First things first - If you’re considering bulking up your pitbull, or any other dog breed for that matter, please do it the safest way you possibly can.
Our dogs are more than just pets...
They often become like our children, our companions, and even our best friends. So it’s really up to us as pet parents to make sure that whatever bulking methods we employ, we put the health and well being of our dogs first.
Remember - If your pitbull is at a healthy weight, he will most likely be a happy dog!
That being said, there are quite a few things that you can do to help your pitty bulk up and gain a bit of extra muscle. This article will give you a few ideas of how to go about it, discussing the healthiest diet for bulking and the best exercises you can use to train your pitbull.
Later on, we’ll also look at a few reasons why your dog might have difficulty building muscle. So, let’s begin with what to feed your pit bull.
The Best Dog Food for Bulking
You might think that simply increasing the portions of your dog's food at each sitting is the right way to bulk them up. But the truth is far from it.
Increased portions could actually cause your dog to overeat, resulting in serious medical conditions that could come back to haunt it at a later stage.
More calories often translate into more body fat, leaving your dog lethargic and feeling bloated or lazy. So, look at the ingredients of your chosen dog food and feed your pup a good mixture of high-quality protein, carbs, and healthy fats.
We’ll have a closer look at what healthy fats are in just a bit, but what’s important to remember is that good fats are food sources that actually contribute to a dog's overall health, while unhealthy (or bad fats) can have adverse effects on your dog's health - especially when consumed in large amounts.
Now, let’s break a healthy, balanced diet down:
Protein is one of the most important ingredients in your dog’s diet.
Protein itself consists of smaller particles called amino acids. These amino acids play a vital role in your dog's well-being. They contribute to a healthy immune system, hormone production, a healthy coat, and proper muscle growth.
A dog naturally produces many proteins and amino acids, but that may not be enough if you want a muscular pitbull. That’s one reason to supplement a dog's protein intake - to provide it with more amino acids.
Pitbulls are lean, active dogs. And as they exercise, their muscle fibers undergo a lot of stress and are broken down. Protein helps to rebuild and repair the broken tissue, making it stronger and even larger.
Consider a balanced diet of lean cuts of meat, such as skinless chicken or turkey breast, lean beef, and lean pork, which are excellent sources of healthy protein for dogs. These meats provide essential amino acids without excessive fat content.
You can also include some types of fish, eggs, and even plant-based proteins like tofu and lentils (if you can get your dog to eat them) in your pit bull's diet.
So, protein will help a pit bull build muscle and appear more bulky.
While proteins build muscle, it’s carbohydrates that provide the necessary fuel to keep your pitbull going during vigorous exercise routines.
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is used by the muscles for energy during physical activity. Without carbohydrates, your dog would simply run out of steam and fatigue quickly.
Carbohydrates are stored in the form of glycogen in the muscles and liver. This glycogen reserve serves as a readily available energy source during intense activities, allowing pitbull breeds to push harder during exercise.
Common carbohydrate sources in dog food include grains like rice, wheat, and corn, as well as starchy vegetables like potatoes and peas. These aren’t food sources that dogs are naturally drawn to, so you might want to make sure that a good dose of carbs is included in your dog food of choice.
While healthy fats, such as those found in sources like fish oil and flaxseed oil, may not directly contribute to muscle growth in the same way protein and carbohydrates do, they still play important supporting roles, for example:
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, have anti-inflammatory properties. Reduced inflammation can promote better recovery after strenuous exercise and reduce the risk of injury, indirectly supporting muscle development.
Healthy fats can also contribute to joint health, which is important for maintaining mobility and allowing your Pitbull to engage in exercises that promote muscle growth.
If you’re unsure of what to include in your dog’s diet, consult a veterinarian or dietary specialist who can give you a list of natural dog foods to include.
Now we get to the fun part of bulking your pit bull - exercise
Exercises That Will Make Your Pitbull Stronger
Pitbulls are powerful, active dogs that require regular exercise.
Exercise also helps them get rid of excess energy, which can make them aggressive, hyperactive, and an all-round menace.
So here are a few exercises you might want to include in your dog’s routine to help them build muscle and keep them physically and mentally healthy:
Weighted Vest Walks
Weight vests are a great way to increase your dog's stamina and help them build muscle.
They’re sort of like a backpack - but for dogs. They’re designed to fit snuggly around your pit bull's chest area and most designs come with a velcro attachment that you can simply close around their waist.
Unlike traditional dog clothes, as in the above example, these vests come with specialty pockets for weights. You can add to or subtract from the weight that your pitbull has to carry by adding or removing a few of the weights in each pocket.
Clothe your pit bull with a weight vest before going on a walk, a run, or even just a bout of frisbee or tug of war. Their leg and core muscles will develop stronger and more rapidly than normal.
If you choose to use a weighted vest, please ensure that you start with a very lightweight, giving your dog the opportunity to get used to the new sensation of carrying extra weight. Increase the weight gradually and don’t overdo it.
Too much weight can damage their back or leg muscles.
If you notice your pit bull struggling, remove a few of the weights to make it more comfortable for them. Each case is different and you need to find the right balance of physical exertion and ease of movement for your dog.
