Muscle Building for Dogs – A Complete Know-How

How to help dog build muscle?

Muscle Building in Dogs - What you need to know

From Hector The Bulldog in the Looney Toons, Spike from Tom & Jerry, every big cartoon dog at one point depicted the importance of muscle building. It may seem like a new-age idea, but dog muscle building is not only necessary for people who reap the benefits of a ripped dog but for the dog itself.

Puppies are often tiny regardless of the breed, but they quickly grow into their adult looks. If you have a supposed muscular dog around 1 to 2 years of age and is still tiny, there are various reasons at play, but you have nothing to worry. With the proper exercise, knowledge about the breed, and nutrition, you can certainly turn your tiny pup into a hound that sends shivers down a grown man’s spine. 

It would be easier to build the muscle of dog breeds mentioned in the list below. However, if your dog is not on the list, thorough research can help you determine if the canine belongs to a muscular breed or if simple exercise suffices. 

Dogs breeds for muscle building:

  • Doberman Pinscher

  • Boxer

  • Rottweiler

  • American Pitbull Terrier

  • Greyhound

  • Dogo Argentino

  • Myostatin

  • American Bully

  • American Staffordshire Terrier

  • Saint Bernard

  • German Shepherd

  • Rat Terrier

  • Alaskan Malamute

  • Australian Cattle Dog

  • Kangal

  • English Bulldog

  • Cane Corso

  • Carpathian Shepherd

  • Bully Whippet

  • Jack Russell Terrier

  • Rhodesian Ridgeback

  • Bandog

Although muscle building is more accessible in the breeds mentioned above, the reason to do so may vary drastically. 

In this write-up, we’ll be exploring the said reasons to build muscle, assessing dog muscle condition, muscle building to improve health, and many other facets. 

Reasons for Dog Muscle Building

On the surface, the reasoning behind dog muscle building may seem evident and excessive, but nothing’s further from the truth. 

Obvious reasons like the ability to perform may take away from the profound reasons like recovering from surgery or senior dogs improving their health. However, diving deeper is sure to uncover the lesser-known reasons.

1. To Increase the Ability to Perform

Dogs that guard, herd, hunt, and retrieve have specific tasks that demand strength, agility, and endurance. For instance, police dogs and service dogs must maintain good health and have the athletic ability to perform on demand. 

Bulking up the muscle may help such dogs perform their duties optimally and increase speed, flexibility, mobility, awareness, balance, and others. 

Unlike humans, dogs do not have opposable thumbs, so they cannot lift weights like us. However, you may put your dog through a resistance training regimen to remedy this.

The most common resistance training regimens include;

  1. Swimming

  2. Wearing a weighted vest

  3. Pulling heavy harness

  4. Climbing stairs and

  5. Tug of war

Out of which, swimming is the most common and the most effective muscle-building exercise as it engages the whole body. Swimming also helps in calming, cooling, behavioral training of dogs, not to mention aiding better cardiovascular health.


2. Recover from Injury or Surgery

While medical conditions like muscle atrophy and cachexia take a significant toll on dogs of all ages, dog owners can surely remedy them. 

Muscle atrophy is a common side effect of surgery, sickness, and injury, and cachexia is a muscle disease that manifests due to cancer, kidney disease, heart failure, and other ailments.

One of the most common sicknesses dogs face is the weakness of the hind legs. The reason could be arthritis, old age, or reduced activity. It is crucial to exercise your dog during the recovery process from any health condition. 

Here are some of the ways to help your dog heal from muscle atrophy:

  1. Relieve stiffness in the legs by massaging in a circular motion. The dog will initially resist, bark, and bite, but gradually the pain will subside.

  2. Maintain a nominal exercise routine that is not strenuous. Taking your dog on a 5-minute walk after the massage or allowing them to splash around in the bathtub will help (only if the dog isn’t recovering from surgery and still has open wounds or stitches).

  3. Feeding your dog a nutritious diet will speed up the recovery. Foods rich in Omega 3 help reduce joint pain & inflammation, while scrambled eggs, venison, skinless minced chicken, or turkey help your dog recover from illnesses of various kinds. 

The mantra to treat & aid a dog with atrophy or any other sickness is patience & consistency.


3. Improve Senior Dog Health

Maintaining muscle mass and strengthening muscle in senior dogs is a whole other ballgame. Like humans, gaining muscle and exercising is easier said than done in dogs, but some turmoils lead to misery. 

Sarcopenia is a common health condition in geriatric pooches where they lose muscle due to old age. It’s a cyclic process where the senior dogs develop weak joints, cannot engage in physical activities, and experience muscle inflammation. 

