Are Show Dogs Fat?

Share Button

Last year, following the Westminster Dog Show, we wrote a series of articles expressing our concern over the overweight appearance of the Labradors in the show. The first was No Wonder a Lab has Never Won at Westminster. We followed that up with an article looking into the changes in Labrador’s appearance in recent history from strong, lean and fit sporting dogs to the pudgy dogs you see in the ring now (When did Overweight Labs Become the New Normal?). We even took a look at the Cruft’s winners from last year to see how they compared. Cruft’s is the UK’s version of Westminister. While they weren’t quite as lean and fit as Labradors from 30-40 years ago, they appeared more fit than the US dogs.

We took a lot of heat from dog show folks regarding our concerns and our assertion that extra pounds on your dog, even a few, may lead to health issues and reduced longevity – just as it does in humans. They seemed to miss one of the essential point of our piece which was our fear that the example these overweight dogs set for regular pet owners is detrimental to their health. We were accused of being PETA fanatics and anti-pedigree/purebreed which is so far from the truth, we didn’t even bother responding. To be honest, we were a little surprised by the reaction as we naively thought everyone would want their dogs to be the fittest and healthiest they could be and since we control the amount of food our dog eats, controlling their weight is our duty and responsibility.


Crufts Dogs are Overweight

We were quite interested to read of some recent research by doctors at the Small Animal Teaching Hospital at the University of Liverpool in the UK. The study, (Best in show but not best shape: a photographic assessment of show dog body condition) lead by Dr. Alex German, reported alarming rates of overweight dogs among the Cruft’s top show dogs. The team analyzed photos of over 1,000 of the top winners and found a startling 26% appeared to be overweight. That’s a huge percentage of dogs carrying extra weight – particularly dogs who are supposed to be the BEST REPRESENTATION of their breed.
Dr. German expressed our exact thoughts about this: “The results are concerning because show dogs are assumed to be perfect specimens of their breed and, if significant numbers are overweight, this may ‘normalise’ obesity in the eyes of the public”. When overweight becomes normal, then everyone becomes overweight!
The team found a whopping 63% of Labradors were overweight (even higher for Pugs and Basset Hounds). It’s great to see such a frank evaluation of body condition as it relates to the health of the dog by trained medical professionals. Even just a few extra pounds is detrimental to your dog’s health and well being. It leaves them more susceptible to a variety health issues such as diabetes, arthritis and even cancer. We provide a SHORT list of resources at the end of this post on canine health issues related to weight.
I realize we are preaching to the choir here as most of our regular readers are already diligent about keeping their dogs fit and healthy, but hopefully as more and more is written on this topic, we can influence pet owners not to judge their dog’s appearance by the show dogs, but rather use their own good judgement and the assessment of their veterinarian when it comes to evaluating their dog’s weight. We’d also love to see a group of US veterinary specialists take the same critical look at Westminster and other US dog show winners and maybe get the attention of the AKC and maybe their judges will stop rewarding the extremes.
Obviously, we’ve got plenty of great information here on for assessing your dog’s weight, exercises to help them stay fit and dog food advice for feeding them the most nutritious food that you can.

Additional Readings:

Health Risks in Overweight or Obese Dogs
Long-term Effects of Obesity on Pets
A Dangerous Trend in Pet Health: Fat is the New Normal
5 Consequences of Dog Obesity

Share Button
FitDog Friday Please enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts To Dog with Love and My GBGV Life.   Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below - lots of fun fitness tips and advice!  


