Labradors are strong and intelligent dogs. While naturally athletic and full of energy, they need to be well exercised in order to expend their high energy. Labrador needs to be trained and exercised from the time they are puppies, otherwise, they can become destructive and difficult to control.
A well-trained and healthy Labrador can also excel as service and guide dogs. In fact, the military and the police consistently use Labradors in search and rescue, hunting and as performance dogs. To realize the full potential of a Labrador they should be exercised regularly and correctly as puppies. In this article, we will show you how you can exercise your Labrador puppy so that it grows into the perfect companion for you.
Related: We’ve done extensive research into how Labradors have excelled in the areas of Guidance, Service, and Therapy. To learn more about this fascinating field, be sure to check out our in-depth article, Labradors as Service and Therapy Dogs.
Why Is Exercise Necessary for Labrador Puppies?
Labs Are a High-Energy Breed
Labradors are genetically predisposed to be high-energy. They have been used as sporting and retrieving dogs by hunters and fishermen from the breed’s beginning. They were ideal for the task as they can run chase and swim in some of the most difficult conditions. This quality, combined with their strong sense of smell and sturdy body structure, makes them ideal for demanding physical work.
While currently, they are the most popular choice as indoor family dogs, they are genetically programmed to handle high-energy activities. Their bodies crave lots of physical activity and if they are not given opportunities to expend their high energy they can become destructive.
Related: If you’d like to know more about the extensive history of Labradors, as well as important and fascinating information on the breed, you’ll definitely want to check out our exhaustive article, Labrador Retrievers (Breed Info, History, and Tips).
Labradors Gain Weight Easily
Labs are strong and sturdy dogs and, consequently, tend to be voracious eaters. A lack of exercise can easily cause them to put on the extra pounds. An overweight Labrador is prone to all sorts of health problems and excessive weight may lead to issues like heart problems, hip, and joint damage, increase blood pressure, etc.
An obese Labrador cannot be a helpful member of your family, nor can it achieve its full physical potential. To have your Labrador mature into a good companion and be of service, he must be in good health. Involving your Lab in activities that fit his genetic makeup is the key to keeping him in good health.
Hyperactivity and destructive behavior
A lack of activity can cause your Labrador to become bored and can result in hyperactive behavior. If they have not been exercised well from the time they are puppies it may lead them to become disobedient and uncontrollable as mature dogs. Their naturally pleasant personalities can turn sour with excessive barking, restlessness, and hyperactivity. Most owners become puzzled when their Labradors exhibit personality problems, unaware that the cause of this is rooted mostly in the lack of proper exercise and properly expending energy as puppies.
Loss of Muscle Mass
Since Labradors are genetically muscular and well-built, lack of exercise can harm their natural body shape as they lose muscle tone. The loss of muscle mass can take a toll on the dog’s body as they become lethargic and easily fatigued. This can also lead to impaired organ function and can also have an impact on their nervous systems.
How Much Exercise Does a Labrador Puppy Need?
For the first three months of the puppy’s life, their regular day-to-day playtime is sufficient to expend any energy they have at that age. After their first three months, however, you will need to provide avenues for expending their ever-increasing energy. After 3 months of age, a puppy needs a minimum of at least 45 minutes to 1 hour of exercise per day.
As the puppy matures, you can gradually increase his activity levels. At 4 months old, begin with 5 minutes of planned, regular exercise per day. After that, increase his exercise gradually by 5 minutes for each additional month of age. When your Lab hits its first year, you can also consider a well-planned exercise regimen in addition to his daily natural playtime. This dedicated exercise time will become increasingly necessary as your Labrador moves into adulthood. With his increasing levels of energy, it may become increasingly difficult to control him.
What Types of Exercises Are Best Suited for a Labrador Puppy?
Walking. Walking is a low impact exercise and can easily be done almost anywhere. No equipment is necessary and most owners can engage in this activity along with their puppies. This is an excellent exercise for the puppy after it’s first 3 months as it will gradually prepare them for more strenuous forms of activities. Be careful to ensure that the terrain is not too rough as the pads on the puppy’s paws might need more time to toughen.