You can counter these issues with muscle-building processes that can help reduce injury, extend life span, and improve health. However, the question remains, if old dogs can build muscle?

Yes! They can, but with time, effort, patience, and professional care. With proper strength training, even old dogs can build substantial muscle for a healthy body and mind. 

Here are some low impact activities for your dog to perform for muscle health:

  • Swimming- an exercise ideal for dogs of all ages. Swimming is soft on the joints but includes a tremendous physical strain necessary for muscle build-up. 

  • Playtime- Play activities like catching a frisbee, game of catch, or tug-of-war can be a tremendous day-to-day physical activity for your senior fellow. Playtime helps build muscle while your old dog gets to be a puppy once again. 

  • Good ol’ walking for 30 minutes a day can also do the trick.

While engaging in these activities, it is crucial to ensure that your dog does not exert a lot, especially if they have underlying health conditions. However, if old age is the only reason, go ahead and cautiously turn your senior pooch into a happy puppy. 


Activities that Help Build Muscle on a Dog

Most times, pet owners of young dogs witness weak muscles and low mobility in their dogs. This may be because of dietary insufficiency or lack of proper exercise. 

An athletic breed is always looking for ways to engage its muscles, and missed opportunities can lead to a lapse in health. 

Here are some activities that help build muscle on a young dog are:

1. Weight Pulling

A proper dog sport, weight pulling, is excellent for muscle-building and strengthening. First, however, you must select the appropriate weight pulling harness as we need the load to be equally proportionate across the pet’s body.

The activity ensures maximum impact and minimum chances of injury.

Start with lower weights and have your dog drag it for a minimum distance. The weight can be 2 pounds worth of weight pulled over for 30 feet. After a much-deserved rest, start again. 

Systematically, increase the weight, distance, and sets for palpable muscle building and strength in your dog.  

2. Doggy Squats

Like human squats, doggy squats strengthen the posterior muscles, including the hind joint and legs. This improves strength and mobility while helping in muscle building as well. 

Get your dog to do ten squats and then increase the reps and sets. You can also light weights to their back as they squat. However, these weights should not be more than 10% of their body weight. 

While working out, treats are essential for maintaining consistency!

3. Spring Pole

A spring pole is connected to a rope with a toy attached at hand and hung across a tree branch.

This is a one-way tug-of-war where dogs can play and increase their stamina. 

It is also perfect for busy pet parents who want to ensure that their pet is physically and mentally stimulated. 

Pro Tip: Your furry friend may get dehydrated with these pawsome activities. Carry this super essential Pet Leak-proof water bottle at your pet’s outdoor exercises. 


Assessing Dog’s Muscle Condition

While most of the ways to deal with muscle-building have to do with you, the owner, the best method to assess the muscle condition of your doggo is to visit the veterinarian. 

Your vet is not only certified in evaluating the muscle condition of your dog but is also equipped with expertise & experience to suggest if your dog needs muscle building. 

Based on the breed, a vet may also suggest how much muscle-building your dog can endure.


How to help dog build muscle? - Ways to lead a healthy life

To help your dog build muscle, you can follow these guidelines:

  1. Balanced Diet: Feed your dog a high-quality, balanced diet rich in protein. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate amount of protein and overall calorie intake for your dog's specific needs.
  2. Increase Protein Intake: Add protein-rich foods to your dog's diet, such as lean meats (chicken, turkey, beef), eggs, and fish. You may also opt for high-quality commercial dog foods formulated for muscle development.
  3. Regular Exercise: Provide your dog with regular exercise that includes activities to promote muscle building. This can include walking, running, hiking, and playing fetch. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of exercise sessions over time.
  4. Strength Training: Incorporate strength training exercises into your dog's routine. This can involve using obstacles, ramps, or balance boards to engage different muscle groups. Be cautious not to overexert your dog, especially if they are not accustomed to strength training. Start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the difficulty.
  5. Playtime and Interactive Toys: Encourage playtime with toys that require your dog to engage their muscles. Tug-of-war, rope toys, and puzzle toys can provide mental stimulation while also exercising their jaws and limbs.
  6. Avoid Overfeeding: While providing adequate nutrition is important, avoid overfeeding your dog. Excess weight can put unnecessary strain on joints and muscles. Consult with your veterinarian to determine your dog's appropriate portion sizes and feeding schedule.
  7. Monitor Progress: Regularly assess your dog's muscle development and overall health. If you're unsure about their progress, consult a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer who can provide guidance tailored to your dog's specific needs.


Remember, each dog is unique, and it's essential to consider its age, breed, and overall health when designing a muscle-building program. Consulting with a veterinarian will ensure you take the best approach for your dog's requirements.