  1. I hardly ever see fit labs. It’s sad.
    Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) recently posted…Bloopers from the River ShootMy Profile

  2. … of course they sometimes are. I have to admit that I sometimes see some breeds with concerns when we visit a show. Our judges have an eye on the weight of the dogs in the ring… it hurts to read: “…although the dog was presented overweight…” I tried to see it relaxed, while the mom of Easy’s buddy Elton cried… :o( I hope the peeps will read the signs and they will act… not only for a ribbon or a trophy, but for the health of their dogs….
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog WOW WEDNESDAYMy Profile

    • Exactly, the health of the dog should be more important than that ribbon.
      mkob recently posted…Are Show Dogs Fat?My Profile

  3. Hi Y’all,

    Labradors I’ve met tend to be overweight. I always thought it was because their owners keep them as pets but fail to keep them exercised to the degree a working dog needs. Plus, if I ate what it says to feed me on the food plus unhealthy treats that many pets are given, I’d weigh twice what I do and that would make me almost 200 lbs! YIKES! And remember, I get lots of retriever type exercise, but I don’t work like the and 2browndawgs,com Chessies.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Exercise Parade FridayMy Profile

    • I think you are right Hawk – they get too much food and not enough exercise.
      mkob recently posted…Are Show Dogs Fat?My Profile

  4. Lots of people remark about how slim and petite Honey is when they meet her. Sometimes I know it’s a judgement of me (as in “why are you so fat when your dog is so slim? does someone else exercise her?”).

    But now you’re reminding me that people see Honey in comparison to other dogs. And yep, lots of goldens are barrel shaped too.
    Pamela recently posted…Do Dogs Compare Themselves To Other Dogs?My Profile

  5. Although I did understand the drama that surrounded your earlier posts (no one likes to feel that they’re being judged on how they’re raising their dogs, although the posts were never about people, they were about dogs), I think those posts were important.

    Over the past few years, I’ve learned that whenever I take grave offense to someone’s comments about my dogs, it’s because the comments touched a nerve that I created. Someone recently made a comment that they wouldn’t think Sydney was a raw fed dog, because she’s so overweight. It took a bit for me to remind myself that this was a friend sharing a thought and not develop hurt feelings.

    I recognized that my friend was only voicing my own thoughts. I know why Sydney is overweight, we’re happily watching her drop the pounds, but I do still like I failed her by allowing this to happen (she doesn’t feed herself).

    So although I understand why people got offended by your posts, I didn’t understand the venom that was spit your way. I couldn’t imagine calling people names or pointing out the truth about Sydney’s weight. Instead, I try and appreciate people pointing something out so that I can work to help her and get those 2 years back that I may lose because of her weight.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…4 Natural Ways to Relieve Joint Pain in My DogsMy Profile

    • I know struggling with a pet’s weight…we’ve done it with most of our Labs. I know we offended folks and I regret that, but so many people are blind to what they are doing to their dogs and in the case of show dogs, what they are doing to dogs who’s owners compare them or want to emulate the show dogs. They are supposed to set the example, and I don’t think SOME of them are setting a very good one.
      mkob recently posted…Are Show Dogs Fat?My Profile

      • So very true. I see it all the time in raw groups. People will post pictures of their dogs and the torches come out as people lambast them for having a fat dog. These people didn’t know their dogs were overweight. I have to wonder if the reason for their ignorance is because of the examples being set.
        Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Bored with Your Dog Walk Routine? Dance it Out! #WalkDogsLoseWeightMy Profile

  6. This is an excellent post! I, too, wish US veterinary specialists would follow Dr. German’s lead! My stepson’s Lab, Max, is in good shape because he has two young human brothers to play with, and the “kids” do the best they can to keep him exercised and in good condition.

    My own 3 girls are at good weights, although I would like to see Shadow lose a little more weight. I’ve been putting Ducky on the treadmill almost every morning, for 5 minutes at a time, to build up her confidence some (and to burn off some energy). I really need to put her sisters on it as well!
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Thank God for Nice StrangersMy Profile

    • That’s great about Ducky – they more you do it, the more relaxed she will get.
      mkob recently posted…Are Show Dogs Fat?My Profile

  7. I had several people tell me that they’d never seen a Basset Hound that’s sides go in like Bentley’s! He was overweight, but we helped him lose 12 pounds to his ideal weight. Obese Bassets are not cute and they are not healthy.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…The Plight of the PotcakesMy Profile

  8. It’s so frustrating because overweight people and pets are becoming the norm and being fit is almost abnormal! Even clothing sizes change for humans so they don’t have to feel like they are buying such a big size. It is very sad.
    Emma recently posted…Emma’s Pet Friendly Lodging RecommendationMy Profile

  9. It’s such a shame they allow dogs to be unhealthy in a show dedicated to dogs and specific breeds. Health is more important than any ribbon.

