This article is part of the Diet and Exercise section of the labrador site.
People often associate exercising the dog with going for walks. And whilst taking the dog for a walk can be a great way of keeping the two of you fit, it isn’t always the best way to exercise every labrador.
In fact, some dogs benefit from not being walked. At least not in the traditional sense of the word. Lets have a closer look.
Labrador puppies do not need heaps of exercise
Exercising Labrador puppies is a subject unto itself but the key lies in moderation. Because puppies’ bones are still growing, most experts recommend that puppies are not taken on long walks until they are approaching their first birthday.
An often quoted rule of thumb is five minutes of exercise per day for every month of the puppy’s age. This would mean no more than 35 minutes of walking a day for a seven month old dog.
It is only fair to point out that this is just a guideline, and that it is quite an arbitrary one.
It’s not based on any kind of specific research or evidence, and was devised to help guide owners of small puppies rather than people with strapping ten month old dogs. So a modicum of common sense needs to be applied.
One of the main concerns is the effect of intensive exercise on the labrador’s hips, and this is especially important when the status of the hips of the puppy’s parents is poor or unknown.
There is plenty of information on hips on this site, check out our article Hip dysplasia: improving the odds , for more advice.
But puppies are not the only dogs that may not benefit from long walks
Labradors with recall problems
Dogs with severe recall problems really do benefit from a new approach to exercise. Their owner’s previous walking habits together with the dog’s instincts may be at the root of their difficulties.
The main problem is that walks tend to be unstructured and to involve a fairly low level of supervision over the dog.
With many dogs this is not a problem, but with others, it can get the owners into deep water. Check out Losing control of your Labrador for more information.
Elderly dogs and dogs with arthritis or other health probems may also need a more relaxed approach to exercise than the traditional hour’s walk. Whilst exercise in moderation is good for some joint problems it may exacerbate symptoms and cause pain if taken too far.
Always check with your vet for advice in these circumstances. There is no need to assume that limping and stiffness is an inevitable part of growing older.
Other forms of exercise
Obviously, just like us, dogs need to exercise in order to keep their heart and lungs fit and their muscles and skeleton in good condition. But there are lots of ways to exercise a dog without taking him for a long walk.
Puppies need no more than an opportunity to trot around in a safe enclosure such as your garden, where they can run about until they are tired. They will enjoy playing with children but supervision is essential so that the game stops before they are exhausted.
Puppies are not very good judges of when enough is enough.
Recall games and retrieving
A boisterous young dog can be called backwards and forwards between two people, gradually building up distance as his fitness increases. Chasing balls or Frisbees is great exercise and retrieving games are one of the best ways to give a dog free running exercise under controlled conditions.
This kind of managed exercise is especially valuable and important if your dog has been taking a keen interest in chasing the local wildlife whilst you are out hiking together.
Each Labrador is unique and his exercise needs will change as he matures and ages. In old age or poor health some dogs may need a few minutes gentle lead walking a few times a day rather than the whole lot in one lump.
If you are not sure what your dog’s exercise needs are, do have a chat with your local vet.
How about you? Have you found a great way to exercise your Labrador? Let us know in the comments box below
More help and information
If you enjoy Pippa’s articles, you might be interested in her new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.
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