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Why Lab exercise is important
As you probably have figured out, Labs are very high-energy dogs. They've been bred to be working dogs, specifically retrieving game for their owners in hunting. Because they're retrievers, their muscular build and thick coat prepare them to trudge through mud, snow, water, heat, and many other kinds of conditions.
They're very active dogs, so unless you take them hunting every day, you must prepare to give them opportunities to get all this energy out with both rigorous and mild exercise. Without sufficient exercise, your Lab will have pent-up energy that could lead to bad behaviors, like chewing on your furniture, digging in your carpet, or running away when left outside.
Labs will generally be less controllable and well-behaved if they don't have enough activity throughout the day. But they can also experience health problems without proper exercise, including issues with their hips and joints, weight gain, and heart disease. Dogs can also lose muscle mass if they're not getting enough exercise, which makes them weaker.
Exercise for Lab puppies
So, how much exercise does a puppy need? Lab puppies will have a ton of energy, so you may think that puppies require more exercise than adult Labs. But, when they're really small, they often wear out easily just from normal play around the house or yard. Puppies need a lot of rest, so don't overdo the playtime or over-exert them during the first few months.
After they're about three months old, your puppy will start to need more exercise, so gradually increase playtime and outdoor time. In addition to regular playing, start to introduce dedicated exercise time, starting at 15 minutes and increasing slowly until the dog is full grown. Pay attention to your Lab's energy level and don't overdo it. But get him or her used to daily exercise.
Exercise for adult Labs
The exact amount of exercise a Lab needs will vary depending on your dog's health, size, and energy level. All Labs are different, and some need to expel more energy than others. However, make sure you're giving your dog about an hour of exercise every day, with less energetic dogs needing 30 to45 minutes, and more energetic dogs needing 1.5 to 2 hours.
You'll have to adjust your exercise regimen for elderly Labs. Many Labs, unfortunately, develop health and mobility problems as they near10 years old, so talk to your vet about how much exercise your dog should be getting if he or she develops arthritis or other issues.
Swimming is a great form of exercise for any Lab, but especially for elderly dogs, since it's gentler on their bodies than running. It's important not to strain your dog, so pay attention. If they're in pain, don't push them.
Ideas for apartment or small-space living
Giving Labs the exercise they need can especially be challenging for city dwellers or those with small living spaces. This is when it's time to get creative to meet your dog's needs.
Ideas for exercise in these cases include:
- Going to a nearby park to play with a ball or chasing games (try this HyperPet ball launcher from Amazon)
- Taking your dog on a run or bike ride
- Going to a dog beach where you can let your dog off-leash
- Lab training programs
- Socializing your Lab with other dogs in a dog park
- Longer, more rigorous walks with your Lab (at least an hour)
Think of ways that your Lab can actually sprint. It's important for their heart health and muscle strength.
Ideas for exercise during inclement weather
Another challenge for Lab owners is knowing what to do when the weather conditions are rough outside. This is when you can think about how to challenge your dog both mentally and physically in your home. Indoor games work well.
Try playing with a ball, hide and seek, or hiding a treat inside a toy like a KONG toy or this treat ball toy from Pet Zone IQ, where they have to really work to get it out. Hiding food or treats is a great way to keep your dog stimulated indoors.
For Labs, another good idea is to get a dog treadmill, like the dogPACER treadmill, especially if you live in a place where the weather is bad a large part of the year. You can also check out dog classes or programs in your area where you can let your dog exercise indoors in a safe place.
But remember that even in the snow and rain, Labs thrive outdoors. They have thick, double-layered coats that keep them warm and dry, and they're not deterred by bad weather. Invest in dog shoes for your Lab when there's ice and salt on the ground, and they'll be good to go get that energy out.
Just like humans need regular exercise to stay fit, strong, and healthy, so do Labs. Make sure you're providing daily exercise for your dog, while challenging their mind as well. Your dog will live longer, become stronger and happier, and show better behavior when properly exercised. Otherwise, all that pent-up energy can lead to both behavior and health problems.
Ideas for owners with busy schedules
Unfortunately, we have found one of the biggest reasons that Labs don't typically get the proper amount of exercise is that their owners simply do not have the time that they expected they would have when they brought their Lab into their family.
One of the best ways to combat that is to provide your Lab with the independence to get the exercise they need on their own. Simply installing a doggy-door large enough to accommodate your Lab will be one of the most rewarding decisions an owner can make. There are generally two main types; one that requires cutting through your interior and exterior walls (here is one of those available on Amazon) and the other can be fit into a sliding glass door (like this one from Amazon) that doesn't require any permanent modifications to your home. You will obviously want to check the measurements to make sure that it will work for your setup.
Of course, allowing your Lab to self-serve and get outdoors on their own is just the start of it! You'll want to make sure there's always plenty of toys available to help keep them occupied!