How to make your dog gain muscle
There are three essential components to building muscle on your dog.
1. Feed a high-quality diet that is high in protein. At a minimum, a dog needs 1 gram of protein to every pound of body weight. It is also important to note that excessive protein is not ideal either. This can put additional stress on the kidneys. Before putting your dog on a higher protein diet it may be best to consult with your vet.
2. Provide exercise that causes muscle growth. This is usually by way of exercise that involves some resistance. Working the muscles causes small rips and tears in the muscle fibers. When your dog’s body repairs these rips the muscle is rebuilt making them bigger and stronger
When it comes to building muscle you want to avoid long hours of cardio activities. These activities will burn your dog’s muscle off instead of building it. You want to use high-intensity cardio exercises like sprints, running up stairs or up hills for short periods of time. A high-intensity cardio workout for 10-15 minutes a day is more than enough. You can also use a weight vest when doing these exercises for higher intensity.
3. Rest and Recovery. For your dog’s muscle to grow it is crucial that the muscles are given sufficient recovery time. Hard exercises tear the muscle fibers so they can be repaired and grow. Rest and recovery give the muscles the opportunity to rebuild. Without proper rest, your dog will not gain additional muscle mass.
For best results, it is important to have a balance of all three components. Training and working out hard and not getting sufficient rest and recovery will have a negative effect. The muscles will not have the opportunity to rebuild and grow. It will also increase the risk of injury. Read “Over exercised dog symptoms” for more. The same is true of not providing the right diet. If the muscles don’t receive the necessary protein and nutrients to heal and grow muscle the results will be poor.
To learn more about how these three components work together for muscle gains see “How to make a dog gain muscle“.
Pitbull Conditioning Tips
With any exercise program with your dog, it is best to start off easy and gradually increase the volume and resistance over time. This is best to avoid injury. It is also important that your dog enjoys their workouts. This would not be the case if the sessions cause them discomfort.
It is very important to do a warm up with your dog before starting these exercises. A warm-up can consist of five or so minutes of walking starting slowly and then increasing speed after a few minutes and game of fetch or similar. This will increase the heart rate and get the blood flowing to the muscles to prevent doing injury to a cold muscle.
Weight pulling is an actual dog sport but you can incorporate this type of exercise into your dog’s muscle building and strength programme. The most important thing is that you use a proper weight pulling harness. These are designed to distribute the weight evenly over your dog’s body.
Start with a light amount of weight and have your dog drag the weight 10 to 20 metres. Give them a rest for 2 minutes and repeat. As with conditioning your dog to run, start off easy and gradually increase the amount of weight and number of repetitions over time.
This is probably one of the best all-around exercises you can give your dog. A 10-minute swim is equivalent to an hour of walking.
In addition, it works and provides resistance to the whole body especially the front end which doesn’t get as much work from just walking. As your dog’s body is supported by the water it takes the weight off of their joints and bones and is low impact. For more on swimming exercise for dogs see here.
Stairs or Uphill Exercise
Doing stair or uphill work is not only great to burn off pent-up energy. It also works all the muscle groups including the core.
Walking up stairs or a hill strengthens the rear legs as the full body weight of your dog is on each leg as the step. As they descend the stairs they are using the opposing muscles for stability. For more on stair exercise for dogs see here.
Tug of war
A classic dog game and one that is loved by most dogs. Make them use their strength to crouch and pull back. Many dog trainers are opposed to this game as they feel it encourages dominate behavior. As long as your dog takes and releases the tug toy on command and you control the game this is not an issue.
A spring pole is simply a spring connected to a rope that hangs from a tree branch or beam with a lure or toy attached to the end. This allows your dog to play tug of war with him or herself even if you are not there. Popular with a lot of dogs and particularly terrier type breeds that love a good game of tug of war.
A flirt pole is simply a stick with a rope attached with a lure or toy at the end of the rope. It is like a giant cat tickler toy. You just drag the toy around in a circle or in various directions along the ground and your dog chases it. The flirt pole will tire out your dog quickly and require minimum effort from you. For a full guide to flirt pole exercise for dogs see here.
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Jumping on to a bench and off
Have your dog jump up on to a park bench or similar platform and them jump off again. This is great for using their power to jump up and use their control and agility to dismount. Jumping off the bench is a little more high impact they some of the other exercises so it would not be suitable for a dog with an injury, especially one that relates to the front legs.
Play a game of fetch using an object with some weight relative to your dog’s size. You could use a small tire from a wheelbarrow, or a plastic dumbbell or even a water bottle filled with water or sand. A litre of water weighs 1kg.
2 Leg Walking
Left your dog’s front legs off the ground and walk a short distance. Then lift their rear end up and have them walk on their front legs like a wheelbarrow. Keep it to a short distance and no longer than 30 seconds a repetition. If your dog isn’t keen on being held up by the front legs or rear end, don’t force them as you don’t want to cause an injury if they are struggling.
This is similar to human squats. Have your dog sit and then stand. You can use treats to make this easier. If they don’t stand when you say just step back and offer the treat. After a week or two, you can increase the resistance of the exercise by putting a backpack on your dog and add weight, but not more than 10% of their body weight.
Have your dog walk backward for a short distance. This focuses on strengthening the hip extensor muscle. Walking backward is not a natural movement for dogs so to teach this walk them into a narrow enclosed area and have them back out.
Attach light weights to your dog’s ankles. You can use human wrist weights or make something yourself with some socks and sand for weight. Walk for a short amount of time like 5 minutes to 10 minutes.
Stability balls are a very popular piece of exercise equipment for dogs. They work like a swiss ball that a human would use for exercise. There are quite a few different types but they work by having your dog stand of the apparatus using their muscles to stay balanced and stable. These are great for strengthening all the muscles groups and in particular the core. At first, you may need to support your dog holding them in place and as they get more practice and develop the necessary strength you can move away making the exercise harder for them.
Summary – Pitbull Exercises to Build Muscle
Muscle gains for your Pitbull are dependent on three factors. Diet, exercise and rest and recovery. For the best results, it is important to have a balance of all three components. Start by selecting just a few of the above-recommended exercises and build up the resistance or intensity slowly to avoid injury.