BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Put Weight on A Dog: Benefit From A Dog Weight Vest

Black Shepherd with a vest
John Walton
Written by John Walton

When you’ve done it all and you’re still not able to manage your high-strung dog, your best solution is a dog weight vest.  A weighted vest helps to reign in the anxious and overactive behaviors that are often displayed by dogs. But even more, consider the benefits that are derived when your dog exercises more, and they are calmer and more manageable.

Consider how it will assist your dog’s health as it controls its weight, build and create muscle power, and helps to make your animal friend more sociable. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is important, and our piece regarding weight loss for dogs is a good read to encourage you to exercise your dog.

Dog vest

Dogs are of various temperaments, and they easily get excitable especially when they are with company.

Benefits of a weighted vest

I am sure you observed owners walking their dogs with vest-like material fitted around the animals’ torsos. I know! You consider this just part of the leash. This, however, is a vest made from some kind of heavy materials and may be weighted with tiny sand bags, plastic pellets or other material.

Weighted vests are designed to add extra weight to put more force on the body during exercises or walking. Our piece on teaching your pooch to walk on a leash is a must-read for all.

Vest for exercise

At the first mention of a vest with weights for your dog, your first thought may be how your pet will hold up under the weight. But it would worth the while to go for the benefits that can be derived.

  • It calms an overactive dog
    Like with some humans, dogs too display excessive energy and become excitable especially when in the company of others of its species. It will not keep still and is constantly agitated when in public. Dogs of this nature are difficult to handle and are not only a danger to themselves, but also to others.
    Dog owners will understand the pull a dog exerts as it runs before and strains against his leash to get ahead. This way, instead of you taking the dog for a walk, it takes you for a drag. Quoting Dog Whisperer Caesar Milan, dogs always want something to do and the very moment you put a backpack on it, it starts to consider its function.
  • It reduces anxiety
    Some dogs cannot bear seeing any of their species and so walking a dog may mean taking a path that is less trod, or lifting your companion past any provocation. The effort it takes to do this will make you wonder if it is worth the exercise. A dog may feel anxious to the point it barks and snarls non-stop. If you do not give it something to release all that pent-up energy, it will definitely find something to do. Such dogs will engage in other unhealthy behaviors including destroying items by chewing, rough play and unruliness, uncooperativeness and scratching.
    Training the dog can be especially difficult to do as it cannot focus on the activity with it being so excited. Apart from restricting the activities of such energetic displays, the pressure of a weighted vest on your dog can provide a sensory feeling of comfort that calms the senses and reduces aggressive behaviors. The dog now becomes agreeable, is easier to train, and even in situations where he would normally show anxiety, he will display calm.
  • It controls weight
    Exercise is equally important to the health of dogs as it is to humans. The veterinarian may suggest that you give your dog 20 – 30 minutes of exercise each day. This may not be enough however, if your dog is overweight and needs to lose some of those pounds. Furthermore, you may not have enough time to give for your dog to lose weight in a reasonable time. One of the big advantages of a weighted vest is that it applies pressure on the movement of the dog slowing him, and as he puts greater effort in his activities the muscles burn the excess energy.
    Humans are taking advantage of this weighted vest phenomenon, and in a study done in 2006, it was found that weights cause you to burn 7% more calories since it does increase the intensity of the exercise. You will get the same result with the dog as the vest makes the exercise more intense. In a study of the impact of weighted vests on dogs in 2011, Rohrer, Kinlaw & Kinlaw found that canines lost four times more body weight when they wore a particular weighted vest than those who did not.
  • It builds muscles
    As the dog sheds the excess fat its muscles become leaner and stronger. As with humans, this will provide greater protection for the dog’s joints and skeletal system. Older dogs also will benefit even more since improved muscles will help to deal with issues such as arthritis that generally affect them at this stage. The dog can now do more in terms of activities. He is now calmer, focused and more yielding to training.
  • There’s more compliance for competition
    Too fat dogs and too lean ones will be judged against their better counterparts that have well-toned muscles, shiny healthy coats, and strength and focus to follow and do the activities they are ordered. Quality foods and supplements may not be enough to set your dog among the competition. A dog vest can do the trick by developing the muscles and changing dogs physical appearance.

