How to Tell if You Have An Overweight German Shepherd (And What To Do)

We all love our dogs; they are part of the family and can often be seen as much more than pets. That is a big reason why so many people have a hard time saying no to them when they are begging us for a bite of our food, which results in overweight and unhealthy dogs. This statement holds true for all breeds, including German Shepherds.

So, how do you know if you have a fat German Shepherd? A German Shepherd should be an active and high-energy breed. They should stand tall with a slim build, ready to run. If your Shepard seems a bit lazy or has extra bulk around its ribcage and stomach, it may be overweight.

How Much Should A German Shepherd Weigh?

A healthy adult male German Shepherd should weigh between 65 and 90 pounds. An adult female German Sheperd should weigh no more than 50-70 pounds. The weight of these dogs can fluctuate a bit due to their height and level of activity. 

How Can You Tell If A German Shepherd Is Overweight?

Even though a chubby dog can look absolutely adorable, unfortunately, it is extremely dangerous to their health. A healthy German Shepherd should be tall and slender with a noticeable definition in their body and a broad distinctive chest. 

If you are concerned that your German Shepherd may be overweight, here are a few ways you can check. 

You Cannot Feel its Ribs Through Layers of Fat

In a healthy dog, you should be able to feel their ribs easily through their fur with a small layer of fat in between. Simply touching the side of your dog’s body should allow you to feel the rib cage without having to apply pressure.

If you cannot feel each of your dog’s ribs with your fingers, then there is too much fat built up, and your dog is overweight.

Their Stomach is as Wide as Their Chest

If your German Shepherd does not have a waistline, it is a clear indication that they are too heavy. An ideal form for your dog is a protruding chest, with a slope or incline towards their belly getting thinner the closer you get to their tail.

If you look at your Shepherd, you can not see a difference in size throughout their body; it means they are overweight and need to drop quite a few pounds. The fuller they appear, the less healthy they are.

They Are Not Active

Anyone who owns a German Shepherd knows how active and sometimes even crazy they can be. They love to run and stay busy constantly. 

If you notice that your Shepherd is not only getting a little chubbier but is also not moving around as much, it is a significant indication that they are overweight, and moving around is becoming more difficult. 

Has Trouble Getting Up From a Sleeping Position

If you ever notice that your dog is struggling while getting up from a sleeping or sitting position and there are no other signs or indications of trauma or pain, the chances are good that the extra weight is making it hard for them to lift themselves up.

Pants A lot While Walking

It is normal for all dogs to pant a lot when it is hot out, or they just got back from a long walk. However, it is not normal for them to pant while they are simply walking around the house or pacing through the yard to go to the bathroom. 

An overweight dog will pant a lot because they are struggling to get fresh air and oxygen to their bloodstream and the rest of their body.

How Can You Help Your German Shepherd Lose Weight?

When you realize that your Shepherd is overweight, it is crucial to handle the situation as soon as possible before it creates more serious problems. Here are a few ideas on how you can help your German Shepard lose weight and keep it off.

Stop Feeding Them People Food

It is a very well-known fact that the quickest way to any dog’s heart is through their stomach. That’s why dog owners are so quick to share their meals and snacks once they see those big adorable eyes staring into their souls.

Sadly, many people treat their dogs to these items out of love, but in reality, that is causing much more harm than good. Many of the foods we eat throughout the day have no nutritional value to your dog whatsoever, meaning you are giving them the fat and calories without any benefits.

If you want to steer clear of store-bought foods and would like to feed your dog fresh food made from home, here is a list of foods that are beneficial to your dog.

  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Green beans
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Peanut butter
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Yogurt

All of the foods on this list are not only safe for your dog to eat but are full of nutrition and will help keep your dog healthy without making them fat.

Buy Them More Nutritious Dog Foods

No matter what the advertisements may say, not all dog foods are created equally. It is very important that your Shepherd is fed high-quality whole grains, proteins, and vegetables. Never give them food with tons of fillers and bi-products.

Feed Them Less Often

It may seem easier to just leave a dog food bowl out throughout the day, allowing your dog to graze and nibble as they please, but this can make overfeeding them way too easy. 

An adult German Shepherd should be eating around three cups of kibble split between two meals. This will need to be adjusted accordingly depending on your dog’s level of activity and current weight.

Get Them Out More

One of the best ways to help reduce your dog’s weight is by keeping them as active as possible as long as it’s done in a healthy and safe way.

Limit The Treats

The best way to train and reward our dogs for good behavior is by handing over doggy treats. Unfortunately, dog treats are not really all the benefits to your pet’s diet. 

Decreases the number of treats you give them, and saving them for special occasions can help keep your dogs weight at bay. 

Consider rewarding your dog with hugs, toys, or elk antlers that will keep them chewing for a very long time.

What Are The Risks Of Having An Overweight German Shepherd?

Any overweight dog is very heartbreaking to see. Even though they may still be full of life and appear happy and content, there is little chance they are actually healthy. The longer they are fat, and the heavier they get, will cause a very long list of risks.