  10. This is a sad, sad truth. The health of the dog should ALWAYS come before winning; something you have to learn as a competitor in a canine sport.

    And most Labs I see, even just mooching around the block on lazy walks are overweight. I see more overweight Labs than I do fit ones. It’s such a shame.
    Earl Lover recently posted…Mad Balloon ChasingMy Profile

  11. It breaks my heart to see any overweight dog, just as it does with overweight children. The health results are the same-diminished life and health. I hope more people wake up and smell the kibbles for the sake of their dogs. 😉
    Monika recently posted…Doglish 101 ~ July 16, 2015My Profile

  12. Overweight dogs really do seem to be the norm. Nala admittedly has a slim build for a GSD, but about a month ago, when her body condition score was probably still about 6/9, people would compliment how unusually lovely and fit she was when we would be on a run. I didn’t have the heart to tell them she was still kind of fat! In fact, one of the difficulties I had as she lost weight was trying to figure out what she should look like. It’s hard to find pictures of slim, fit GSDs with builds like hers, and I still feel like I’m just guessing.

  13. This is a bit of a touchy subject. I see many labs that are a fine weight, even fit. Not all are show dogs, but some are and they are an acceptable weight. Some even do field work. I am not sure how accurate judging a show photo of a dog to assess weight can be. So may things can appear to add weight when the dog is actually an acceptable weight. The angle could be off, the dog could be in full coat and that can add the appearance of weight when there is none. I do not know how anyone can look at a Golden in full fluffed up coat and say for sure the dog is carrying extra weight without putting hands on the dog.

    I am not saying that all show dogs are a perfect weight. I know there have been times when we were frustrated when our dog was overlooked for an overdone/overweight dog. Yes it happens. But not always. Maybe there was something else about our dog that the judge did not like.

    We have always tried very hard to show our dogs in hard field condition. When I see articles like this, especially the title, I admit that I am a but disappointed. It implies all show dogs are fat and they are not. I wish we were closer to you, I would bring my “show dogs” over and you could judge for yourself.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Mid-Season ReviewMy Profile

    • I agree it’s hard to tell from a photo. I assume there was some rigor to the study and they examined photos from different angles – admittedly, still not perfect, but you can see some obvious differences when you compare photos of overweight dogs to fit dogs. I don’t know, but I do know that when you watch videos of some of these dogs you can see the excess weight. It’s not all breeds – overall they found 26% of the dogs overweight – which while high, certainly doesn’t mean that ALL show dogs are overweight. But it did find that 63% of Labs, and a whopping 80% of Pugs were overweight. Those numbers are concerning – especially since they set the example for non-show dogs and the breed as a whole. From the photos you regularly post – and the videos of your dogs, I think they are in excellent shape. They look fit and while they may not appear as lean as a greyhound because of their heavier coats, I don’t see jiggling or waddling like you do with some of the Labs. I said this before, I wish the LRC was as vocal as the Chessie Club in controlling their standard.
      mkob recently posted…Are Show Dogs Fat?My Profile

      • Our dogs will never have the same body type as a greyhound because there were bred for a different purpose and speed is not their purpose. Strength and the ability to swim in the ocean or any other large body of water in adverse weather requires a different body style. I would never expect a greyhound to make multiple retrieves in icy or cold water where a layer of fat is needed in addition to a double coat.
        2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Mid-Season ReviewMy Profile

  14. Just my thoughts here; I’m certainly no expert!

    I have gained a bit of a perspective on this since I attend several large AKC shows to sell my stuff. I talk to alot of show people; those who only show conformation and those who also use their dogs in more active pursuits. What I hear, in general, is that dogs are judged on some random set of characteristics that suit the current trends and not so much the health and useful conformation of the dogs.