How to put weight on a dog

  • Gradually introduce
    Of course, your dog may not take kindly to a weighted vest at your first try with him. Give him credit to be wondering why you are saddling him with weight when he would like to run around freely. Pretty soon he will adjust and it will become a part of his workout routine. So, introduce the vest slowly to your dog. In the first training sessions you may not want to engage him in a lot of exercise, but instead get him used to the feel by walking him gently. It will not be wise also to start your dog with the full amount of weights. Increase gradually instead.
  • Balance the pack
    Unbuckle the vest where needed and gently slide it over the dog’s head. Very importantly, ensure that material is centered over the shoulders and there is no imbalance. Remember that the pack is weighted and can be a source of discomfort as your dog goes through its exercises. Additionally, you do not want to cause pain or strain to the animal.
  • Add weight slowly
    Whatever weighted materials you have to use, add them slowly to the pockets of the vest. Again, the purpose at this stage is to gently get your dog familiarized with something he is not used to. At this stage you are in an observing position as you identify his response and plan the next move. Remove weights as needed especially if the dog gets exhausted after just a few minutes. Where there is no problem, increase the weight as you go along.

Things to consider when putting weight on a dog

Generally, a weight vest is not meant to stress the dog and to get him into submission which is why it should be no more than 10 – 20% of the dog’s bodyweight. All precautions should be taken to prevent strain or pain at any time. The general rule when using a weight vest should be safety at all times.

Big vest for puppy

Dogs under two years are not yet fully grown and should not be burdened with weights. Overworking dogs that are still at puppy stage can damage their joints. You can read one of our popular piece to know how much exercise is right for your pup, which can enlighten you further.

Consider also that vests are close fitting and can be very hot for the dog. As a measure to prevent heat stroke, it is advisable to use a weight vest when it is coolest in the day.

 

How to acquire a dog weight vest

  • Make your own
    Dog weight vests are available for purchase and there are several good brands around that you can choose from. However, these can be expensive, sometimes fetching prices above $100. Dog vests are not difficult to make. Those persons who possess a flair for creativity and you have the energy to put into it, have the option to make your own. The good thing is that you get to customize it to your dog’s needs. Just chose material that is cool against the dog’s skin and fillers that are appropriate and durable.
    Sand fillers, for example, get heavy and will not hold up if the dog plays in water. It is suggested that you use plastic pellets that will last for a long time. Additionally, include enough pockets so that you can add weights as needed.
  • Purchase ready-made
    There are two main types of dog vests – vests with zippered pockets or pouches, and backpacks. With zippered pockets you can add or remove weights as needed to get the exercise intensity for the dog. With backpacks you are able to insert items as weights and this works wonderfully when going on a hike or on longer walks. Either way, your dog gets the same workout.
    Backpacks however need to be managed carefully to avoid sliding along the dog’s back and chafing as a result.  Several dog vest sources exist in ready-to-wear convenience and you can select from them taking into consideration your dog’s needs. When selecting ready-made items, there are three important things to determine.
  • Durability – A dog vest is going to be handled and worn many times and therefore a warranty statement would be a good indication of how long it will serve.
  • Ease of use – There’s no reason for a dog vest to be taking a long time to be fitted. It is a simple device and should be easily slipped over the head and shoulders and buckled quickly.
  • Dimensions – You should be able to identify your dog’s fit, or calculate it with ease with a statement of the size of the product.

Dog weight vests to chose from

Here are a couple of vests that you can look at for your dog.

