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Strength and muscle building in dogs – why muscle is so important and how to train properly

Muscle building in dogs is not only an issue for sporting dogs. Also in the case of joint problems, after prolonged immobility, it is important to rebuild the muscles step by step. However, when it comes to strength and muscle training, there are some important key points to consider. Because a lot helps here – as with many other topics – not necessarily a lot. Rather, it’s about well-structured training. In the article you will learn what happens in the body during muscle building, how to train muscles and what you should pay attention to during training. Furthermore, I present you some measures for outdoor muscle training.

Muscle building in dog sports

More and more dog owners are active in dog sports with their dogs. The number of dog sports is also growing steadily and the sports are evolving. Likewise, there is an awareness that for sports to be successful and responsibly practiced, it is not enough to engage in sports activity on a regular basis. Rather, it is becoming increasingly clear that the success and also the health of the dog are strongly dependent on effective training of condition, a good body feeling, coordination, agility, balance, strength and musculature. These are the components that, in interaction, make it possible for the dog to pursue the sport successfully and, above all, with as little risk of injury as possible.

Targeted strength and muscle training supports your dog during stress in sports. In a well-muscled dog, joints and spine are better protected from injury. Joints are kept healthy, ligaments remain tight and articular cartilage is well nourished and remains resilient.

Power is needed, for example, to accelerate quickly and maintain a high speed during racing and jumping. If an injury does occur, a well-trained dog’s body regenerates much faster. At the same time, the performance of the dog is also increased. Strength and strong muscles are essential for any athletically trained dog.

Muscle building in dogs – what happens in the body

Strength can be increased by about 40% through targeted training. In the process, muscle development is improved. There is an increase in the number of myofibrils in the muscle fibers. This increases the muscle fiber cross-section. Improved excitation transmission allows more units within a muscle to be stimulated. Intramuscular coordination – meaning the interaction between nerve and muscle – is also improved.

What to consider when strength and muscle training?

Much does not help much. Give your dog regular breaks from training. Increase the workload slowly and carefully. Be careful not to overload your dog in training. Otherwise, it can cause damage to the muscles such as muscle soreness and torn muscle fibers. Overuse-related wear and tear on the joints, such as osteoarthritis, can also develop in overtrained dogs. Also make sure to always exercise the entire body evenly. Muscle building for dog

How much and how long?

This question cannot be answered in a blanket way, because this depends on the training status of your dog. Each dog is to be considered individually. In general, I recommend strength training about two to three times a week. Keep intense workouts that require a high level of concentration short. Increase the intensity and duration of the training only slowly.

How to train strength and musculature?

Strength and musculature can be trained on the one hand by active movement but also by tension exercises without active joint movement, e.g. with the help of isometric exercises. A combination of both is optimal. Both variants also train balance, body awareness and coordination. In active training also joint mobility. All components are essential in everyday life as well as in dog sports.

Strength and muscle training outdoor muscle building in dogs

There are several ways to train your dog’s strength and muscles outdoors. I will briefly introduce these to you in the following.


Running at a trot gently builds strength and muscle. At the same time, the dog’s condition and cardiovascular system are trained. Running on soft ground is well suited. Start with a few minutes at a light trot, then switch to walk for a short time before following with the next session at a trot. Your dog must have the opportunity to get fit and build up condition. For sporting dogs, this is a very good way of training. If your dog suffers from joint problems or is already older, I recommend that instead of jogging, you resort to treading water or active movement exercises to train the muscles.

Running on the wheel

Your dog can also trot next to the wheel. Here you also train your dog’s strength and musculature, as well as fitness and a strong cardiovascular system. Again, start with short sessions alternating walk and trot and build up gently and slowly. This type of training is very good for already athletic, healthy dogs. Again, for dogs with joint problems and senior dogs, I would tend to use measures such as treading water and active exercise.

Swimming and treading water

Swimming and treading water are also great ways to build muscle, especially during the warmer months. The advantage of training in the water is that your dog is very easy on the joints. Because in the water the joints are relieved to the maximum. At the same time, the training effect is very high due to the water resistance. But of course also the effort! Therefore, make sure that you do not overexert your dog. Treading water is a particularly gentle variant for older dogs and quadrupeds with diseases of the musculoskeletal system.

Uphill uphill

Uphill and downhill training exercises the strength and musculature of the entire body. Walking uphill trains the muscles of the hind legs and lower back – downhill, the chest muscles, those of the front legs and shoulder girdle. The duration should always be increased slowly. Even a small hill is quite sufficient here, where you lead your dog up and down, or you run up and down a hill in zigzags. Here shorter units are also very suitable for older dogs or with joint diseases.

You therefore have many options that you can do outdoors with your dog to specifically build muscle and train your dog’s strength.

Basic information about muscle building in dogs

For all training activities, I recommend that you always warm up your dog briefly and do not forget the cool down afterwards. Watch your dog carefully after training. Are his movements and activity normal? Or does he move sluggishly and is conspicuously still? Dogs can also get painful muscle soreness if they exercise too intensely. If this happens, you should definitely adjust the training workload. Also, give your dog regular breaks from training. The body needs time to recover and the muscles only build up during breaks. If your dog is sick or not in good shape, you should definitely refrain from training.

For comprehensive muscle and strength training, it’s just as important to do regular supplemental fitness and mobility exercises with your dog. A combination of active training consisting, for example, of regular units of running on the bike combined with targeted movement exercises, ensure effective training. There is a very wide range of options here. Basically, the entire body should always be considered in training. The point is not that the exercises look as spectacular as possible or are only implemented with the greatest effort. Rather, this is a matter of precise, slow and deliberate implementation.

In the next article, I’ll introduce you to active movement exercises that you can use to train muscle development in dogs.

All love, your Tina

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