Running. All puppies enjoy running. Many owners like to schedule their dog’s run to coincide with their own. It may be too early for the puppy to run with you but you can certainly do a few minutes of running a day with the puppy so that he gets used to it. While most dogs are on a leash you will also see that some owners manage to train their dogs to run beside them without a leash. This is achieved by training the dog when it is a puppy. So some early running is advisable but not too much in the initial months.
Hiking. It is an excellent activity and is loaded with lots of adventure for your puppy. Regular hiking trips on a mountain trail or through forested areas can bring great joy to your Labrador puppy as there are a lot of interesting scents and scenes that are exciting for them. Just be aware that may be difficult to keep them on the path at first as they will be eager to chase after anything that moves.
Swimming. Labradors are natural swimmers and their bodies develop excellently if swimming is added into their exercise regimen. Swimming is a full-body exercise and strenuous enough to expend all the energy of the puppy. Initially, you should limit the swim time in order to ensure that the dog does not overtire itself. Swimming also cools down the puppy and they get a lot of pleasure playing in the water.
Related: But is it true that all Labradors are naturals when it comes to water? If your Lab seems skittish around water, you’ll want to check out our helpful and informative article, Do All Labradors Like Water?
Playing fetch. Lab puppies love to play fetch. All Lab owners inevitably find this out and it is often the most preferred type of play for your dog. Labradors, with their natural retrieving trait, usually take to this game early on. All you need is their favorite toy to throw and a lot of space for the puppy to run and fetch the toy. Usually, owners use toys like balls or sticks but the beauty of the activity is that almost any object can be used for this game.
Agility training. This exercise is more for puppies whom the owners would like to prepare for competitions. Agility training involves activities such as the puppy going through walkways, tunnels, and hurdles to reach the other end. This requires a proper agility training course and the puppy has to be trained to engage in the activity. It is advised that Labrador owners wait until the puppy is at least one year to start agility training activities.
Frisbee. It is a common sight to see dogs and owners playing Frisbee, in playgrounds and yards. Frisbees is an exciting activity for your puppy that engages all his muscle groups. While very small puppies shouldn’t play Frisbee, you can try it with puppies who are six months or older. It includes jumping, leaping and running, all of which are important and healthy activities for a Labrador. This also involves their favorite pastime, retrieving, which Labrador puppies will enjoy. Ensure that the Frisbee is light and flexible as it can harm the puppy if thrown with force.
How to Exercise Your Lab Puppy Indoors
While most owners can take their puppies outside for exercise, some may not be able to do this. This could be due to extreme weather conditions like rain, snow or heat, or just the lack of accessibility to open areas, such as if you live in an apartment complex that does not have a pet-friendly facility.
It can be difficult in these cases to ensure that the puppy gets the exercise it needs but there are ways to get around this inconvenience. Here are some ways you can exercise your puppy indoors.
Use a treadmill. While it may seem surprising for many, a puppy can be trained to use and enjoy a treadmill. While it may not happen immediately, you can get the dog used to the treadmill slowly. Start with getting them used to the sight and sound of the treadmill in action.
Ensure that the treadmill’s speed is set at a slow enough setting that the puppy can walk at a comfortable pace. Briefly put the puppy on the treadmill. Try this for only around 5 minutes at first and then increase the time gradually. Once the puppy gets adjusted to the activity you can increase the pace for an adequate workout session.
Play fetch. It can be tricky when you play fetch indoors as space is constrained and there could also be accidents and breakage of valuables. So it is best to prepare a fetch course for the puppy. Clear out parts of the house so that there is a clear path for the puppy to run without breaking or hitting anything. You may not have enough room in your place to create a long running path but that is okay.