  • The Leerburg weighted vest
    The fabric that this vest is made of immediately tells that it is durable. It is made from heavy cordura denier backed fabric and double stitched on both sides. The vest comes in three sizes, small, medium and large; you just need to measure the girth of your dog to determine which will fit best.
    Additionally, each sized vest is made with several individual pockets and equal number of weights that you can add or remove as your dog requires at any time. This vest appears to be a good one to build muscle and get the cooperation of your dog. Apart from the attractiveness of the Leerburg, the vest is made from quality materials.
  • The K9FITvest
    Here is a rather innovative device found in the K9FITvest. This vest is designed solely with the complete fitness of your dog in mind. The vest is promoted for its remarkable benefits for resistance training, body awareness, safety, and cooling. The vest comes with resistance weights placed strategically as resistance to the dog’s actions. With this method of resistance training, the dog is bound to be stronger, burns more calories, and done all in a shorter workout time.
    The vest is also shaped to hug the dog’s body, giving him that comfort feel and subsequent calm demeanor. The manufacturers also takes into consideration that dogs do get hot under a vest and so releases that burden with cool gel packs to provide cooling relief.
  • The LaGuard Fitness vest
    Similar to the Leerburg brand, LaGuard is another vest that is designed for the ultimate dog fitness. LaGuard is not just a vest, it incorporates a training method that seeks to build the athleticism of your dog while at the same time achieving a quieter disposition in your pet. The vest comes with pockets and bars of 1/4 pound and 1/3 pound weights. The more bars you include in those pockets, the greater the intensity of the dog’s workout.
    You can add to, or remove weights from the vest as needed. Two sizes of vests are available from LaGuard, a medium that holds 13 pounds of weight and a large size for 17 pounds. If you chose the LaGuard brand however, you are advised to place the weights in the higher pockets and ensure that they are distributed evenly.
  • The Ruffwear Approach dog backpack
    Whether going for a hike along a trail or just having a walk in the park, Ruffwear dog backpack qualifies to keep your dog fit and strong. The product is made for the trail with pockets to stash things in, zippers to prevent spillage and external gear loops. If you are hesitant about the security of the pack or your dog, Ruffwear comes with a Web Master harness that ensures stability on the animal and efficient distribution of load.
    Made from quality material, the device can be adjusted five different ways. The dog pack however, fails in its capacity to prevent water soaking through. You might want to secure sensitive items in waterproof containers before loading up the Ruffwear.
  • The Kurgo Wander dog pack
    Not necessarily built with the specific objective of a weight vest, the Kurgo Wander is often used to double as a vest and a backpack. This is a device for dogs of larger breeds and weighing between 30 and 85 pounds. The product is of strong polyester material and really designed for the rugged outdoors.
    The two saddlebags can be filled with weighted items including food, treats, and water bottles. Unlike its Ruffwear counterpart, the Kurgo Wander is water resistant so there is no fear for delicate items. The item is not built for the specific purpose of a weight vest but those saddlebags however, can provide the same exercise training opportunities for good dog health.

The purpose of the weighted vest is really to create that resistance that the dog goes against to make him work harder, burn energy, and build muscle.

K9FITvest-blue

In the end he will be a leaner, stronger and more focused and manageable dog.

Regardless of all its benefits, fitting a vest to your dog will not get the healthy and fit dog that you desire. It will have to be done in conjunction with regular exercise, proper nutrition and consistent training routines.  In the end you will have a healthy, well-built and socially competent dog. Soon your dog may just give you that look or bark that says it can’t do anything without its weight vest.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Cate Turner

    I’d gladly support having a weight vest, keeping in mind that beginning a weight vest must only be around 5% of the dog’s body weight is a good start. But if anyone were really serious with using a weighted apparatus for added exercise, I’d really recommend a backpack instead. This way you can easily adjust the weight as the pup goes through training (and trust me, they’ll overgrow those old weights) and you have the additional practical use of a backpack! Just saying, there’s a pretty good alternative around the corner.

    • John Walton

      This is true, Cate. It is best not to start with moderate load because it can lead to serious skeletal injuries. You can eventually increase the weight, but it is better to keep it on the lighter side then gradually add more weight.

  • Patricia Parket

    My Mom has a Great Dane and she’s thinking of buying a weighted vest for her dog. Where can we find a good product that’s suitable for a dog of that size? Is it safe to use the vest when they go out for a walk? I’m
    curious if it’s safe for a dog’s back?

    • John Walton

      Large-scale pet supply stores often sell weighted vests for larger dog breeds, while I can say that it is safe to use these vests when they are out for a walk, I would still recommend getting a green light from your dog’s vet. Age and other related physical considerations must be evaluated prior to the utilization of a weighted vest.

  • Juliana

    There is a good option with the INCOLPET weighted vest sell on Amazon. This vest is full adjustable in the neck and chest in three different sizes (they provided a guide size table) and it has four pockets to add weight according to the training goal, so you could start little by little adding extra weight every two weeks. This vest is safe for the dog´s back, because the pockets are distribuited in the sides. You can use it also just for walks and use the pockets for carry your stuff. The price is good ($27.95 – $29.95).
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M02TGZG?th=1

    • John Walton

      Thanks for this quick review, Juliana. Based on what you’ve said, this is definitely a good option for a weighted vest.

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