As an alternative, you could make your pitbull engage in weight-pulling. Although this is another great way to build your dog’s muscles, you’d have to invest in weight sleds, which can be a bit of a hassle and extra expense.
Tug of War
This is an easy exercise to engage in regularly with your pitbull.
You need nothing more but a strong, robust rope and a bit of your personal time. Make sure that the rope you choose to use is long enough so that you can keep your hands away from your dog's teeth (and thus avoid accidents).
You also need to make sure that the rope is chew-friendly and that it won't fray or come apart easily, as this would damage your dog's canines.
A 15-minute tug-of-war match in the backyard in the afternoon will help your dog build stronger jaw and neck muscles. Avoid letting your dog shake its head from side to side during the matchup. You’re not trying to teach them any aggression.
You want them to build their strength and stamina with this activity. So encourage a steady backward movement. This will also help your pit bull build stronger chest and upper body muscles.
Spring Pole Play
A spring pole is a great tool to use to help your dog build overall body strength, especially if you don’t have the time to spend hours with your dog.
Pitbulls are really good at this game as they’re basically programmed to yank on things. To initiate spring pole play, simply attach a sturdy rope to the end of a pole with some spring in it.
Make sure that the pole has some bend in it and that it will be able to withstand the force of your pity pulling on it. Think of this kind of exercise as a tug of war - without you having to be there.
What Healthy Pit Bulls Should Look Like
So, what does a healthy pit bull look like? While they are one of the most muscular dog breeds, they aren’t overly bulky.
A healthy pitty will have a strong upper body with a beautiful, broad chest. Their front legs are connected by well-defined shoulder muscles.
Likewise, their medium-length hind legs are muscular yet lean toward the bottom. They have a thin waist and shouldn’t have any excess fat around their stomach area.
Pit bulls look more muscular than other breeds, partly due to their short, shiny coat. A healthy coat will shimmer in the sunlight, revealing a chiseled and well-sculpted body.
If you own one of these naturally muscular dogs, but aren’t sure if your dog is reaching it’s reaching its full potential, simply take your dog for a check-up at the local vet. Your veterinarian will be able to tell if your dog’s muscular development is in proportion to its age and gender.
My Dog Can’t Seem To Bulk UP - Why??
If, after your best efforts, your dog still struggles to gain muscle mass, you might want to look into one of the following issues:
Here are a few of the health issues that your pitty might be struggling with. What makes these health problems so dangerous is that they aren’t really visible to the naked eye, so you need to be vigilant to pick any of these problems up:
Internal parasites like worms (e.g., roundworms, hookworms) or external parasites like fleas can lead to weight loss and decreased muscle mass if left untreated.
Hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones, can result in weight gain and muscle loss. Dogs with thyroid issues may struggle to bulk up despite a proper diet and exercise.
Food allergies or environmental allergies can cause skin problems, itching, and discomfort. Dogs with severe allergies may have difficulty maintaining a healthy body condition.
Gastrointestinal issues such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or malabsorption disorders can hinder nutrient absorption, preventing the dog from gaining weight and muscle.
Some dogs are simply born into a strong lineage.
Thus, they inherit the physical characteristics of their parents. If you really want a bulky pity, begin with a strong foundation.
When looking at adopting a puppy, simply ask the breeder if you can see the parents. And compare what you see in the parents to what is generally accepted as the standard for a healthy American pitbull terrier (1)
If both the mother and father are naturally small, the chances of your pitbull growing to be big and muscular are slim at best. But if you see signs of strong muscular development in the parents, it’s pretty safe to say that your puppy can grow into a muscular dog someday.
Don't forget to be balanced in all things.
Just like the right muscle-building diet will help your dog’s body develop at the appropriate rate, a balanced exercise routine is essential for further development.
For example, when dogs spend too much time with weight-pulling exercises, they are prone to developing back issues rather than becoming more muscular. So, muscle building often requires dog owners to be balanced.
You need to find a good ratio of weight exercises and cardio training to ensure a happy, healthy dog. You could take your dog for a walk every now and then.
This will help them cut away excess fat and build their stamina even further.
It will also be good for their leg muscle development. A strong harness, like the one designed and distributed by Sparkpaws, will give you all the control you need while keeping control of your dog while out for a walk.
But avoid too much high-intensity cardio training as this could contribute to your dog losing weight rather than gaining muscle.
There’s a lot that goes into bulking your pit bull up in a natural and safe way.
Make sure to feed your dog a balanced, high-protein diet consisting of natural products (like boiled chicken), but don’t skimp on carbohydrates and omega-fatty acids. Where you feel they fall short in dietary intake, consider food supplements that will contribute to a healthy diet.
Keep your dog active by engaging in a regular exercise routine that focuses on all-around muscle building, as this will make your dog look and feel good.
Make your pitbull part of your life by including it in your favorite weekend activities; that way, it won’t feel like a burden to take them out for exercise.
And lastly, keep in mind that a healthy dog is way more important than a buff dog. Pit bulls aren’t lapdogs; they love to spend time with their owners outdoors and will naturally want to play with kids - bulking the natural way!