Updated: May 22
I’m often asked how to build muscle in dogs whether that is for the show ring or in the performance dog to improve power. Many of the people who ask me aren’t prepared to put in the work necessary and often turn to muscle building powders forgetting they still require you to put the work in, they don't just work by themselves!
We also need to keep in mind that the ingredient panel of the canine muscle building powder should be analysed, so often they are full of cheap fillers and completely unsuitable ingredients for dogs especially for long term use.
Building muscle takes a holistic approach, just chucking a weight vest on a dog and feeding it some muscle powder isn’t safe or even appropriate. Leave your ego at home and actually put in the work for safe and healthy body condition.
𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑜𝑤𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑎𝑑𝑣𝑖𝑐𝑒 𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑎𝑑𝑢𝑙𝑡 𝑑𝑜𝑔𝑠.
🥩🍗 𝗗𝗜𝗘𝗧 🥦🍉 If you want the best out of your dog then you need to put the best into them, this is not highly processed kibble. Think of what an elite athlete puts into their body….it is not anything that resembles kibble.
You need quality proteins from whole food sources that are species-appropriate so the dog’s body can actually utilise them effectively. A balanced fresh food diet is what I would recommend. A balanced fresh food diet 𝗗𝗢𝗘𝗦 𝗡𝗢𝗧 𝗟𝗢𝗢𝗞 𝗟𝗜𝗞𝗘: Rice, Pasta, Meat & Veg. It pains me so much when I see people feeding that kind of diet and thinking it’s awesome – it’s not balanced and it’s not healthy, your dog doesn’t need a high carb diet with rice and pasta.
👉 I have a free fresh food feeding group with an outstanding “Start Here” file that will take you through how to feed a balanced fresh food diet: https://www.facebook.com/groups/rawandfresh/
Feeding a fresh food diet is based on the premise of feeding a variety of ingredient on rotation, definitely not the same thing day in and day out and certainly no synthetic vitamins and minerals found in kibble.
🥩🥚 𝗔𝗠𝗜𝗡𝗢 𝗔𝗖𝗜𝗗𝗦 🥛🐟 There are 22 different amino acids that make up the thousands of different proteins in the dog body and 20 in the human body.
10 of the 22 are considered essential amino acids in dogs and 9/20 for humans, meaning they cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet.
Of the 10 essential amino acids in dogs, three are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine.
“Branched-chain” refers to the chemical structure of BCAAs, which are found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat, seafood and dairy products.
𝗕𝗖𝗔𝗔𝘀 𝗖𝗮𝗻 𝗟𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗜𝗻𝗰𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗱 𝗠𝘂𝘀𝗰𝗹𝗲 𝗚𝗿𝗼𝘄𝘁𝗵 The BCAA leucine activates a certain pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which is the process of making muscle.
Whilst BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis, they can’t do so maximally without the other essential amino acids, such as those found in whey protein or other complete protein sources. 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘁𝗲 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗲𝘀 𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗹𝘂𝗱𝗲 𝗠𝗲𝗮𝘁, 𝗘𝗴𝗴𝘀, 𝗗𝗮𝗶𝗿𝘆, 𝗤𝘂𝗶𝗻𝗼𝗮 & 𝗕𝘂𝗰𝗸𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗮𝘁.
Whilst human bodybuilders can rely on their BCAA supplements and BCAA boosted shakes, excessive consumption of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) may reduce lifespan, negatively impact mood and lead to weight gain. One great way of not consuming excessive amounts is to simply get them from a whole foods diet. This is a very important piece of information for pet parents who keep their dog’s long term on canine muscle building powders.
⭐️ 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗕𝗖𝗔𝗔𝘀 𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗱𝗼𝗴𝘀 𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗹𝘂𝗱𝗲: ⭐️ • Round Beef • Chicken Breast • Canned Tuna • Salmon • Turkey Breast • Eggs • Greek Yoghurt
L-Carnitine A recent study shows supplementing the amino acid L-carnitine in the diets of working dogs increases lean muscle mass, speeds muscle recovery and lessens oxidative stress during exercise. Food sources richest in L-carnitine are red meat, followed by chicken, pork, poultry, fish and dairy products. Plant foods such as vegetables, fruits and grains contain insignificant amounts therefore anyone feeding a kibble should re-consider this diet as they commonly only contain 20-40% animal protein. If you would like to supplement L-Carnitine, you can Buy it here
🏃♀️ 𝗣𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗸𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗥𝗲𝗰𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗡𝘂𝘁𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 🏃♂️ Dairy Kefir which is a fermented milk product is a good source of protein and essential amino acids. 1 cup of kefir contains approximately 10 grams of protein and of course Whey which is commonly used in bodybuilding circles. ½ a cup for a medium dog, ½-1 cup for a large dog and 1-2 cups for giant dogs post workouts could be beneficial in recovery and support muscle building.
Nature Vet’s Recovery Paste (Australia) which is a source of BCAA’s is a product for both Horses and Dogs that can be used post-performance to assist recovery which could be ideal for performance dogs immediately after their performance whether that be a trial or an intense training session.
