There are numerous reasons why you might need your German Shepherd to lose weight. And, this is something that we’ve had to do in the past with a GSD who is sadly no longer with us, and something we’re getting ready to do again with our 10 year old Shepherd who is a tad over weight.
How do I get my German Shepherd to lose weight?
The number one thing you can do to help your German Shepherd lose weight is to lower the caloric intake and increase the amount of exercise if at all possible. If exercise cannot be increased due to health problems, restricting calories by itself will work, but will ultimately take longer.
Curb The Treats:
We have a friend’s mom who would give her dogs treats for anything they did. It didn’t matter if they just ate dinner and were just breathing on the floor, they’d get a treat.
While it made this person happy to give the treat because she felt it made the dogs happy, they were actually miserable and fat. They couldn’t get up or down a flight of stairs and had to be carried everywhere.
They were the first dogs I’ve ever seen that had actual butt cheeks.
While they weren’t German Shepherds, and this is an extreme example, it applies as an example of what not to do with your dog.
Limiting the amount of treats your German Shepherd gets will help it lose weight. Those things usually taste good for a reason, and many of them are not healthy (some are, of course).
If you can slow the treat intake down it will help significantly.
Pro Tip – If you still fell the need to give your dog something, you can try to give some of her kibble throughout the day, and then remember to give a little less at dinner time. This way you’re still giving the proper amount of food and, therefore calories, each and every day without going overboard.
Curb the Table Food:
We have a strict no table food policy as it is, unless the food is put in with our German Shepherd’s dinner bowl with some kibble mixed in. We never feed from the table, as that teaches dogs to beg and never leave people alone when they’re eating.
But that’s not really the point. The point is the table food in general and that if over-fed isn’t good for your dog. People food could be higher in fat and calorie content than your dog’s food is. And of course, when I say table food, I’m really talking about the processed, unhealthy stuff.
Certain things are probably fine, but you don’t want to be feeding your German Shepherd hot dogs all day long. We had an old neighbor whose favorite treat to give their old Staffordshire Terrier was hot dogs. That poor thing died of cancer at about four years old.
We’ll talk more about this in a few moments.
Takeaway – Try to not give your dog table food except on occasion, and even then, try to cut down the amount of kibble to lower the caloric intake. What you want to avoid is giving your dog a full serving of dog food and then add people food on top of it. That is a lot of extra calories.
Don’t Allow Open Feeding:
We had a friend several years back with a chocolate lab who would just open up the 50 pound bag of food, place it on the floor, and walk away.
Whenever he was hungry he’d just lumber on over to the food, stick his head in the bag, and chow down until he was full. This is a bad idea if you’re trying to get your dog to lose weight.
Hopefully obvious is that you have no idea how much your dog is actually eating. Therefore, you’ll be wholly unable to limit your dog’s food intake because you have no idea how much he’s currently eating.
One of the things you need to do is restrict the intake of calories to the best of your ability. This means following a strict meal schedule based on what your bag of food says to do, or if you’re following some other plan with raw food, follow that plan.
Takeaway – Try to have a feeding schedule each day that you follow. Your dog will quickly realize that you’re in control of feeding time and will become accustomed to relying on you for meals. Of course, this will also help you control how many calories your German Shepherd gets, helping her lose weight.
Restrict Calorie Intake:
If you haven’t noticed to this point, the entire idea so far is to restrict the amount of calories your German Shepherd is intaking. There is a fine line between not enough food and too much food, though.
And, the last thing you want to do is starve your dog.
So why would you want to lower your dog’s caloric intake? Chances are good that your German Shepherd dog is overweight to begin with because he’s eating too much. A lot of that comes from getting too many treats or getting thrown table scraps.
When each of these become habit, it makes your ability to track how much your dog is actually eating nearly impossible. And, in order to really get a handle on how much your dog eats and how much she should eat, you have to knock that other stuff out.
But it goes further than that. What if you don’t give your dog a whole lot of table scraps or treats, like me? My 10 year old GSD gets some stuff, but it isn’t every day and only happens rarely. The main reason why is because if I veer off of her regular diet all too far she’ll get diarrhea and that’s something I try to avoid if at all possible.
This means that one of four things are happening:
- I’m giving her too much food
- She’s not getting enough exercise
- A combination of 1 and 2
- She has a medical condition keeping her heavy
For our girl pictured above, it’s actually a combination of 1 and 2 because her plumpness is a recent development and she’s getting up there in age. We recently made the switch to senior food and she doesn’t exercise as much as she used to.
But, if your dog has always been plump, she could have a thyroid problem or something else preventing her from losing weight.
Or, you just feed her too much.
Or, she needs a serious diet.
