I have a 7 month old lab that is somewhat mellow by lab standards. He goes in his crate around 7:30 a.m. and I come home for lunch, take him out to go to the bathroom and get some exercise before putting him back until about 5:30. I'm wondering in terms of exercise, is he better off just going for a nice walk (in PA so weather permitting) or running and playing with frisbees and tennis balls. I have limited time to exercise him so I want him to get the most benefits out of it. May seem like a silly question, but I'm just curious! Also, when did some of you start leaving your pups in their crates for a whole day?
Obviously aerobic exercise, in appropriate amounts, is always better than just walking....just an opinoin of course. I think the absolute best exericse for large breed dogs is swimming....very aerobic and extremely low impact (on the joints).
Hi there -- I posted this in the 'Our Best Advice' thread. Hope it helps.
Daily exercise is important. VERY important. It keeps your dog fit, healthy, happy and stimulated. Underexercised dogs are unhappy dogs. Unhappy dogs show their frustrations in less than desirable ways -- through barking, chewing and generally being a pain in the backside. Well exercised dogs are content and (usually) do not get themselves into trouble. Why? because tired dogs sleep and a sleeping dog is always a good thing. Many, many common behavior problems are caused due to lack of exercise and stimulation. If your dog is having problems in a certain area, you might want to look closely at his exercise regime.
HOW MUCH EXERCISE:
A sensible rule of thumb to follow is the '5 minute rule' -- 5 minutes of exercise per month of age. The rule is designed to protect the soft growing joints. With Labs and other breeds prone to joint problems taking care not to over exercise in the first 18 months is essential. Games like Frisbee which involve leaping/jumping/sudden stopping are not a good idea. Equally, high intensity games of fetch should also be avoided with puppies. If you want to play fetch, make sure you roll the ball along the ground so the dog does not have to leap to catch it.
The amount of exercised required for an adult dog will vary from individual to individual. One key factor is your dogs personality. A laid back, easy going dog may be content with a small amount of daily exercise. On the flip side, a high energy, high drive dog might be impossible to exhaust. Regardless of your dogs personality, only you know what you are able to provide your dog with. One thing you should NOT do is take your dog for long hikes during the weekend and expect him to be happy with a 10 minute walk around the block during the week. Being a "weekend warrior" will also make him prone to injury when he IS physically active.
Be consistant with your exercise routine. Dogs are far more content when they know they will be exercised on a daily basis. Don't be a fair weather walker -- get out there!
If you have a high energy dog, don't fall into the trap of exercising him for hours in an attempt to calm him. Your good intentions might have the opposite effect -- you are shaping a dog with a very large amount of stamina and endurance, therefore boosting his energy levels even further. High energy dogs are easier to calm with mental stimulation -- training, teaching new tricks, playing mind games and fun time with interactive toys all work well. The best part is that most mental stimulation can be done in your own home.
There is often confusion about how much exercise to give a puppy under 6 months. My suggestion would be again to stick with the '5 minute rule'. For the first few months in particular, I am not concerned about giving the puppy lots of exercise -- what I AM concerned about is getting the puppy socialized. Therefore, walks are super important for getting the puppy exposed -- get your pup out there DAILY to meet new people/other dogs and experience the goings on of day to day life.
Walks, IMO, are essential. Whether you have the option of endless off leash trails or 'boring' city streets, a walk should be a central part of your dogs daily routine. An off leash walk is considered to be both mental AND physical stimulation whereas an on leash walk is more of a mental workout.
If you are able to let your dog off leash in a safe area, you don't have to 'do' much because your dog is free to sniff and explore to his heart is content. You might want to add some training commands and retrieves into the mix to stimulate him further.
On leash, your options are limited but you can still make it fun. Try using a flexi lead to allow your dog more freedom (make sure he is well trained before you use one -- also, make sure you are away from suburban streets/people/traffic). Power walk for 10 minutes with him at heel and then allow 10 minutes of free sniffing. Repeat for the duration of the walk. Also, add some obedience commands in there -- sit at the curb side, heelwork, etc.
OTHER TYPES OF EXERCISE:
Swimming: Swimming is a fantastic exercise. Most Labradors take like a fish to water. Swimming is good because it is low impact on the joints -- ideal for dogs of all ages including seniors and dogs with joint problems. Swimming also burns far more calories than most exercises meaning it tires your dog much quicker than, say, walking.
Retrieving: Much like swimming, retrieving comes naturally for most Labradors. Standard retrieving a ball is fun but try to stimulate your dogs natural hunting instincts by setting up more complicated retrieves. Using a training dummy (lacing it with a bottled animal scent is far more exciting to a Lab nose!) is best. Take your dog to an area with tall grass. Tie him up to something and ask him to 'sit'. Walk a fair distance away from him and toss the training dummy up high into the air. Walk back to him, wait an additional 30 seconds and release him. If he 'marked' the fall of the dummy with his eyes he should run straight to it. If not, let him use his nose to hunt for it. Try a number of different retrieving situations in different environments -- he will appreciate it!
Jogging: Jogging should NEVER be attempted with a dog under the age of 18 months (although waiting until the dog is 24 months would be better), however occasional jogging with a well conditioned adult can be a good exercise. Note the "occasional" part -- the reason behind this is because dogs are not natural sprinters. Running continually without stopping is not natural for a dog and, done too much, it stresses the joints even with an adult. Therefore if you want to jog with your dog, firstly make sure he is in good shape. Secondly, only jog with him a handful of times per week -- this will give his muscles time to recover. Finally, try to run him on a soft surface such as grass or a dirt track. You should also take sensible precautions in regards to weather -- NEVER run in the heat and bring plenty of water for your dog.
Biking: As above, biking should never be attempted with a young dog. You can purchase special attachments that clip to your bike and allow your dog to run alongside, however again I would be concerned with the forced running. A much better option is to do occasional off leash biking. Off leash, your dog is free to run at his own pace. Remember to never push your dog beond his limits -- always stop BEFORE he gets tired. If you go on a longish bike ride, give your dog the next day off to recover.
If you plan on being physically active with your dog, insure he is getting the correct amount of nutrition. Although the average pet does not require it, if your dog is truly active you might want to consider putting him on a performance food -- the higher levels of fat and protein are designed to support active dogs.