The idea is that since the distance the puppy can run is limited, you can increase the frequency and pace so as soon as the object you throw is brought back immediately throw it again so that there is less downtime in the puppy’s exercise. It may be difficult to do for one hour and may become boring for the puppy. It can be combined with other indoor activities to provide adequate exercise time and fun.
Obstacle courses. Since an indoor exercise area can be limited you can maximize your indoor space to do more with it. An ideal way to accomplish this is with an obstacle course. You can create an obstacle course with everyday objects and supplies found around the house.
For example, old tubes and cardboard boxes for tunnels, chairs for jumping across, stools for climbing, etc. Plan out your own course in a way that makes the puppy to crawl, jump, run and climb. Initially, the puppy may not get the idea but with effective use of treats and encouragement can help it learn.
Tug-of-war. While not necessarily the best exercise for the puppy, it is certainly good for the overall strength and muscle building. The neck, jaws, legs, and torso get a good workout with some intense tug of war activity. It is also great fun for both the owner and the pup.
A good way to start a tug of war is to wait until the puppy is biting or chewing a non-food object – anything that will not encourage the puppy to chew on inappropriate household items. Hold on to one end of the object and start pulling. The puppy usually cannot resist pulling off the object from your hands. This will lead to a tug of war and the more you engage in it the puppy will find it thrilling.
Hide the treat. This is another fun activity and will keep your puppy active. You can take any treat that the puppy likes, have them smell it, and then quickly run with it and hid it in hard to get a place like under the rug on a slightly high chair or table or behind a door. When you hide it does ensure that it is not impossible by slightly difficult to reach. If it is impossible to reach the puppy may lose interest in the game. Also, ensure that you do not place in areas that can be potentially risky of the puppy.
Other than these you can come up with many fun games to keep your puppy active, like playing with bubbles or playing hide and seek. If possible, you can also bring in another puppy if there is ever a time when you know you won’t be able to exercise with your Labrador puppy for a few days. The two puppies will naturally play and exercise with each other.
How to Start an Exercise Regimen for Your Puppy
1. Decide on the Time You Will Devote to Exercising the Labrador Puppy
The first step is to determine the amount of time you need to exercise your puppy. Depending on the age you can have longer durations but do not engage in any exercise before the first 3 months are completed. In the fourth month, you can start with 5 minutes of playing, throwing the ball, or walking. Walking is easier if the puppy does not yet know how to do fetch.
Continue doing this at approximately the same time each day so that the dog is accustomed to and ready for the activity. Choose a schedule that works best for you and that you can keep consistently – such as after you come home from work or early in the morning. In the fifth month, you can increase the time to 10 minutes.
Do not worry if the exercise is not continuous in the beginning. Maybe you can get the puppy used to the leash and lightly jog along with it. You can vary the activity every few days so that it doesn’t become boring for you or the puppy. In the sixth month, you can increase the time to 15 minutes with a greater intensity of activity.
By this time you will also notice that the puppy has gained a lot of energy and can do the activities with vigor. Following this pattern, you can increase his exercise time a few minutes each month so that by the fifteenth month the puppy will be getting an intensive 1-hour exercise daily.
2. Choosing Activities for Exercising the Labrador Puppy
Most new Lab owners are unsure about which exercises to choose for the puppy. The best course is to initially try out a variety of exercises. Maybe you can switch activities every three days. Try walking a few days, the other days jogging and then throw and fetch.
As you progress and the puppy engages in more activities you will find a few that the puppy enjoys the most. When that is identified try to include those more. Always remember that mental stimulation is equally as important as physical activity, so come up with interesting activities and add variety every once in a while.
3. Pay Attention to the Puppy’s Signals
At all times it is necessary to be alert to the puppy’s needs and understand their signals. Do not force the puppy to do activities that they dislike. Also, if some days the puppy does not seem energetic or is sick you can skip those days. The activity should be tiring but not exhausting; a good way to gauge this is to check if the puppy is enjoying the activity and is fully involved. If its interest seems waning them maybe it is time to stop or change the activity.