Your Shepherd Will be Less Active

Although German Shepherds are well known for their speed, it is not the only good quality they possess. This breed of dog is also known for being loyal, obedient, and protective. These characteristics make them great candidates for being police dogs, seeing-eye dogs, and herders. 

If your German Shepherd is an unhealthy weight, they will be a lot less active than normal, preventing them from doing the jobs they are best known for doing.

Shorter Life Span

If you love your dog and want to have them around for as long as possible, it is vital you keep them in good shape and at a healthy weight.

Overweight dogs are said to lose about 2 to 3 years of their lives compared to that of an average-weight dog. That means you are getting 2 to 3 years less time with your dog just because they are eating too much or moving too little.

Higher Chance of Hip and Joint Problems

Just as hip problems like hip dysplasia can cause obesity in your German Shepherd, obesity can cause hip problems and pain. When your dog is carrying around more weight than it should be, there will be too much weight pushing on their hips and joints, causing a lot of wear and tear, pressure, and pain. 

Increase Risk of Cancer

Although there is still much research to do on this topic, it is clear that obesity in dogs can increase the chances of them developing certain types of cancers for one reason or another. 

Between the increase in internal inflammation, insulin resistance, and fat growth compounds, obesity can be linked to many different cancers that can be highly aggressive and deadly.

Increase Risk of Diabetes

Diabetes is not just a disease suffered by humans. This is becoming a common disease among pets as well, and it has a lot to do with the increasing amount of overweight dogs. 

When a dog becomes obese, their bodies tend to become much more resistant to insulin, which develops into diabetes.

Chances of Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse (although not very common) has been linked to German Shepherds who are overweight. This is a condition where your pet’s trachea starts to close, causing its airway to become smaller and making it very hard for them to breathe.

Higher Chances of Respiratory Disease

Watching your poor pet struggling for air is a situation no one should ever have to experience, but the sad truth is that more and more pet owners see this issue in their dogs. 

German Shepherds have a genetic predisposition to respiratory disease. Being overweight with excess fat on their chest cavity and abdomen pushing on their lungs makes breathing that much more difficult.

Another problem that can occur within the respiratory system because of too much fat is the inability to inhale enough oxygen to sufficiently rid the body of dangerous carbon dioxide. 

Inability to Get Adequate Amounts of Sleep

Have you ever snuggled up to your German Shepherd preparing to get a good night’s rest, only to be woken by the sounds of your dog snoring or fidgeting around trying to get comfortable? These problems may be a straight connection to your pet being overweight.

A dog with a lot of excess fat build-up on its abdomen can struggle to get enough air into its lungs, especially at night while lying down. Because of their inability to get a proper amount of sleep, your dog may become less active, more agitated, and tend to eat more often.

What Can Cause A German Shepherd To Be Overweight?

If your German Shepherd is overweight, you may be racking your brain trying to figure out what could be causing the issue. Here is a list of the most common reasons for German Shepherd to tip the scales much higher than they should be.

A Poor Diet

Eating too many unhealthy snacks, treats, or human food that lack nutrition or good calories is the most common and quickest way for a dog to become fat. 

When your dog is eating a lot of high fat, low protein, high sugar foods, they are not only going to gain weight from the extra calories but will start to become less energetic and not want to be as active as they once were. 

Not getting enough protein, vitamins, and other important nutrients are going to affect your dog’s weight in a very negative manner.

Lack of Exercise

German Shepherds were bred for being war dogs and are now the most common canine on the police force. This is due to their intelligence as because of their speed. 

Because they were designed for running fast and for long stints of time, it is crucial that Shepherds are able to get out and spend at least 1 ½ to 2 hours of vigorous exercise a day. That includes running, jumping, playing fetch, or tug of war.

The amount of exercise can be split up throughout the day. A long walk in the morning and then some backyard fun at night will help your dog maintain a healthy weight.

Health Conditions and Diseases

Sadly, German Shepherds are prone to quite a few health conditions and diseases that can cause them to gain weight and may make it difficult to help them lose it. These diseases include:

Hip Dysplasia: Hip Dysplasia is a condition where your dog’s ball and joints in their hips do not align properly. This creates the bones to rub against each other cause pain and weakness in their hips. This issue is going to decrease your dog’s activity levels tremendously.

Degenerative disk disorders: German Shepherds have a high predisposition to intervertebral disk disease. Over time, it is a genetic disorder that will cause a dog’s disks to degenerate and cause slipped or ruptured spinal disks resulting in the inability for a dog to get much exercise.

Diabetes: A dog who suffers from diabetes can feel hungry constantly because the body isn’t getting a proper amount of glucose. This will cause your Shepherd to overeat and become overweight.

Thyroid problems (hypothyroidism): A German Shepherd with hypothyroidism can possibly gain weight due to slowing their metabolism and the inability to burn calories as easily.

Cushing’s disease: Most dogs with Cushing’s disease may not actually gain weight, but the disease does cause bloating, which can make your pet appear to look fat or overweight.

