Adding Resistance for a Strength Workout for your Dog
As I have already pointed out, having strong muscles could mean having a longer lifespan. Research on humans supports this and it is very likely to hold true for our canine companions as well. Many dog owners are unaware of the strength training options available to them when it comes to exercising their dog. Today, I will discuss one of the ‘easiest’ ways to make your dog’s workout a strength workout: the weighted vest.
Human Use of a Weighted Vest for Building Strength
As an athlete, I have used a weighted vest for many years to increase the intensity level of my exercise drills. I use a 15 lb. vest, which is around 9% of my body weight and use the vest for many body weight exercises such as pull-ups and push-ups, squats, and stair climbing. In most cases, the added resistance from a vest should not exceed 3-10% of the exerciser’s body weight.
Using a weighted vest makes any exercise more difficult can help to build muscle and burn more calories. A similar approach can work for dogs.
Canine Use of a Weighted Vest to Build Strength and Muscle
What works for us humans will often work for our dogs. Adding a small amount of weight to a dog’s frame can turn virtually any movement into a strength exercise. A weighted vest can be used safely with a dog performing the following exercises:
- Hill work
- Core exercises
- Agility drills
There are several studies that show the calorie expenditure, muscle building, and weight loss benefits of using a weighted vest while exercising (see reference list below. Some of the advantages to using a weighted vest include:
- Higher calorie burn for the same exercise. One study estimates that you will burn 7 % more calories with a vest than without it. Note- this value is an average. The more intense the exercise and the heavier the vest, the greater will be the increased calorie expenditures. (See reference 1 and 5 below)
- Faster weight loss. In this study, dogs that walked with a vest lost 4 times the body weight as did the dogs that walked without the vest (4% weight reduction vs. 1 % weight reduction over an 8 week period). The vests in this study ranged from 7-16 ounces depending on the dog size. (See reference 2 below)
- Building/Maintaining Muscle. More muscle on your dog means that their joints and skeletal system will be well protected. This can be very important for athletic dogs (e.g. agility dogs) that place a lot of stress on their joints and tendons. It can also be important for older dogs to maintain muscle mass as they age as a way to deal with old age issues like arthritis.
We use the K9FITVest with our dog SlimDoggy Jack and it works well. The vest fits snugly and the material is stretchy and offers mild compression, which Jack seems to like.
Alternatives to the Weighted Vest
Dog owners who use a canine back pack to add resistance for their dog’s workout should be aware that although these backs can work well in some circumstances, they do have a few drawbacks.
First of all, these packs let you add load by placing heavy objects (e.g., a filled bottle of water) in the pack’s compartments. However, there is no way to know if the load is too much (or to little). Be careful that your added load is in the safe zone of under 10% of the dog’s bodyweight.
Second of all, these packs are much better suited for slow walking and are not well suited for faster paced exercise. The reason is because they tend to slip and move on the dog’s body, partly because the load is not evenly distributed, and this can lead to injury to the dog. If you do decide to use a pack, try and make sure that you distribute the weight evenly and avoid using it for any activity that requires running, jumping, or change of direction.
The bottom line is that a dog owner can use a weighted vest to easily add a strength training component to their dog’s exercise regimen, without having to add specific strength exercises specifically. In the coming weeks, I will share some canine strength exercise that can augment the weighted vest training and round out a dog’s fitness program.
- The effect of weighted vest walking on metabolic responses and ground reaction forces.
- A Randomized Trial Comparing the Weight Loss of Canines That Walked With and Without the TrimDog Exercise Belt.
- Acute physiological response to treadmill walking with torso mounted weight in young women.
- Five Reasons to Add Canine Resistance to your Dog’s Indoor or Outdoor Exercise Program
- Rapid Weight Gain (but Don’t Worry)