This post comes to you as a result of a question received this week by a new Soggy Acres puppy owner. Her little guy was from this summer’s Southern Belle x Pickett litter. I helped hand-raise him, as his teeth came in late and so he needed a little extra help at the start of life. His new owner has kindly kept in touch to update us on his status, and his current status is that he is a much larger brown furball of energy! She was looking for tips to help tucker him out.
Here are our top suggestions for harnessing your Lab’s seemingly boundless energy:
- Walks: Even young dogs can have a couple of short, brisk-paced walks every day. Runs, no. We do not recommend running your young dog as various body parts are still not fully developed and you can cause strains and other damage. (We also do not recommend running an overweight dog, older dogs, or any dog in warmer temps.) Put on his leash and take him around the neighborhood: it’s also a perfect opportunity to work on basic obedience skills like heel and down (if he jumps up on someone).
- Chew Toys: Check out last week’s blogpost for some great chew toy ideas. Giving your Lab something to chew is a top way to busy him. To reiterate, my favorite chew toy is the sterilized beef bone, preferably with the tasty filled centers: http://www.petsmart.com/featured-shops/dentley-s/dentley-s-trade-nature-s-chew-filled-bone-dog-treat-zid36-18631/cat-36-catid-800017?var_id=36-18631&_t=pfm%3Dcategory%26pfmvalue%3Dfaceted). (This is just one available brand.) I refill the center with a bit of peanut butter once the original centers are gone. Our dogs will chew these for hours! Antlers, either synthetic or real, are another great choice. (More info on antlers is also available in last week’s post.)
- Tie-Out Time: If the weather is mild, invest in a tie-out device and a long leash and let your dog burn off some energy outside. Make sure the leash is short enough to prevent him for going into any landscaping, the road, onto the sidewalk, or into a neighbor’s yard. We do NOT recommend ever leaving your dog out for more than a few minutes unsupervised, so set up your lawnchair and grab a good book or your laptop and do plan to keep an eye on him. Unsupervised dogs can be stolen or run away, or can eat any number of harmful plants or other harmful things.
- Fetch: He is a “Retriever” after all, isn’t he? Labs love to fetch. Get him going with a tennis ball or a cool bumper (try http://spgoutdoors.com/pets.html) and get ready to burn some doggy calories! Keep an eye on the temps if you’re doing this outdoors and reserve outdoor fetch for early mornings or evenings in the warm weather months. You can always clear a big space in the basement, den, or family room and play “mini fetch” by rolling a ball instead of throwing it. This is perfect for days of inclement weather, including high and low temps. Be sure not to over-do it. Labs lack that internal “switch” to turn off their retrieving drive, so you need to make the call for them. Too much fetch, especially in a young dog, can cause strains.
- Swimming: Obviously limited to a few months in states like Wisconsin, swimming is a perfect energy-burning activity that’s low impact on joints and safer than walking on warm days. Combine swimming with fetch, and your Lab will sleep the whole way home from the lake.
- Training: There’s a reason hunters and trainers want the high-energy dog in the litter: training demands it. Training your dog often becomes more of a mental exercise than a physical one, and that causes exhaustion too. We recommend two short sessions a day, 15 minutes each for young dogs and no more than 30 minutes for older ones. Tailor your sessions to whatever your dog needs work on, whether it’s simply walking at heel, or something more complicated like retrieving to hand. Almost all dogs can benefit from a bit of daily obedience training. Don’t forget to reward a job well done by stealing a few bits of his kibble from his morning or evening meal.
- Playdate: Dogs are social animals: they live in packs in the wild, right? Your dog may live in the ‘burbs, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t crave a little wrestling with another dog from time to time. Hopefully as a “dog person,” you have other dog-parents in your family or social group that your dog can play with. You should be confident that your dog’s playmates are properly vetted (hence, no random play partners at the dog park) and aware that they are size-appropriate. A playmate that’s too large or muscular can hurt your pup, and a dog that’s too small could get unintentionally hurt by yours. If your dog isn’t spayed or neutered, this will obviously limit his playmate pool dramatically. Unneutered male dogs generally don’t play nice together, and the consequence of different-sex un-fixed dogs “playing” probably doesn’t require explanation! With any doggy playtime, always remain present to supervise in case play gets too rough. Even an otherwise mild-mannered dog may attempt to assert dominance over another dog – who may not take too kindly to it.
Hopefully, these tips will provide some assistance and relief to you as a new Lab puppy owner. Labs are highly energetic dogs with lots of drive and an eagerness to please, which makes them great companion animals and partners on the hunt. It’s harnessing this energy that becomes the challenge. The good news is that with proper exercise, training, and age, your Lab’s unbridled energy will become manageable. And of course, try and enjoy his puppy exuberance while it’s there. Keep in mind, that all too soon, these days will be gone.
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