When Should You See A Vet?

If you think your German Shepherd is overweight and you are concerned for their health and overall well-being, you should immediately change their diet and exercise routines. Most of the time, you won’t need a veterinarian’s help to fix the issue. However, there are a few reasons that may require you to pick up the phone.

When Your Dogs Quality of Life is Impacted in a Negative Way

There is nothing more depressing than seeing a relatively young or vibrant dog laying around not anywhere near as active as they once were. If you have noticed that your dog doesn’t seem happy anymore or appears to be suffering, it might be time to schedule an appointment with their veterinarian to help.

When You Are Unsuccessful With Helping Them Lose Weight

If you have taken an active role in helping your dog eat healthier in the appropriate amounts and have increased their activity levels but to no avail, it’s probably a good idea to call in the experts.

How Can Your Vet Help?

Your veterinarian is there to help you and your dog, no matter what the issue may be. If your German Shepherd is overweight and you are struggling to help them lose it and concerned for their well-being, no one is more qualified to help you out more than you vet.

A Vet Can Rule Out Health Conditions or Treat Them

If you have tried everything possible to help your Shepherd lose weight and nothing seems to be working, your vet can run some tests, take some blood, and do an exam to rule out any health conditions that may be responsible for your dog’s weight gain, or their ability to lose the access fat.

If your dog does have some type of health issue that is contributing to it being overweight, your vet can prescribe medication or conduct special procedures that will correct the underlying issues to help promote weight loss.

Provides Advice on Proper Nutrition

If your vet does a complete body check-up on your German Shepherd and finds no health issues or concerns other than your dog is overweight, they can offer you information on what types of foods are best.

Vets can also prescribe weight management pills and food that will help your dog get all the right nutrition in healthy amounts to aid in weight loss and help your dog get to the size they were meant to be.

Why Are German Shepherds More Prone To Weight Gain?

All dogs are susceptible to becoming overweight, whether it is their predisposition or the un-intentional help from their owners. However, some dog breeds have a higher chance of gaining a lot of extra weight than others, and German Shepherds are one of those breeds.

So why are German Shepherds more prone to gaining weight than other dog breeds?


Obesity in German Shepherds has been a prevailing problem for a very long time. This is due to the genes they were born with. Some dogs are just designed for struggling with weight gain, while others do not.


The #1 cause of obesity in German SHepherds is their tendency to over-eat. This breed of dog is known for chowing down anytime food is presented to them whether they are hungry or not.

Owning a large breed dog can make a person feel the need to give them more food than necessary and can un-intentionally over-feed their Shepherd daily, giving them non-stop access to as much food as they want.

German Shepherds are also famously known for being scavengers and more than willing to get their heads stuck in the garbage can lid or fight their fur brother or sisters for the food in their bowls. Keeping an eye on your dog making sure they are only eating what they are supposed to be is necessary with this breed.

Prone to Hip Displaysia and Joint Issues That May Slow Them Down

Because German Shepherds are already prone to medical issues like hip dysplasia and joint problems, they are at a higher chance of becoming overweight due to the inability to move as much as they need to.

If your dog suffers from any type of hip or joint problems, it is important that you talk to your vet and come up with a plan through nutrition and therapy to keep help your dog maintain a healthy weight.

Want To Train Your German Shepherd With Peace Of Mind?

If you haven’t trained your German Shepherd properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your Shepherd has, whether it’s barking at night or other bad behaviors, using the right training program is the key to having an obedient and happy pup.

The training program I love and highly recommend is Brain Training For Dogs.

With Brain Training For Dogs, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your dog won’t listen, you’ll follow a path that has been tried, tested, and most importantly, that’s given proven results. Not to mention the fact, you’ll be able to fit the course around your schedule, not fit your schedule around a trainer or obedience class.

So instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be well-behaved or not, you’ll only have to worry about how much fun you’ll have with them!

And in most cases, it’s still going to be:

  • Cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Cheaper than replacing everything they might break.
  • And definitely cheaper than a lawsuit against you, if they decide to bite someone.

Just imagine how great it will feel to finally be able to trust your German Shepherd completely and never worry whether they’ll be naughty or not. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you have a well-behaved pup, and the boundaries you set for them will always be there, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT.

And the best part is it also has a 60-day money-back guarantee! So there’s no reason not to give Brain Training For Dogs a try!

So if you’re tired of your dog’s bad behavior or how they react around other people and pooches, then give it a try! You’ll be amazed by the results!

(You can also check out a full review here to learn exactly what the course has to offer!)


Overweight dogs in America are becoming more prevalent each year. German Shepherds are no exception. It is becoming such a common occurrence that pet owners don’t even notice when their dog’s bellies start to fill out and their activity levels start to decline. No dog owner purposely wants to ignore their pet’s health declining, but unfortunately, it is going un-detected.

It is essential to feed your dog the recommended amount for their size and weight, keep them active and exercise daily, and visit your vet yearly for a weigh-in and an examination that will give you peace of mind knowing your dog is as healthy as can be.