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Many people look at Labradors as their next pet, but wonder if they will do well in small living spaces. In fact, I myself considered a Lab during my college years while living in a small apartment. So, can a Labrador live in a small house or other small living spaces?
A Labrador can live in a small house as long as it gets ample playtime, socialization, and long walks to suit its high energies. If your lifestyle will not allow you to assure the required amount of exercise and play is possible, then having a Labrador in a small house would not be a good idea.
Life in a small home can cause problems for your pup, but that doesn’t make it impossible. A full understanding of what to look out for, and how to help your Lab lead a happy life in a small house can make it still achievable.
Problems with Small Houses for Labradors
Whether you’re moving to a small house or watching your puppy outgrow your home, it’s important to consider how and why a small living space can affect your Lab.
These are active dogs, especially in their younger years, and they don’t often know their size.
With that in mind, smaller spaces might not be the best for their level of energy.
A Lab’s size can create challenges
Labradors are typically between 50 and 80 pounds (23 to 36 kg), with solid, athletic builds. These sporting dogs are not giants, but they are far from dainty.
I can tell you from experience that sharing a small space with a growing Labrador is not easy.
Labradors have high energy levels
As working dogs, Labradors were bred energetic and prey-driven. Your Lab will want to play, run, and socialize multiple times each day, and living in a small house can limit their chances to do so.
Some Lab owners expect their dogs will mellow with time, but I’ve found that Labradors remain high-energy with age. A hundred years of breeding have shaped your Lab’s DNA, so you need to figure out how to work with their nature.
Health and Behavior
Just like us, Labs get bored and stir-crazy, and all of that pent-up energy can turn into destructive behavior. They may chew your furniture, steal your belongings to get you to chase them, or break your valuables when their urges hit hard!
They may even run away when given a chance!
There are also health risks. Labradors are prone to obesity. Their bottomless appetites work with plenty of activity, but without enough movement, Labs gain unhealthy weight and suffer complications, such as joint, liver, and bone damage, breathing problems, and more.
How Much Space Does a Labrador Need?
Labradors need as much space as possible, but there’s no exact formula for how much square footage a typical Lab needs. Remember that it’s not just about the size of your dog, but everything your pup will use: its crate, bed, dishes, toys, and food supplies all take up space in your home.
Include you, your family, and all of your stuff, and it gets cramped quickly.
If your living space is smaller than 1,000 square feet (93 square meters), a smaller dog is a better choice for your home.
If a Lab is already part of your family, there are some ways you can make your small home friendlier for your pup.
How to Make a Small House Work for Your Lab
You can try to keep your Labrador happy in a small home by optimizing the space, burning through their energy, and socializing them.
Train Your Lab Fully
Whether you’re getting a puppy or bringing your adult Labrador to a new home, training is crucial to keeping your home and your dog in good condition. Set rules for behavior in the house and start training your dog immediately.
Labs are intelligent and very trainable, but they need consistency. Maintaining your expectations will help your Lab understand how to act indoors, even if the space is small.
I highly recommend using an online training program to train your dog yourself, but with the guidance of a professional. This alternative to traditional training is both convenient as well as cost-effective.
Use Minimalist Decor
Make sure your indoor space is easy for your Lab to navigate. Keep breakable items out of reach. Choose minimal furniture that allows wide paths through your house and use wall space to hang art and shelves.
Your Lab will find a way through the room, so give them as much space to move as you can.
Give Your Labrador Regular Exercise
As high-energy dogs bred for hunting and work, Labradors need regular exercise. Quick walks around the block are not enough for these energetic pups. Your Lab will need 30-60 minute walks every day, as well as plenty of playtime, to stay happy and healthy.
While I didn’t have a Lab in college, I still struggled with this with the dog that I did have. Not only did he not get the exercise needed, but he had to spend a lot of time locked up due to school and work commitments. I wrote about it in my article, Labradors As Apartment Dogs: 5 Reasons It’s A No.
Your athletic Lab might also enjoy running with you. Check out my guide to see how your Labrador can become your running buddy.
Get a Dog Walker
I know it can be challenging to take your Lab on long walks when you’re working full-time. With a dog-walker, you can make sure your pup gets enough exercise and socialization.
If your kids (or your neighbor’s children!) are old enough, dog-walking is a chore they might enjoy. You can also ask around your community or at your vet’s office for dog-walker recommendations. Or, check out Rover to find someone online.
Send Your Lab to a Daycare
Doggie daycare is another service that will give your Lab an energy outlet. Some pet supply stores offer daycare, or you can ask other dog owners in your area to find a local business.
Daycare gives your Lab time to run around with other dogs and burn through their energy while getting to know other dogs. Finding the right daycare for you and your Labrador can create an important and fun routine for both of you.
Take Your Labrador to Dog Parks
Complement your Lab’s long walks with regular visits to the dog park. Labs are social butterflies, and they need interaction with other dogs as much as they need exercise.
Find a dog park that has plenty of space for medium-large dogs to run around. Look for features you want your Lab to enjoy, like water fountains or an area to dig and roll around.
Your Lab will befriend anyone, but you can be more discerning. Get to know the other owners and dogs. Keep an eye out for attentiveness, evidence of training, and cleanliness. Once you find a suitable park, your Labrador will look forward to playing off-leash with other dogs.
Provide Your Lab with Toys
I always make sure Molly has plenty of opportunities to play. I want her to be interested and active, so she’s tired out by the end of the day! That also means a variety of toys.
Look for indoor and outdoor toys. I like the KONG Classic Dog Toy from Amazon.com for fetching and chewing. They also work well as puzzlers with the right treat inside. I’ve kept Molly occupied for hours with hers.
A versatile indoor/outdoor toy like the FITNOVO Dog Soccer Ball (also from Amazon.com) is excellent for chasing and retrieving. The tabs attached to the ball make perfect handles for tug-of-war, so your Lab can let out some of their pent-up energy.
And don’t forget about outdoor toys. Frisbee is an excellent choice for long-distance fetch in the park. I recommend the ChuckIt! Flying Squirrel from Amazon.com because it’s soft enough not to hurt your Lab, but it can handle chewing. Bonus: it’s waterproof! Perfect for fetch in a lake or pool with your pup.
Enhance Your Yard Space
The ideal setup for a Labrador includes an expansive outdoor space. If you already have a Lab in your life, you know they can play fetch for hours. A big yard means they can chase a ball, satisfy their retrieving instincts, or just run until they flop.
If your yard is on the smaller side, set up DGSL’s Outdoor Hanging Bungee from Amazon.com to give your dog a rope to chew on, tug, and chase.
Labs aren’t built for small spaces. Their genetics and instincts are made for the great outdoors.
But can a Labrador live in a small house? While a small house isn’t the perfect match for your Lab, I believe you can make it work with exercise, play, training, and lots of time outdoors.
- Science Daily: Genes play a role in dog breed differences in behavior
- PetMD: Environmental Enrichment for Puppies and Dogs
- The New York Times: The Lab Results Are In: Genes Might Be to Blame for Retrievers’ Obesity
- PetMD: Obesity is a Common Problem in Labrador Retrievers
- DIY Network: 12 Tips for Pet-Friendly Decorating
- Rover: main page
- American Kennel Club: Choosing a Doggy Daycare for Your Pup
- American Kennel Club: Dog Park Safety: Top Tips for Making Visits Safe and Enjoyable
- American Kennel Club: How to Channel & Control Your Dog’s Prey Drive on Walks