Adding Resistance for a Strength Workout for your Dog

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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.


jack fitvest

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:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Hill work
  • Core exercises
  • Sit/stands
  • 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.



  1. The effect of weighted vest walking on metabolic responses and ground reaction forces.
  2. A Randomized Trial Comparing the Weight Loss of Canines That Walked With and Without the TrimDog Exercise Belt.
  3. Acute physiological response to treadmill walking with torso mounted weight in young women.
  4. Five Reasons to Add Canine Resistance to your Dog’s Indoor or Outdoor Exercise Program
  5. Rapid Weight Gain (but Don’t Worry)
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  1. I’ve heard good things about weighted vests and anklets. My trainer friend uses weighted anklets are her dogs! 🙂
    Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) recently posted…Why Managing & Training Your Reactive Dog is So Important!My Profile

  2. I love the idea of a Fit Vest for Sydney. She doesn’t like clothing, but I think she could benefit from this. In fact, I think all of our dogs could benefit. I’ll have to look into this for our pack.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Why Working Dog Should Eat a Raw Food Diet #OsoUpdate @DarwinsPetMy Profile

  3. Hi Y’all!

    Now my Human is lookin’ for one for me to wear in huntin’ season. An orange one so I don’t get shot as a deer.

    Y’all come on by,Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…It’s A Beautiful Day!My Profile

  4. good job Jack and Steve, Nellie has a vest and we need to get it out again and start wearing it again. As I too think it is so beneficial.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Puppy Fitness Videos~FitDog FridayMy Profile

  5. Jack looks ready to fight Ivan Drago!

  6. Quite interesting. We have never tried a weight vest, nor has Mom. We do have backpacks but don’t use them very often. The 10% of weight rule is good to know if we ever do serious backpack walking.
    Emma recently posted…Bad To The Bone Pooch Party Packs {Giveaway}My Profile

  7. We have never tried a weight vest before, but they sure do look beneficial!
    Earl Lover recently posted…5 Tips To Rediscover Your Dog’s Urge To PlayMy Profile

  8. The Fit Vest is such a great idea. Kilo already loves to wear his harness.
    Talent Hounds recently posted…Make Dog Walking fun!My Profile

  9. I wore a weighted vest years ago. You have inspired me to dig it out and add it to my fitness regime.
    jan recently posted…Gizmo and Duke—a most unlikely pair get a forever homeMy Profile

  10. I have a backpack for Luke but got it more to help him relax when walking. We also had a FitVest that I had for Sheba, and never used much, and I just tried it on Luke and it fit! I can see where this would be easier to deal with than the backpack, and he definitely needs a boost to his walks, so I think we’ll give it a try!
    Jan K recently posted…Keeping Active Dogs’ Joints Healthy with the Help of Solvit Ramps (& Giveaway!)My Profile

  11. I’ve thought of getting a weighted vest, I like the idea of adding some muscle building to our cardio routine. 🙂 To slow Dante down for hikes/walks though I do put his backpack on him, I am careful to weigh each side of the pannier to make sure the weight is equally distributed and not too heavy.
    DZ Dogs recently posted…Mama’s BoyMy Profile

  12. Jack looks so sexy in his vest! Love Dolly
    Dolly the Doxie recently posted…Review: Fresh Wave — Products to Make You SmileMy Profile

  13. Not sure Sam would cooperate with a weighted vest; he currently used the quick dash and see if mom can stay upright method of weight training with me being the resistance/weight but think with a normal dog this could be a real boom to keeping them healthy. 😉
    Monika recently posted…Doglish 101My Profile

  14. We’ve never used one but I can see the benefit.
    Diane recently posted…Montrose Dog Beach: Dog Friendly ChicagoMy Profile

  15. I’ve thought about getting Barley one for a long time, especially in the winter when it’s so much harder to get long walks in. She hates wearing a harness, though, so I’m not sure that I could get her to put the vest on more than once.
    Beth recently posted…Tour Guide BarleyMy Profile

  16. I tried finding a vest for Mr. N but they don’t make them in his size.

  17. My hubby has worked out with a weighted vest, and weighted vests for our pups are on our to-get-list. So far, we have only worked with K9 backpacks. We go for backpack morning walks during fall, winter, and spring, but have to omit them because of the heat in the summer time (even early in the morning it’s just too darn hot). They definitely shouldn’t be used when running your dog. The higher the quality (e.g. Ruffwear), the better the packs will fit.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…How our pack is surviving the sweltering summer heat …My Profile

    • We used to use a backpack for Jack when walking when we first got him. He had over a years worth of excess energy to expend from being in the shelter. It really helped, but now that he is older we don’t use it anymore.
      mkob recently posted…Adding Resistance for a Strength Workout for your DogMy Profile

  18. Very interesting post! I have never tried a weighted vest before, but sure sounds interesting.

  19. It’s a dilemma. It would be awesome and would help Cookie expend more energy faster but I’m pretty sure she’d hate it.
    Jana Rade recently posted…Summer Dangers: Cookie Gets Stung by a Bald-faced HornetMy Profile

  20. Interesting idea. Might be something to consider in the future.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…StarWalk Activity Tracker ReviewMy Profile

  21. Did you have to do anything specific to help Jack get used to the weighted vest? Or was he as comfortable with it as with a harness?
    Pamela recently posted…Why I Don’t Take Pictures At The VetMy Profile

  22. Right now I need to get some weight back ON Callie. She was down to 57.3 on Friday. I just got her started eating again earlier this afternoon. Only about a quarter teaspoon of the i/d, every half hour. It’s not much, but on a tummy as empty as hers has been, it’s all she can handle right now. But I wonder if it would work for Shadow? She’s been walking on the treadmill almost every day; but I don’t want her to lose much weight, just maintain it.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Cornucopia of UpdatesMy Profile

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