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Labradors and Golden Retrievers

Golden Retriever puppies

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Labrador Puppy Playing in Leaves

How Much Exercise Does My Retriever Puppy Need?

The Essential Guide for Labrador and Golden Retriever Owners

Virtually everyone who gets a puppy needs to answer this one. Especially when they have been vaccinated and can venture outside. There are lots of regimented posts that state a certain amount of exercise per day depending on age. The usual is to start at 5 mins per session, twice a day and increase it a further 5 mins for every month. i.e by 3 months your dog can do 15 mins twice per day.

Whilst this is a good starting point, every dog is different and as retrievers are fairly high energy, they are also quite a large breed and you may find that keeping to this level leads to destructive dog!

Key is not to focus on the actual walk time but ensuring your dog is mentally as well as physically occupied. Playing gently with your puppy in your house combined with lots of reward based training can be a great way to exercise your dog in a non-impactful way. This also creates a wonderful bond with your pup.

Labradors and golden retrievers can have boundless energy in short bursts,  you may find that even after a pretty decent walk, when you come home your dog still appears to have bags of energy left. This is because some dogs almost need ‘permission’ to relax and take a rest. if this applies to your dog, one suggestion is to put them in their crate after a walk. This does work very well although we prefer to just put them in their bed and not give them any attention, generally they quickly switch off and realise it is time for some sleep time. If this is proving difficult you can always do some more reward based training to finish them off. Perhaps the training can be to get them to lie down in their bed!

With retrievers being quite large dogs their bones are not fully formed until at least 12 months but can be as long as 2 years. Bear this in mind and avoid activities that clearly put a lot of pressure on joints. Common sense required here but this includes jumping, fast turns on slippery surfaces and chasing after balls. Retrievers are particularly prone to arthritis and hip dysplasia and your vet bills will really appreciate avoiding both of these in the future.

See below X-ray of a 2 week old puppy, you can clearly see the bones are not touching.

Puppy bones X-ray


Bone Development

Understanding the development of their bones and how it affects their exercise routine is critical to long term welfare (and your bank balance). As retrievers are considered large breed dogs and typically reach their full size around 18-24 months of age. During this time, their bones go through a process called ossification, where cartilage is gradually replaced by bone cells. Although the timeline of ossification can vary from puppy to puppy, there are some general milestones you can expect:

  • At birth: retrievers are born with soft, pliable bones that allow for the natural birthing process. These bones are not yet formed and are made mostly of cartilage.
  • First three months: During this period, bone cells begin to form and replace some of the cartilage. The bones become more rigid, but still have a lot of elasticity.
  • Three to six months: This is a crucial time for bone growth, as the majority of ossification occurs during this stage. The bones become much harder, but are not yet fully formed.
  • Six months to one year: The bones continue to harden and are almost fully formed. However, there is still some room for growth in the plates, which are areas of cartilage near the ends of bones that allow for growth.
  • One year and beyond: While ossification is mostly complete by the one-year mark, the growth plates continue to fuse and harden until around 18-24 months of age. Ultimately, we must apply common sense and now you know the reasons a puppy can damage its bones and cartilage, just keep this in mind for every activity until they are old enough. Chasing after a ball constantly even at 1 year old is likely to create problems and similarly puppies like to pounce on toys! So try to avoid triggering this kind of response unless they are on very soft ground or not landing hard.
Golden retriever puppy going down stairs

Tailoring Exercise to Your Puppy's Energy Levels and Temperament

Not all puppies are the same. Some may exhibit high puppy energy levels, while others may be more laid-back. Labrador and Golden Retrievers, in general, are known for their playful and energetic temperament. Thus, a variety of activities can help channel their energy positively.

Puppy activities can include leash training during a puppy walk, indoor games, and even puppy sports, which help with socialization and training. For particularly energetic puppies, puppy running or sprinting in a safe, enclosed area can be a fun way to tire them out.

Two young golden retrievers playing

A Healthy Mix: Balancing Exercise and Rest

While understanding how often and how long a puppy should exercise is crucial, it is equally important to balance activity with rest. Puppies, like human babies, need plenty of sleep to aid their development. Make sure your puppy has quiet times and a comfortable place to nap between bouts of activity.

Sleeping black Labrador puppy in crate

Fun and Games: Keeping Exercise Engaging

To keep your puppy interested in their exercise routine, it’s a good idea to mix things up. Different puppy games, like fetch or tug-of-war, can make exercise fun and enjoyable. Playing with a puppy frisbee or a puppy ball during your outdoor sessions can keep them engaged and help train their agility and reaction times.

Indoors, a game of hide and seek with their favourite toy or puzzle games can keep them mentally stimulated while also providing physical activity.

Weather Considerations: Indoor and Outdoor Exercise

he weather can significantly influence your puppy exercise routine. During hot summer months, it’s best to avoid the peak sun hours, while in winter, you’ll want to ensure your puppy stays warm during their outdoor activities. Remember, plenty of exercise can happen indoors too!

Training and Socialization: More Than Just Play Puppy exercise is also a great opportunity for training and socialization. Simple commands can be integrated into play, and meeting other dogs and people during walks is a great way to socialize your puppy. Remember, socialization should be a positive experience, so always be mindful of your puppy’s comfort level.

In conclusion, exercise is an integral part of your retriever puppy’s life. Whether you’re playing tug-of-war with a puppy rope, training them to walk on a leash, or simply allowing them to burn off energy by running around, a balanced and considered approach to exercise will ensure your puppy grows into a healthy and happy dog. As a puppy owner, your responsibility extends to their physical well-being, so remember to enjoy this time with your furry friend as they explore the world around them

sleeping golden retriever puppy on a beach

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