🤗 𝗚𝗨𝗧 𝗛𝗘𝗔𝗟𝗧𝗛 Beautiful healthy muscle comes from a healthy body. A healthy body has a healthy digestive tract so don’t skip this part of building muscle in your dog.
Gut bacteria can dramatically impact weight by influencing how the body absorbs nutrients, creating the hormones associated with feeling full and helping to keep blood sugar levels in a normal range. If you are going to go to the effort of putting the best food into your dog then you want to make sure the gut health is on point so it can absorb those nutrients to the best of its ability.
𝗛𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘁 𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗱𝗼𝗴’𝘀 𝗴𝘂𝘁 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗹𝘁𝗵:
• Feed something fermented at every meal Fermented Veggies, unsweetened Kefir & Kombucha can be purchased from the fridge section at your local supermarket but you can also make it yourself if you have that desire.
• Give a probiotic and at the end of each bottle/pack change brands so you are constantly supplying different strains and amounts to your dog. Check out our Gut Dust: https://www.balanced-canine.com/my-doggie-boosters
• Feed Fibre - Fibre acts as food to the probiotics so if you don’t feed the good guys then they can’t do a good job! Plant matter is an excellent way to provide fibre to your dogs, remember though, dogs find it challenging to break down the cell wall of plants so you’ll need to help them by either cooking, finely chopping, grating or blending. For the highest bioavailability of plants, you can steam and then blend. Plant matter should be around 25% of your dog's diet in our opinion for gut health purposes. You can also head to Woolworth’s health food aisle and grab “Gentle Fibre” and give at the rate of ½ a teaspoon per 5 kilos of body weight. Gentle Fibre can be given with plant matter but every other day would be fine.
• Reduce stress – stress has a major impact on gut health so have a good look at your dog’s lifestyle and living arrangements and see where you can reduce or eliminate stress.
• Move it! Exercise is one of the best ways to support gut health, those little gut bugs love it when their host exercises!
🦵 𝗘𝗫𝗘𝗥𝗖𝗜𝗦𝗘 💪 The exercise programs of elite athletes aren’t just focussed on the sport they do, cross-training is an important element. A dog’s exercise program should involve cardio, balance & strength training.
🚲 A great way to give a dog cardio (get their heart rate elevated and panting) is bike riding. Bike riding promotes a nice even gait and is a great activity for show dogs too. Take care to have dogs on different surfaces, we don’t want them constantly hammering their joints on concrete.
⚽️ Whilst throwing the ball is great exercise, this highly repetitive exercise can increase the risk of injury so our recommendation is to take care not to throw the ball too high or in a way that encourages your dog to tightly turn, jump and twist, slip and slide.
🏊♂️ Swimming is a fantastic cardio exercise, you will need to make sure your dog has good swimming technique as sometimes they only use their forelimbs. A life jacket can help them get that good technique going. If all else fails, book in with a doggy swim centre that can have an instructor in the pool with your dog helping them.
Underwater Treadmill is hard work and the level of difficulty can be increased by the operator using incline, speed and water jets. Underwater Treadmills can often be found at animal physio and rehab centres.
Treadmills – if you’re going to use a treadmill, you need to make sure that the belt is long enough especially for bigger dogs, if you put your dog on a typical human treadmill with a shorter belt length it can cause your dog to take shorter strides which will impact their performance and increase the risk of injury. There are now a number of dog-specific treadmills and with a little online research, you should be able to find which one is best suited to your dog. Some come with incline and decline options.
Slat & Carpet Mills – These are similar to treadmills however it is the dogs own motion that moves the belt, therefore a dog can run as fast as they like on them. Slat Mills does have a nail injury risk associated with them which is often related to the dog being too far forward on the belt. Google will help you find Slat & Carpet Mill makers, in Australia, look up the GRC Sports groups and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
Flirt Poles – These look like fishing poles with a toy on the end, great for dogs with prey drive i.e. like to chase. You can tease the dog by flicking the line and nearly letting them have it and then, of course, letting them have it, if you barely let them win, they won’t want to play with you. Some high drive dogs can be dangerous to themselves when playing on a flirt pole, your job will be to prevent them jumping and twist and slamming into quick turns etc.
🥳 Play – Play with your dog, it’s so much fun! Find out what they like, do they like to be chased? Do they like to chase you? If you play with a tug, take extra care not to lift the dog off the ground with it, death shake it with your hands, do unnatural movements with it as you can cause an injury. You want to simply provide the resistance to them and always have your hands at a natural level to their heads. If your neighbours don’t think you’re a weirdo then you need up your play game.
Spring Poles – They’re a great activity but so often done in a way that increases the risk of injury. Look to a GRC club to guide you here.
🐩 Standing Still – Sounds so simple right? But standing still in a 4-Square position for 30 seconds without moving or weight shifting is something not a lot of dogs can do, you may have to start at 5 seconds and build up – a great activity for show dogs.
When your dog is awesome at this activity, you can then move it to balance equipment such as a balance disc, pods or a peanut.
👌 When using physical positions and also balance equipment it is very important that the dogs form is excellent, if you don’t know how to judge this, getting a canine fitness professional to help you would be ideal.
