Labradors are among the gentle giants of the dog world. They’re lovable pets that are good with children and who love nothing better than pleasing you, their owners. However, Labradors have a failing – they tend to get overweight very easily. That’s why finding the best dog food for Labs, the right feeding pattern, and the best exercise routine are so important.
The fact is, an overweight Lab won’t live as long and will be more prone to big dog ills such as hip dysplasia and arthritis. Just as with people, diet and exercise are the keys to a healthy weight.
Diet: what’s the best dog food for Labs?
You will find that there are hundreds of opinions about what food is best for your Lab. Although I like the idea of raw feeding, getting the nutritional balance right is an art, and not everyone has the time to research it properly or the money to buy a lot of raw meat. If you want to try this, be sure you know what you’re doing before you begin.
My Labs have all had good long lifespans on regular commercial food, but I do recommend that you don’t go for the cheapest brands. Ideally, choose a food without grain-based products. They tend to cause bloating, and you might see mild allergic reactions. Wheat and maize are the biggest culprits here.
Monitor your dog’s diet carefully. You need to know whether you are getting the right balance with feeding, and if you don’t know how much your dog is eating, you won’t know how to adjust the diet.
Exercise: not too much, not too little
You need to be particularly careful about the kind of exercise your Lab gets as a puppy. Puppies’ bones are still developing, so sports like dog-jumping and dog obstacle courses may be a bit much for your pup. The same goes for very long walks or runs. When your pup gets its first check-up, ask your vet for some exercise dos and don’ts.
Adult dogs are able to tackle more intense exercise, but you still need to be careful. Your Lab will do anything to please you. If, for example, you’re a runner and you take your dog along, monitor him for signs of fatigue and slack off when you see them. Labs are quite capable of running to the point of collapse if they think that’s what you want them to do.
Pups and adult dogs will generally enjoy about half an hours’ exercise twice daily. This doesn’t have to be a walk every time. A play session with a game of fetch also counts and helps with training.
Are you getting the balance right?
Your Labrador’s physical condition will tell you whether you are getting a good diet and exercise balance. Weight is one of the most important factors, but the coat will also tell you a lot. It should be soft and glossy, and your dog should not be inclined to itchiness and scratching.
Labs are highly intelligent and need a lot of mental stimulation. “Naughtiness” is usually the result of boredom. If you are away for long hours during the day and come home to discover there’s been mischief, your dog is very likely bored. Interactive pet toys like Kongs help a lot, and you might want to consider getting a second dog to act as a companion for your Lab. Having a friend and toys to play with will also contribute to exercise.
Since your dog can’t talk (though you might wish he could), watch the external signs to see if you have a healthy, happy pet. Your dog is your friend, so be your dog’s very best friend in return.