German Shepherds are fit, active dogs. But like any other dog, managing a healthy weight is important. Too much food and too little exercise can lead to weight gain. So, what is an ideal weight for a German Shepherd? And how can I assess if my German Shepherd is overweight? Let’s find out more!
German Shepherds vary in size and shape. No two dogs are the same and that is also true for their weight. Weight is likely to fluctuate with age, fitness, and activity levels. Female dogs are likely to weigh less than male dogs. The best way to assess your dog is to look at its shape or body condition score. This should stay roughly similar throughout their life.
1/ Look at your dog from the side and from above – they should have a smooth, tucked-in waist
2/ Look at your dog’s tummy – it should go in and not bulge out
3/ Feel along your dog’s ribs and back. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs, spine, and hipbones easily with your hand flat, but they shouldn’t stick out.
4/ Feel the base of your dog’s tail. There shouldn’t be a build-up of fat where the tail meets your dog’s back.
A body condition score is a number that is assigned to describe body condition. A 5-point or 9-point scale is commonly used. A body condition score can be assigned using this method:
If your dog has gained weight, they are likely eating too much or moving too little. However, some medical conditions can cause weight gain in dogs. Hormone diseases such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease can cause weight gain. These diseases often accompany other signs such as coat changes, increased water intake, lethargy, and appetite changes. If you are concerned that your dog’s body shape has changed or that your dog has gained weight and there is no reason for this (i.e., their diet and exercise levels haven’t changed) then it is best to seek veterinary advice.
Obesity is associated with an increased risk of your dog contracting a wide range of diseases. It is also known to shorten their life span.
Overweight dogs are more likely to suffer from:
It is a good idea to work with your vet or a qualified veterinary nutritionist to assess your dog’s body condition, muscle condition, and concurrent medical conditions and determine how many calories you should feed your dog to achieve weight loss. This will vary depending on their age, size, life stage, and activity levels. A good quality diet with high-quality protein, fats, fiber, and carbohydrates is required. Avoid highly processed treats as these may be very high in calories. Instead, consider using lean protein or fresh vegetables for snacks or training treats. If your German Shepherd is overweight and you need to reduce its calorie intake, then do so gradually. Start by reducing their daily calorie intake by 10-20% every 1-2 weeks until you achieve their daily target.
How much exercise your German Shepherd needs depends on the individual. It will change with their age with older dogs needing less strenuous exercise and young puppies requiring short bursts of exercise that doesn’t put too much pressure on their developing joints. If you want your dog to start exercising more, you will need to increase their fitness gradually to help avoid illness or injury. Little and often is key!
Varying your dog’s routine is an excellent way to keep their mind and body healthy. Try mixing up activities such as walking, swimming, running, playing games such as retrieving a toy, tug of war or hide and seek, agility and training. Why not try something new with your dog?
Prevention is always better than cure! Ensuring your dog has access to a well, balanced nutritionally complete diet to suit each life stage is important. Your dog’s nutritional and calorie requirements will change with age and their diet will also need to change. Introducing regular exercise to a puppy is important. Try to keep exercise roughly similar each day to build up healthy habits. An adult German Shepherd can require 1-2 hours of exercise per day – they are active dogs that require an active lifestyle.
Getting to know your dog’s ideal weight and maintaining that throughout their life is key to keeping your dog happy, healthy, and ensure longevity. Changes to their diet and activity levels will be needed with each life stage to keep them on track.
A body condition score above 3 out of 5 is considered overweight or obese for a German Shepherd. Assigning a weight to obesity isn’t useful as every dog has a different ‘ideal’ weight. However, monitoring your dog’s adult weight frequently can be useful to detect trends and changes.
Slow and steady weight loss is key! A well-balanced, nutritionally complete diet is important to ensure that your German Shepherd gets all the nutrients they need. Consulting with a nutritionist or veterinarian can help you determine the calorie requirements for your dog. Any changes to your dog’s diet should be done slowly and gradually. Similarly, increasing your dog’s exercise should be a progressive and consistent process rather than a sudden change.
Average weight for German Shepherds is 60 to 88 pounds for males and 49 to 75 pounds for females. However, every dog is unique, and tracking changes in your dog’s weight or their body condition score is a more accurate assessment.
Again, it is difficult to assign a value for weight as every dog is different. Assess your dog’s body condition score or change in weight over time. Female dogs may be more prone to weight gain as they age and activity levels decrease, or with hormone changes such as after neutering. It is important to balance your dog’s food intake and exercise with each life stage.