😟 Some Show dogs can be very restricted to the type of conditioning they can do as their handlers often don’t like to teach them to sit or do any other obedience – this is outdated and unnecessary, I’ve never had a show dog sit in the ring and even if they did, I’d simply ask them to stand. Teach your show dog what Stand actually means and you’ll not have an issue.
✅ Push-ups – Ask the dog to drop and then stand without moving their feet – luring this position is often a good way to control the movement in this activity. Start at 5 reps and if they are moving through the push up in a springy and fast way and they do not look fatigued at all then you can give them a minute break and ask for the 2nd set of 5 reps. The average fit dog should be able to do 3 sets of 10 reps. You must watch for fatigue signs because if you push a dog beyond fatigue then you increase the risk of injury and also it’s not fun for the dog and they won’t want to do it.
When your dog is awesome at this activity, you can then move it to balance equipment such as a balance disc or peanut, also asking them to do this activity on a slanted surface can increase the challenge.
✅ Squats – As the dog to sit and then ask them to stand BUT the trick here is that they cannot move their front legs, this is called a kickback stand. If you don’t know how to train this, YouTube should help you. One way you can do it is when you have the dog in a sit, you can pop the treats on their nose and guide their hindquarter up with your other hand. The same rep guidelines as push-ups apply here.
✅ The Push-up and the Squat are just 2 exercises you can start with, your canine fitness professional can take you through many more, but these are 2 good ones to start with and master.
🏋️♂️ Leg Weights are one way to take exercises your dog is awesome at and make them more challenging. If you Google “Leg weights for dogs” you should be shown a number of different options such as: https://www.ortocanis.com/…/dog-rehabili…/29-leg-weight.html
🚨 Weight Vests for dogs – Whilst they sound like a great idea, so many of the weight vests currently on the market have a strap that goes across the dog's chest and impede the dog's shoulder movement which can lead to injury and abnormal gait. You might be better off grabbing a backpack from Waggle (Australia) and adding your weight evenly – the Backpacking competition dogs do this. Please make sure you follow the guidelines of adding weight as in most cases you won’t be adding over 10% and you need to build up to this. https://waggle.com.au/dog-backpacks-c22
✅ Stay Sprints – This is where you put your dog into a stay in either a stand, sit or drop and you move away from them then you release them as you’re running away from this, this explosive take-off can really help build take-off power needed for various sports but also to simply build muscle.
✅ Up Hill Sprints – It doesn’t have to be a big hill. Throw food or a toy up the hill if you don’t have 2 people who can call the dog back and forth. To start with, your dog may only be able to do 1 or 2 before showing that they’re tired. Build up over time and work with sets to ensure you’re giving them a break in-between. i.e. 5 reps per set.
✅ Free Running – Dogs running in big spaces is one of the best forms of exercise you can give them. Running and playing is great for them physically and mentally – I am not referring to a dog park with dozens of dogs running around.
✅ Obstacle Courses – Making a safe obstacle course that matches your dog's capability is a great way of cross-training your dog. Using both stable and balance equipment. Your dog should never look uncertain or scared and there should not be a reasonable risk of them falling and hurting themselves.
✅ Weight pull - dogs need to wear a custom designed harness and drag chains not a cart or drag bag. They should be taught how to pull, there is a method on how to do it correctly. A GRC club will be able to guide you.
🚦 Joint Support - Any performance dog should be on a joint supplement such as Antinol. Inflammation is the precursor to arthritis and inflammation happens to all dogs in training and preparation for their hobbies. If you need an online supplier with free shipping, shoot me a message.
I also recommend performance dogs are on MSM powder to support ligaments and muscles and fight inflammation. OptiMSM is the highest quality and in Australia can be found here Dosage: 1-10 kilos of body weight: 1/4 teaspoon 10 - 20 kilos of body weight: 1/2 teaspoon 20 – 40 kilos of body weight: 3/4 teaspoon over 40 kilos: 1 teaspoon and then 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 kilos over that
These doses can be doubled when there are joint disease issues.
Add Vitamin C to increase absorption of MSM. Use a ratio of 4 parts MSM to 1 part Vitamin C. Ester C is much gentler on the tummy that standard Vitamin C and comes in a powder.
𝗔𝗟𝗪𝗔𝗬𝗦 𝗕𝗘 𝗦𝗔𝗙𝗘 – 𝗟𝗘𝗔𝗩𝗘 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗘𝗚𝗢 𝗕𝗘𝗛𝗜𝗡𝗗 – 𝗕𝗘 𝗣𝗥𝗘𝗣𝗔𝗥𝗘𝗗 𝗙𝗢𝗥 𝗜𝗧 𝗧𝗢 𝗧𝗔𝗞𝗘 𝗧𝗜𝗠𝗘 – 𝗕𝗘 𝗖𝗢𝗡𝗦𝗜𝗦𝗧𝗘𝗡𝗧 – 𝗗𝗢𝗡’𝗧 𝗧𝗔𝗞𝗘 𝗦𝗛𝗢𝗥𝗧𝗖𝗨𝗧𝗦