    I see labs kept heavier, I see German Shepherds with hips set so low that they walk funny, and American Eskimos being judged on the fluffiness of their coat instead of their actual physical build. AKC is not doing any breeds any favors by catering to trends. Take a look at what bulldogs looked like several decades ago. People who show their dogs spend alot of time and money to compete so they try to go with the norms. They are encouraged to do it and, with few exceptions, they do it out of love of their dogs and their competition.

    The people who use their dogs for athletic events like agility or field work tend to have dogs who are much more fit and sound because they are allowing the dogs to function as they are intended to. They are more aware of joints that aren’t healthy, for example.

    On the other side of the spectrum are the dogs who are not as active as they need to be or are overfed out of boredom or love, or maybe have a health condition.

    Bottom line, it’s not doing the dogs any good to let them be overweight. People are people. No one is perfect and people can be overweight just as easily. Side note; it kind of depends on how “overweight” is defined. Are we talking overweight as far as a supermodel or overweight as far as physical health?

    Rarely is it on purpose or out of ill will that either dogs or people are overweight. The more we can pay attention to the health and well being of our dogs and ourselves, the better off we’ll be.
    De Hufford recently posted…Fit Dog Friday from Aussies in ChargeMy Profile

    • That’s true – a lot of this falls on the judges who award the ‘trends’ or sometimes the extremes. Every breed has a standard and they shouldn’t veer from that.
      mkob recently posted…Are Show Dogs Fat?My Profile

  15. I think it’s pretty sad that some people were offended by what you said. You only pointed out the obvious. It’s actually easy to tell if a dog is overweight or not ~ there should always be a visible waistline in a fit dog.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Four Health Problems In Small Headed Dog Breeds (Brachycephalic breeds)My Profile

    • Your post today is another example of breeding to extremes and causing health issues for the dog.
      mkob recently posted…Are Show Dogs Fat?My Profile

  16. Well we are not pro-breeding at all. Owners seem to be interested in only getting awards for their dogs to make money breeding them. Too bad you had to take so much flak but we think you are right. Love Dolly
    Dolly the Doxie recently posted…Taffy: From Obese to Fit and HappyMy Profile

  17. It\’s a sad truth. And what makes it even sadder is TNT it screws up people\’s idea of what dogs should look like.

  18. Great post, and great responses!
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Nothing But Norman #105My Profile

  19. I do agree with your post. We are active in showing our dogs and I will be the first to admit, sometimes our dogs are a little heftier (perhaps they recently had a litter) or sometimes thinner than we’d like. Things happen. I do agree that the dogs in the ring should be the best examples of the breed(s) you can find. I also know that dog show people tend to be extremely sensitive about their dogs. I would behave just as you did. Ignore it. Your article was a good discussion point that people should be willing to look at, so that dogs in general can benefit in the long run. We can all use some good old fashioned discussion without everyone being offended and feeling they have to spout off angrily. Dog shows should be about good sportsmanship. Sadly, I don’t see very much of it.
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…Sandy, Watery MischiefMy Profile

    • Thanks – you’re right, you’ve have to be so PC about everything…it stifles discussion.
      mkob recently posted…Are Show Dogs Fat?My Profile

  20. It’s a good thing this problem is being more discussed! Maybe change is on the way…

  21. “and maybe their judges will stop rewarding the extremes” – I so wish this could happen for all a breed’s characteristics in the show ring.
    Clowie recently posted…Incredulity OverloadMy Profile

  22. Glad you are helping bring awareness to the plight of the obese dog! Here’s a helpful article that you might want to share with your readers:

Comments are now closed on this post.