The German Shepherd has a reputation for having weak hips. Normally, this can be attributed to their sloped back which increases the risk of hip dysplasia. Other conditions such as degenerative myelopathy or osteoarthritis can also play a role. Whatever the case, no one wants to see their beloved GSD struggle with walking or getting around. But fortunately, there are many things you can do to increase the strength in their hind legs. This article will cover some of the best methods for building up some power in the rear.
The best way to make German Shepherd back legs stronger is to feed them a proper high-quality diet including supplements, exercise them regularly, take them on long walks, do incline work on hills and take them wading or swimming.
Tips To Make German Shepherd Back Legs Stronger
There are several specific things you can do to strengthen your German Shepherd’s rear legs. But it basically comes down to diet, exercise and supplements. Here is a list of the top tips to bulk up that rear end, giving them more balance, mobility and stability in the future!
1. Keep Them Lean With A Proper High-Quality Diet
The first thing to do is make sure you are keeping them lean by feeding them a high-quality diet that is high in protein, nutrients and vitamins.
Feed them an all-natural diet or high quality kibble with the proper number of calories and protein to keep them lean and healthy. Nutrition is the cornerstone to good health including mobility.
Active adults require around 3.5 cups of dry kibble per day while senior adults require around 2.5 cups of dry kibble per day. GSD Advisor recommends about 35 calories per pound of body weight daily.
Protein for active adults should be in the range of 18-22% and for senior adults should be in the range of 28-32%. These are good estimates but make sure to speak with your vet about the appropriate diet plan.
2. Give Them Mobility Supplements For Their Joints
German Shepherds with mobility issues from arthritis or hip dysplasia can benefit greatly from joint supplements.
They can promote muscle growth and make the back legs stronger over time. One of the main ingredients that stimulates that growth is Glucosamine.
Glucosamine serves a couple of purposes. It helps the cartilage grow increasing strength and it lubricates the dog’s joints. As GSDs age, their natural Glucosamine production decreases. A good supplement will help fill in that gap.
In combination with Chondroitin, the two ingredients work hand in hand to lower the amount of pain and lessen the severity of osteoarthritis in German Shepherds.
We recommend Lively Paws Mobility Supplement for your GSD! It has excellent reviews and was specifically formulated by veterinarians.
3. Exercise To Make Their Back Legs Stronger
Exercise is one of the best ways to make your German Shepherd’s back legs stronger. Aside from daily walks, there are other specific exercises that will target their hind legs and hips increasing their overall strength.
German Shepherds are an active breed who require at least one to two hours of exercise daily. It keeps them lean and healthy reducing the chance of obesity which can have a negative impact on their joints and well-being.
Daily walks or hikes:
Taking your GSD on daily walks or hikes are great for cardio and muscle building. Active adults can go on longer hikes while senior adults should stick to shorter walks.
Hind leg stands:
Have your German Shepherd stand up on their back legs while you hold their front legs. Hold this position and time it. Gradually increase the time that they can stand up on their hind legs. This should strengthen the back leg muscles over time.
You can also get them to walk backwards and forwards while they are standing to increase the difficulty. It will require more balance which should build muscle faster.
Incline work on hills:
Incline work on hills is a great way to make their back legs stronger. Find a hill close by and try some of these exercises to build strength: Backing up the hill, standing up from a sitting position on the hill and trotting up the hill.
Stair climbs can help build some muscle in the back legs but don’t over do it. This is only recommended if your German Shepherd is at least one year old. It can have a negative effect on a puppy’s growing joints.
Swimming or wading:
Swimming has many benefits on a dog’s joints. It is a great overall exercise that simultaneously builds strength. According to one vet physical therapist, wading is the better option because it offers more resistance on the muscles.
Exercising on a treadmill submersed in water is another great method for bulking up the rear. It also helps them mentally and improves their balance.
Avoid any high impact activities or jumping if your GSD has any joint conditions. It could lead to further issues down the road.
What Causes A German Shepherd To Have Weak Back Legs?
There are many different causes for weak hips in a German Shepherd. But one of the main reasons takes us back to a time in history when looks superseded functionality.