4. Keep It Fun
Puppies only want to have fun. Make sure that all the activities are not just what you enjoy but what is enjoyable for the puppy. Otherwise, they may get frustrated and stop cooperating with you. Include treats and praise whenever they accomplish something. Also, include an ample amount of both physical affection and verbal affirmation. This will make the activity more enjoyable for the puppy. Keep fun as the central theme and good health will be the result.
Safety Tips While Exercising Your Puppy
Here are a few safety tips while exercising your puppy.
- If the puppy seems ill or in pain, it is best to not exercise that day. You can choose a milder form of activity like a leisurely walk if you are unsure.
- Gradually build up your puppy’s endurance. Slow and steady is a good rule to follow.
- Have the right equipment for exercise whether it is a toy or a leash and take adequate safety precautions
- While swimming is an excellent exercise, do not force the puppy into water. Let him get used to the water gradually before making him swim. Initially, if the puppy cannot swim, a life jacket or any floatation device could be used for safety.
- Do not take the puppy outdoors if the weather conditions are extreme. Avoid exposing the puppy to any extreme weather condition be it rain, heat or snow. Do activities indoors on those days.
- In warmer seasons, early morning and late in the day are ideal for outdoor activities. Try to take the puppy for outdoor exercise during those times to avoid overheating.
- Keep plenty of water available if you are engaging in outdoor activities. Take frequent breaks, especially if the activity is too strenuous or is new to your puppy.
- Check the puppy for scrape and bruise after the activities. In the activities, if the puppy hurts itself take necessary steps for its care.
- Check with the vet before you start on an exercise regimen and keep the vet updated on your observations
- If you have the puppy on a leash try to not jerk or pull on the leash suddenly. It can hurt you as well as the puppy. Do not pull on the leash too hard to curb the puppy from going towards any object or animal, instead, you can physically pick up the puppy and move away from the distraction.
- When running or walking on remember that the paws of the puppy may need time to toughen up and may hurt sometimes. Pavements can be very hot on summer days even after the heat subsides, so be alert to how the puppy reacts.
- Because puppies are covered in fur, watch signs of excessive panting or wet paw prints (sweat glands tend to be near the paws) Try to have softer surfaces for walking or running like a lawn or soft sand.
How Much Exercise Is Too Much for a Labrador Puppy?
Too much of anything is never good – including exercise. There is an active debate going about the optimum amount of exercise for puppies. While everyone agrees that exercise is necessary the limits have not yet been clearly defined.
It is better to err on the side of safety. A good 15 minutes to one hour depending on the age of the puppy is recommended. Beyond that, it depends on the fitness and endurance of the particular puppy and the activity itself.
It would also be better to split up the time between morning and evening. This will ensure that you do not overtax the puppy. Do remember also that the puppy will be active during the day too so too much activity may tire out the puppy and lead to injuries as well.
There is no easy approach or any hard and fast rules. It is better to let common sense influence your decisions in this matter. Also, talk to a vet and get his or her opinions as they will have greater insights into the condition of the puppy.
Does My Puppy Need More Food While Exercising?
No, if you are feeding a balanced and nutritious diet then the exercise alone does not warrant increasing its food intake. In fact, this may have adverse effects and lead to unnecessary weight gain. It is better to also seek advice from your vet in this matter before changing anything.
I Work and Don’t Have Time to Exercise My Puppy
This is an important responsibility. So, a commitment to the puppy’s well-being needs to be accepted by the owner. If a Lab owner is unable to properly exercise their puppy then it would be better to hire someone to do this.
While the owner is the best person to exercise with the puppy, life situations and work-related inconveniences can lead to an inability to exercise the puppy. In such cases, someone who will properly care for your puppy, like a relative, a family friend, or an agency that offers such services can be given this responsibility.
Exercising your Labrador puppy can be a fun activity but what also matters is the bonding and enjoyment that result from this activity. A good exercise regimen benefits the owner as well as the puppy. So commit today to exercise your Labrador puppy and watch it grow into a good-natured, happy, and healthy dog.