Your Dog Can’t Out Exercise a Poor Diet

Share Button
dog on treadmill

Dog on a DogTread Treadmill, Courtesy of

Having a fit dog, or being a fit human for that matter, requires dedication and regular exercise.  Luckily for us and our dogs, there are many exercise options available, many of which can be used to work around injuries and other ailments.  But being consistently active is only part of the equation if you really want your dog (or yourself) to be truly fit and healthy.


A Dog’s Body Burning Calories

A popular expression in the human fitness community states that “you can’t out exercise a poor diet”.  A similar expression with the same message is “she didn’t get those abs from doing crunches”.  Both of these sayings are meant to convey the fact that diet is the single biggest factor that will impact body weight and leanness. Diet even trumps exercise in most cases!


Why is this true?  Why does diet impact our body composition more than exercise?  Because of basal metabolism.  Basal metabolism is the rate at which a body burns calories just to stay alive and perform the most basic and necessary functions like respiration and circulation.  Believe it or not, just being a dog (or person) takes a lot of energy (calories).  In almost all cases, a dog’s basal calorie burn will be far greater than their daily exercise burn.  The same is true for humans.  Some numbers might help illustrate this point.


Calories Burned “At Rest” and with Exercise

A “normal” 50 lb. dog will burn somewhere around 900 calories per day just to perform the basic life sustaining functions and move around the house or yard.  They would burn an additional 50-100 calories per day if they exercised lightly (walks, slow jogs) for 30 minutes each day.  Although exercise is crucial to maintaining a healthy body and weight, the math shows that it is extremely hard to burn off the extra calories that result from overfeeding.


Of course if your dog is very active, they can burn a lot more calories. SlimDoggy Jack has days where he burns 30% or more of his basal amount.  That said, in most normal cases, calories burned directly though exercise, while important to achieving and sustaining long term optimal weight, are not enough to justify unmeasured feeding.  It is so important to measure your dog’s servings and account for treats and scraps.


In our next post, we will provide some tips for how to make measuring your dog’s food a daily habit.

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. How much extra should you feed on high exercise days?

    • Depends! A 10 lb terrier would burn about 25-30 calories in a half hour of running, even less for a half hour walk.
      steve recently posted…Your Dog Can’t Out Exercise a Poor DietMy Profile

  2. It is all about calories in and calories out, but calories in that are good food are what dogs and people really need. You just can’t have great workouts on a diet of chips and soda, dogs can’t either on a diet of cheap filler foods and snacks. Humans are always on the lookout for a solution to avoid good diet and exercise but it doesn’t exist.
    emma recently posted…Use Your Nose | GBGV | FitDog FridayMy Profile

  3. This was very interesting.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…FitDog Friday~Pheasant FitnessMy Profile

  4. That was a great post. I’m fortunately not on the diet-list by now, but my mom said it will work for her too, when she starts her diet tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. Many thanks, have a super friday and a great weekend.
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog FRESH NEWS FRIDAYMy Profile

  5. Very interesting! I’ve heard before that diet is the biggest factor for leanness (exercise obviously still important), but I didn’t really know the reason why – good explanation!
    Jen K recently posted…I am well aware my dogs are not kidsMy Profile

  6. Hi Y’all!

    You won’t believe what I weighed at the vet this time! or maybe you would. In addition to increased exercise, I got my food ration reduced. Treats are only fruit and home baked taters for performance rewards that are taken into account in my ration.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…My WorldMy Profile

  7. It’s way easier to gain weight than lose it, no matter what species you are. Eko is very active and so eats on the higher side of the recommended amount for his ideal body weight. Unfortunately I am not the brightest knife in the drawer and kept feeding him the same amount after he broke his toe and couldn’t run for a month. He’s back in shape now, but I was reminded to always be cognizant of changing conditions.

  8. Great Post! Didn’t know humans and dogs are so close in regards to metabolism. Diet trumps exercise is a really good tip to remember. Doesn’t matter how far you walk or run or how many crunches you do in the gym if you constantly reward with a very unhealthy treat.

  9. We have been fascinated by the diet of the sled dogs who burn the equivalent of 25 Big Macs in a single day.
    jan recently posted…Original dog shaming blogger is living the dreamMy Profile

  10. I never knew how many calories a dog burns up in an average day. You are right that it takes dedication to keep our pets and ourselves fit and at a healthy weight.
    Sharon S recently posted…Cat In The Fridge Shares Story Of Special Needs KittyMy Profile

  11. This was very interesting. I would have thought exercise was more important than diet, it seems like you hear more stress on the exercise part of keeping fit than the diet. Maybe that is just because so many people don’t make exercise a priority. But it makes perfect sense that both things are very important. I do have a friend who rides his bike obsessively but can’t understand why he doesn’t get more fit…. I think it’s because he eats so much junk food.
    Jan K recently posted…FitDog Friday – Coach Luke & MoreMy Profile

  12. This is such a simple thing in theory but it just not that easy to implement… for dogs that is. I know how to regulate my own calories in and out (I just choose not to do it because beer and cupcakes are delicious!) When I switched the dogs diets last fall, I very carefully fed them the same calories and protein. But two of them rapidly lost weight and one gained! Ugh. I switched food and protein sources again and they are now almost all back to their ideal weights but I am still not happy with what I am feeding them. I’d like to switch again but I am really afraid of weight loss and especially muscle loss as the weather gets nicer and we hike half marathons more often!
    Bethany recently posted…First Day Of Spring Snowshoeing With Three Dogs From Silver Fir At Snoqualmie PassMy Profile

    • It’s tough – I kind of think Jack is too skinny now and Maggie too heavy – the opposite of how they were when they came to us. Neverending adjustments.
      mkob recently posted…Your Dog Can’t Out Exercise a Poor DietMy Profile

  13. Since becoming a fan of Slimdoggy, I have done a thousand times better at feeding and exercising Bentley & Pierre. I precisely measure their food and they eats two small meals each day. That along with a more active day has made a world of difference! Thanks : )
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Spring has SprungMy Profile

  14. Great info as always Slim, thanks for sharing. i wouldn’t say that we are highly energetic people, but we do our fair share, and keep our dogs exercised, and thanks to a bunch of your tips we have been using, all winter has been fun as well!
    (voting reminder. Although we have fallen in the competition, we could still use everyones votes, so thanks so much for your support!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Husky turns Ostrich in the parade!My Profile

  15. Fascinating post. The Boys weight has fluctuated more this crazy winter than ever before. Before the vortex moved in – we were out and about all day long, being inside has definitely given ALL of us a few extra pounds. Although I measure EVERYTHING, I never thought to ask their doodle doc about adjusting food portions based on a decrease in exercise. Can’t wait for the next post. Thanks Slim
    Cathy recently posted…BEST BULLY STICKS | PRODUCT REVIEWMy Profile

  16. Great advice. We measure food and go light on treats. That is one reason we buy small treats because they think they are big treats with fewer calories. 🙂
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Running To A ChairMy Profile

  17. That’s true, some people outdo it for their pups. No binge exercise or eating please!
    Ruckus the Eskie recently posted…Sepia Saturday #13: Fig arooo!My Profile

Comments are now closed on this post.