A sloped back:
Unfortunately, at a certain point in history, some breeders starting breeding German Shepherds for appearance instead of working dog traits. Dog shows helped glamorize the signature sloped back that we are used to seeing in the modern-day competitions.
This sloping of the back had a negative effect on their hips and hind legs essentially making the back legs more bent. This led to a significant increase in the number of cases of hip dysplasia over time. And breeding GSDs with the sloped back passes on the risk of them getting a joint condition.
Normally affecting senior dogs past the age of eight, DM is a neurological disease that targets the spinal cord. As it slowly progresses, a GSDs hind limbs will start to weaken and eventually suffer paralysis.
It can be hard to spot early on with symptoms similar to arthritis and hip dysplasia. One of the telling signs is if your dog is stumbling or wobbling when they walk. Unfortunately, it also affects urination and bowel movements. Currently there is no cure so daily exercise is crucial.
Large dog breeds like the German Shepherd are prone to joint conditions like elbow and hip dysplasia. This genetic disease occurs while a young puppy is still growing. It happens when the ball and socket of the hip don’t develop at the same rate.
This causes friction in the joint making it loose. In an attempt to correct this looseness, the body will often develop degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis. This affects the mobility of the German Shepherd, making the back legs weak which makes it harder to walk.
This is a progressive disease that causes a GSD to lose cartilage in their joints. It usually happens in their later years and can be exacerbated by hip dysplasia.
It causes the back legs to weaken, changing their gait and making them walk lower to the ground. Strengthening the legs is important to counteract the arthritis along with the proper diet and supplements.
Why Do German Shepherd Back Legs Need To Be Stronger?
There are several reasons for strengthening a German Shepherd’s back legs. Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons a GSD needs their hip strength to function properly in everyday life.
- For overall mobility including walking and running
- To be able to climb hills or stairs
- For jumping or playing games like fetch
- To reduce pain or paralysis from certain diseases
- To hopefully increase their lifespan with a more active lifestyle
- For balance and stability
- To avoid possible needing a dog wheelchair
- To give them more confidence in day-to-day life
Should I Massage My German Shepherd’s Back Legs?
Yes, it can be very helpful to massage your German Shepherd’s hips if they have weak back legs. While it doesn’t fix the problem, it does provide some overall relief of pain in the hip joints.
Massaging the hips will loosen the muscles allowing the joints to move more freely. This is great if your dog has suffered an injury or torn a muscle in that area.
Massaging the hips also helps the blood flow which subsequently increases the amount of oxygen which gets rid of toxins. This relaxes the muscles alleviating pain.
Understanding The German Shepherd’s Back Leg Muscles
There are three main muscles to focus on when when exercising the back end for strength. Here is a quick explanation of each.
- Bicep Femoris: The Bicep Femoris is the biggest muscle that is part of the hamstring. It has a long head and a short head. It is a composite muscle. Its main purpose is to extend the hip joint but it also controls the stifle joint. A GSD will use this muscle to left up its leg when it urinates. When the back leg is making contact with the ground, it helps drive the body forward when walking or running.
- Gluteus Medius: Smaller than the Bicep Femoris, the Gluteus Medius provides stability to the hip and pelvis. It has several functions. It is used to extend the hip, avoid any lateral hop rotation when the legs are bearing weight, and rotate the hip toward the mid line.
- Vastus Lateralis: The Vastus Lateralis is located on the side of the thigh and the biggest muscle in the group of quadriceps. It works hand in hand with stifle extension when a German Shepherd is walking, trotting or galloping. It shortens and extends the stifle when the foot touches the ground which allows it to store extra energy and then release it during movement.
It’s tough to see any German Shepherd with weak back legs struggling to get around, climb steps or jump up onto the couch. Thankfully, there are many different things that owners can do to make life better for their GSD and increase their well-being. However, before implementing any of these diet or exercise tips, make sure to talk with your vet about the best plan of action.
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
Do you currently own a German Shepherd with weak back legs? Have you had any success with making them stronger? Let us know! We would love to hear any personal tips that worked for you!