One good idea is to ask your veterinarian for advice on how much food you should be giving. Your vet will likely ask how much and what brand you are already feeding him, and then based on your answer he or she will tell you to cut it down by so much per feeding.
Takeaway – The first step is actually figuring out why your dog is overweight. It could be that you’re just feeding her too much. A lot of German Shepherds gain weight in the winter and then lose it again in the spring and summer once they can get outside more. The key is to figure it out and fix it.
Feed Your German Shepherd Proper Food:
Again, people food while a nice treat, isn’t necessarily the best thing for your dog. Remember the hot dog story above. And, generally, I try to stay away from anything with chemicals, nitrites, or anything that’s highly processed for my dog.
So, while things like hot dogs, ham (from deli or otherwise), deli meat, and other things may be delicious for your dog, they’re extremely unhealthy and could actually harm your pooch if consumed too often.
Dog food, like the kibble, is fine even though yes, it is processed.
Here’s the thing about the dry dog kibble, though, sometimes they don’t recommend the right amount of food for your dog. Those examples on the back of the bag are more like recommendations than fact. So you could be feeding your girl too much or too little.
For example, our girl started to gain weight once we put her on the senior food. We were following the directions to the letter, but she gained weight. A lot of weight.
So we’ve come to the conclusion that we were just giving her too much, which was evident by the fact that there was still kibble left in the bowl when she couldn’t fit any more, and we have now started the process to cut her food intake down.
Pro Tip – When you’re looking for a dog food to feed your best friend, look at the ingredient list to see what the first several ingredients are. The first several ingredients are the ones that the food is comprised of the most, and you want to see good things listed.
This one can be tough on your German Shepherd depending on how old she is. We kept our boy Jumbo thin starting when he was about 7 years old. Our girl Casey is 10, and over weight. So, we’re going to have a harder time exercising her, especially since she is slowing down in play time.
Don’t get me wrong, she would play fetch all day long if she could because she’s young at heart and it is quite literally her favorite thing to do. In the above picture, she’s actually staring at her toy that’s not in the frame, expecting me to toss it for her.
But, the rest of her wouldn’t be able to keep up if I threw it for her every time she wanted.
Part of the problem is the running and then stopping hard to get the Frisbee when she has over-estimated how far and fast she needed to go.
We noticed this last time we got her a new toy that she started to have a hard time going up the stairs. It took her a lot longer than it used to, which is really sad and hard to watch.
This puts me between a rock and a hard place … remove her favorite activity that also just happens to be great exercise, or make it so she can actually get up the stairs easier and live life to its fullest, in comfort, and for longer.
We all but stopped playing fetch with her, but just a couple of tosses to prevent her from gaining any real speed so she doesn’t hurt herself with the hard stop.
Instead, low-impact exercising, like going on daily walks, helps to at least some degree. Obviously she’s 10 years old and we’re not doing a 5k with her or anything. But, walking around the neighborhood gives her some exercise, gets her heart pumping, and also therefore burns those calories.
And that’s really what it’s all about. The low-impact exercise, coupled with a reduction in calorie intake, will yield a lighter weight dog.
Takeaway – Your GSD is likely an active dog, anyway. Most of them are, and most of them require some level of activity to be happy and healthy animals. If your doggo is getting older and can’t handle the higher impact exercise like playing fetch, going for a walk is a great alternative. Plus, as a side bonus, you’ll benefit from it, too.
Why Does Your German Shepherd Need to Lose Weight?
There are any number of reasons why you may need to help your GSD remove some of that weight.
For us, in the past with our rescue dog, Jumbo, he had very bad hips and a spine that had the most severe curve our veterinarian had seen at the time.
Our vet told us that the best thing for our big boy was to help him lose weight and to keep him a bit skinnier than we were used to. So we did just that, and of course the looks from the know-it-all dog owners followed, along with some comments about us needing to feed him more.
At some point we got tired of having to tell people that we were told by the vet to keep him thinner because of his hip dysplasia, but nobody really seemed to believe us.
And, even though he was skinny, he was still over 100 pounds because he was a massive, big boned boy with a huge head.
The point with me telling you all of this, is that if your dog looks thin, but your vet says it’s okay, don’t let others dictate that you should be feeding your dog more just to make other people happy, or reduce your amount of criticism. Do what is best for your dog, and screw everyone else.
If your vet says your dog must lose weight, following that advice is always better than some know-it-all who isn’t a veterinarian.
It’s all about calorie intake as well as burning those calories. Helping your dog lose weight is a simple enough task if you’re willing to do it. Of course, if your dog has medical problems preventing this you’ll have to be more creative.
And, at the end of the day, your dog’s health and ability to live a happy, healthy life should be one of your top priorities.