping is intensely demanding and proper warmups will prevent soft tissue injuries.

Tug-of-war: A perfect blend of work and play, pulling and tugging with your dog is easily the most fun canine strength-builder that exists. By positioning your hands higher, you’ll target your dog’s rear legs. Whereas holding your hands lower activates the front legs.

Sprinting: Have you ever seen Usain Bolt? He’s much more muscular than your standard marathon runner.

Similarly, your dog will build much more muscle when full-throttle sprinting, as opposed to long-distance jogs. Keep in mind, sprints require a well-trained dog and are much more effective if you’re able to take part, keep up, and lead by example.

4. Time is Your Dog’s Best Friend

Muscle growth isn’t instantaneous. You could be feeding your dog the best quality food while ensuring he or she is following a rigorous – yet safe – exercise regime, but it’ll still take time to see the desired results. Just because your dog continues to resemble the runt of the litter instead of the alpha of the pack doesn’t mean it’s time to give up hope!

In order to track progress, take a before and after picture so you can be aware of gradual improvements which can be a great motivator. You’ll feel gratified and your dog will feed off of that energy and enthusiasm.

5. Be Skeptical of Supplements

Doggy supplements are still a mystery to many. Do they actually contain any real health benefits?

You may be tempted to purchase something to help your beloved pet reach its ideal form—and you wouldn’t be alone in a population dense with unfit dogs. Experts surmise that while some supplements might work, many may be harmful to dogs. So, it’s best to proceed with caution.

6. Be an Awesome Owner

Whether undersized, overweight, or carved of granite, your dog loves you just the same. Return those sentiments in kind!

Sure, when you own a bigger dog it can be for aesthetic appeal or security purposes. Sometimes you don’t get exactly what’s expected, but that doesn’t mean your pup isn’t a gift just the same.

Still, by following our helpful muscle building tips, your dog will be on the righteous path to buff-dom!

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