How to Strengthen Weak Pasterns in a German Shepherd Dog

Pasterns should run up and away from the paw.

Pasterns should run up and away from the paw.

German shepherd dogs are often bred with low pasterns to improve the smoothness of their gait in dog shows. Because of these breeding traits and the fact that German shepherds are large-breed animals, the chance exists for weak pasterns. A dog with weak pasterns (that touch the ground while walking) will face long-term health problems and may have difficulty staying ambulatory. It is sometimes possible to strengthen weak pasterns in young German shepherds through diet changes and physical activity.

Compare your German shepherd’s pasterns to those of other dogs. Some shepherds have naturally low pasterns that aren’t necessarily weak – weak pasterns will be very close to the ground, sometimes dragging or touching as the dog moves.

Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s pasterns. Some shepherd puppies naturally grow into their pasterns, while others will need treatment. It’s important to know the severity of the problem before beginning treatment plan.

Switch your German shepherd to a large-breed food formula. Large-breed foods are balanced differently than regular food and provide more necessary elements for the healthy development of your shepherd’s bones and joints.

Take your dog for daily walks on hard or loose surfaces to help strengthen the muscles around the pasterns.


  • If swapping your dog’s food and improving his activity level does not change or strengthen his pasterns, you may need to switch to a less protein-heavy diet and begin giving supplements. Consult a veterinarian to ensure your dog is getting the nutrients he needs.
  • Weak pasterns occur more often in dogs genetically related to others with the same malady. Talk to your breeder to learn whether other German shepherds in the line have similar problems.
  • Many puppies grow out of their low pasterns naturally. Once again, talk with your vet if you have any concerns about the dog’s pasterns.

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