If you’ve got a dog like the Energizer bunny or a chubby puppy that would stand to lose a few pounds, a weighted dog vest may be the ideal training aid. Weights help dogs build muscle and stamina, and a weighed vest compensates for your pooch’s lack of thumbs.
A weighted vest serves essentially the same purpose with your dog as it does with your own body: to build lean muscle and increase stamina and endurance. The weights add extra resistance as the dog moves, which makes the muscles work harder. Proper muscle tone is essential for show and working dogs, and weighted vests give your pooch a strong, lithe physique. Weighted vests also help tire out a hyper dog. Think of it like a toddler carrying a backpack: he’ll still run and play with the pack on, but will tire out after 30 minutes of playing instead of an hour.
Types of Vests
Weighted vests come in two basic types: pocketed vests with weights and backpack-type vests without weights. Pocketed vests have little compartments with flat weights that slide in and out depending on your dog’s fitness level. Backpack vests are empty and can be weighted with household items such as water bottles. Backpack vests offer a little more flexibility for those who like to travel and hike with their pooches, since the dog can carry his own goodies.
Safe Vest Use
For the first few training sessions, introduce your dog to his vest sans weights. Slip the vest over his head, and center the back over his shoulders. The vest should center the weight over the dog’s withers to prevent pain and muscle strain. Add weight to the vest slowly, and observe how long it takes the dog to get tired. If he flops over after 10 minutes in the vest, remove a little weight. If he goes for an hour without batting an eye, add more weight during your next training session.
Safety is paramount when using a weighted vest. Would you lift weights without a spotter? Be your dog’s spotter, and remove the vest if he gets too hot. Work the dog during the coolest times of the day to prevent heat stroke. Hold off on a weighted vest until your dog is fully mature. Excessive strain on growing joints may lead to a permanently lame dog.
- Cesar's Way; Cesar Milan
Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.