What determines a dog’s ideal weight?

What determines a dog’s ideal weight?

Health & Safety

The ideal weight for any given dog is an individual thing, and of course dogs range in size from toy, at just a few pounds on average, to giant, with some breeds weighing as much as most people!

However, even when you think you identify a uniting factor that should result in a specific weight norm or ideal for the dogs that share it – like height or breed – this is not the case.

The ideal weight for any given dog is something that is determined on an individual basis, taking into account a whole range of factors that are unique to that dog. Even two dogs from the same litter might have a reasonable difference in their ideal weights, which means knowing how much your own dog should weigh is often far from simple.

This is the case even for pedigree dogs, for which breed normal weight ranges are published to guide owners; but is even more so for mixed breeds, which come with more variables to contend with!

Coupled with this, most dog owners tend to err on the side of dogs slightly heavier and better padded with fat when assessing a dog’s build than is the actual the healthy ideal for them; and as a result of this, most dogs in the UK are actually overweight to some extent!

So, what determines a dog’s ideal weight, and what factors do you need to take into account when assessing your own dog? This article will tell you. Read on to learn more.


The height of the dog in question is of course an important factor to determining their weight range, and as a species as a whole, there is masses of variance to be found in dogs of different breeds.

A very tall dog is obviously going to weigh more, even if underweight, than a chubby dog that’s much shorter, and so this is perhaps the most obvious factor to consider; but like the other factors on this list, on its own, isn’t very informative.


Build in combination with height is vital to work out the ideal weight your dog should have. First of all, it is important to understand what we mean when we say build; as many people think this means how much fat the dog is carrying, which is not the case.

A dog’s natural build refers to how heavy and large they are as a norm, rather than how fat or thin they are. The build of different dogs can vary hugely, even for dogs of the same height that are both at an ideal weight; some have more musculature than others, or more muscle bulk.

The greyhound, for instance, is naturally leaner than the golden retriever even though both breeds are around the same average height. A slightly underweight golden retriever would still have a larger build than an overweight greyhound, and you’d be able to spot this immediately.

Breed or type

As mentioned, there’s an average or ideal weight (and sometimes, height) range notated for more or less every pedigree dog breed you can think of. While there will always be dogs whose ideal or norm falls just outside of the stated spectrum, you can reasonably expect any average pedigree dog to fall within the stated range as their ideal; although this is somewhat broad, as few dogs fall squarely in the middle, and those that do might be overweight at the higher end and underweight at the lower end!

When it comes to mixed breed and cross breed dogs, things get more complicated as there’s no guide to refer to, and what is right for any dog might depend on how many of the traits from each side of their parentage they inherit.

A dog with a well-balanced conformation and lean muscles without looking bony will generally be the ideal for their type, partially dictated by the norms for their parent breeds.


Even the dog’s gender can play a part in their weight ideal, and result in two pups from the same litter having different ideal weights! Male dogs are almost always a touch taller and heavier than females of the same breed like for like; in some breeds they’re about the same, but you don’t see breeds where females are larger and heavier as standard than the males.

Neutering status, in some cases

Whether or not a dog or bitch is neutered can even have a part to play too, particularly for male dogs; their testosterone levels can dictate what percentage of their bodies are muscle versus fat, and dictate a range of other facets of their physical make-up too.

Body condition score

A dog’s body condition, or how well they carry the weight they have, how much of it is fat versus muscle, and how balanced their conformation looks is a far more accurate way to determine your dog’s ideal weight than an arbitrary figure, and aiming for a healthy body condition and seeing what weight they’re at when they reach it is better than planning the other way around!

Finding out your dog’s body condition score and knowing how to calculate it is the best way to assess whether any type of dog is at a healthy weight, and you should use weight and weight norms on their own as a guide, not an absolute or replacement for body condition assessment.

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