That title sounds angrier than I intend it to be, but I feel the need to discuss something that persists among my German Shepherd family and Friends…It’s dangerous for your dog, and serves no purpose to you.  What is it?

Stop worrying that your German Shepherd needs to gain weight and be the biggest canine on the block!!!!  Stop trying to find a dog-food that will pack on weight!!!!  Chances are GREAT that your 6 month old puppy is growing at a natural rate!!!!  Your Veterinarian is the best judge of your dogs  weight and growth.  (I know it’s fashionable in some circles to scoff at Veterinarians advice, but please don’t fall into that trend.  That’s another rant, totally.)

It feels great to shout that out to the world, but I wish that more people would listen to the advice.  I know that some won’t, but if I can help anyone to understand this I will be pleased.

This rant, and make no mistake, it is a rant, (Bordering dangerously on becoming an episode of pure Raving.)  has a greater purpose.  Stop making the German shepherd something he was never intended to be!  Von Stephanitz developed a working dog that needed to move well, and do so all day!  Bigger dogs begin to fall short of these traits!

When a Veterinarian looks at your German Shepherd during an examination, he or she expects to see a male  dog between 23 and 26 inches at the shoulder.  He or she also anticipates a standing weight of between 65 and 80 pounds.  (For the metric world that’s 60 cm to 65cm in height, and 30 to 40 kg in weight)  For Females 21 to 24 inches high (55cm to 60 cm) and 50 to 70 pounds weight (22 kg – 50 pounds)  Some dogs are bred to parents that may be taller in stature, by 2 or 3 inches.  A small deviation in weight is normal.  But breaking the 100 pound mark is unnecessary!!!

And then there is that foolish game called “My Dogs Bigger than your dog!”  I’m sure it happens in many of the large breeds as well, but many German Shepherd people are definitely guilty of it.  If you went to a grade school on the first day of a kindergarten class, and all the new parents were standing by comparing their children’s weight, we’d be horrified.

“Hey! There’s my son Brandon…he’s already at 88 pounds and he’s only 5!  His mother and I wanted a big boy, and we sure got him!”

 “Oh yeah?  Well there’s my Susie over there, and she’s over 100 pounds already!  She’s an eating machine!”

Yes, that’s what it sounds like when people get on Facebook or Twitter and start railing on about how “Big” their puppy is already!  The German shepherd should be judged on it’s athleticism, it’s stamina,  it’s lithe and strong frame wrapped in muscles like steel cables.  Not on what I call, “Fat-Assery”.   I’m coming on strong here I know.  But too many finely bred dogs are under-exercised, over-fed, and condemned to shortened lifespans because so many believe they can create a larger dog.  You dog will become whatever genetics has bequeathed to him or her.  Let that make your dog whatever it will be, and stop making size the end- all-be-all.  If you believe that size alone will be impressive, or a deterrent to bad people, you are wrong.  Most dogs that do protective work, or patrol work, are lean, strong, and agile.  “Fat-Assery” is the polar-opposite.  German shepherds are not Middle Linebackers.  They’re Defensive Ends and Wide-receivers.  Strong and fast.  For a short time, at about 18 months old, my GSD “Hans” was at 105 pounds.  I noticed that he was struggling thru practices and callouts.  I realized that it was my fault for believing that my dog needed to be large.  He wasn’t Unfit, but he needed to be exceptionally fit.  We took immediate action, and I now keep him at 85 pounds, which is truly “Rocky Balboa” fit for his height.  When my dog keeps going strong, and larger GSD’s are falling off the trail because they’re too heavy, he’s King of the World.

While I have lost the URL of the below information, I have retained the author’s name so that he can have  proper credit for the work.  I believe it was from the Purina website at one time, but that has been lost to me.  Read it please, and understand that this is for the good of your dog…

Effects of obesity in dogs – by Tom Osterkamp

Studies and experience have determined that the negative impacts of obesity on dogs include:

1. A compromised immune function

2. Abnormal glucose tolerance

3. Acute pancreatitis

4. Greater risk for anesthetic and surgical complications

5. Heat and exercise intolerance

6. Cardiovascular disease

7. Greater risk for osteoarthritis

8. Decreased median life span

Of particular interest is that by restricting caloric intake and maintaining a lean body condition we can increase median life span and prevent the manifestation of chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis. In overweight dogs, osteoarthritis changes appear earlier in life, are more severe, and require more medication compared with their restricted-fed siblings (Mlacnik et al., 2006). Since osteoarthritis is one of the primary reasons for retiring working dogs, these results indicate that it may be possible to extend the working life of our search dogs significantly (perhaps 1 to 2 years) by restricting caloric intake and by providing sufficient exercise to keep the dogs fit.

Take the time now to look at a chart I’m sure you’ve seen before.  These are of course, meant to indicate an Adult dog.  Please consult with your veterinary professional for sub-adult and puppies.

That’s the end of this ranting for now, please accept it as friendly advice and for the benefit of your four-legged buddy.  Do Your Best For Your Dog, And He’ll Always Give You His Best In Return!!!!

  1. couldaswore says:

    So I’m out for a walk with my GSD, Maggie and stop to talk with a local..I’ll call him Frank for this post

    Frank comments on how well my dog has come along as she is for the most part civil in most situations..but then he says something that catches me off guard as in; “..but she’s a little on the thin side”.

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Well I never!

    Ok, with over-sensitive human reaction aside..I begin to educate him on proper healthy weight and body condition of a dog..all matter of fact in tone..well because it is.

    I start by pointing out the finer attributes of a well conditioned dog..using Maggie as example…such as the indentation and differentiation at the loins is a desirable attribute, I further the education with dialogue as such:

    “Here, see the difference with your 5 year old beagle..where there is no differentiation along the length of the dog and providing the shape of..let me see, a sausage perhaps. The individual ribs should be apparent with subtle probing of hand..not overly apparent or highly visible, much as Maggie is here..see, feel. On your beagle, not so much even with enough pressure to push the dog sideways no ribs can be felt..does he have any ribs?. Well, there you have it..a well conditioned dog and a grossly unhealthy over weight dog..good to know eh?”

    Maggie is in her 10th year about 24-25 inches at the shoulder and has maintained a weight of 90lbs for most of the three years she has been in my care.

    While charts may evaluate this as over weight, as cliche as it sounds, she is big boned, very solidly structured and large broad head.


  2. Angels says:

    I have a dutchie (big due to her lines) 82 pounds which is a good weight for her as confirmed by my vet. She also cautioned me to keep her lean because it decreases the risk of ligament injury. it’s hard because I had many people express that they thought she was too thin;not the vet of course.

    • Robert says:

      Angels, this is the best approach to take…Let your Vet check the health of your dog, and advise you on that development! The Dutchies are beautiful dogs! I would love to see photo’s of your girl if you have any online somewhere!! Feel free to post some at German Shepherd Adventures on Facebook!!! Keep up the good work and thanks for reading!!!

  3. Thank you!!!! I totally agree with you and this drives me nuts too. Actually, in herding, a smaller dog is more desirable because they tend to be more agile which is way more important. Shelby weighs in at a lean 68lbs of solid muscle. Although I do confess I gloat about Panzer putting on weight but he was only 45 lbs at rescue which is on the other side of the unhealthy spectrum.

    • Mary Kennedy says:

      If in fact your German Shepherd starts gaining weight for no apparent reason you might have his thyroid checked. This can cause a sudden weight gain or the inability to lose weight.

      • Robert says:

        Well put Mary! Wieght gain/loss is a HUGE indicator of a dogs health and it should be watched carefully!!! Thanks for writing, and for reading!!!

    • Robert says:

      I can certainly cut Panzer a break considering his journey in life! LOL! It’s gratifying to know he has a wonderful home now…Such character in his eyes!!
      And as for Shelby, can you imagine any Herding dog being Unathletic??? It would be stressful, harmful, and just not good…You are training and handling a super-athlete in Shelby and she shows it in every video you post!!!