Labrador retrievers are bred for activity. In fact, the American Kennel Club describes Labs as “very active” and “high-spirited and not afraid to show it”.
Which is why a lack of exercise can be the root cause for many destructive behavioral problems for active dog breeds such as Labs.
As WebMD.com reports, wild dogs spend nearly 80% of their day hunting and scavenging, which are both demanding activities that burn calories and engage the brain.
We’ve rounded up 10 of the best games you can play with your Lab at any age. And remember, you don’t need to invest a lot of money into creating a full-blown agility course in your backyard or take up duck hunting on the weekends—all it takes is a bit of your time every day to have a happy, healthy dog.
1. How About Fetching The Right Toy?
This is a game that combines both mental and physical activity. To start, teach your dog the specific names for his or her toys by pointing at them and repeating the names.
Once your dog can identify which toy you want when you say “squirrel” or “Mr. Bird” for example, then you’re ready for the physical part of the challenge.
Grab your Labrador and a few of your dog’s toys and head out to the yard or your favorite dog park. Have your dog sit next to you, give the “wait” signal and throw the toys.
Ask your dog to fetch a particular toy. If they bring back the wrong one, throw it back and ask again until you get the right toy. In no time, you’ll have a happy-tired pooch with a great vocabulary.
2. Try The Always Classic Tug-of-War
Tug-of-War is especially great for puppies as a teachable moment for the “release” command. This can be played indoors—as long as you have enough space—or outdoors.
Here are a couple of tips for fun, safe Tug-of-War: Don’t let your dog grab the toy before you give the signal it’s okay. And if your Lab (especially a puppy) grabs any part of you or your clothes, stop the game for a time before trying again.
Though rare, if you notice aggressive behavior in your dog that goes beyond play-growling (such as nipping or guarding), drop the toy and walk away to signal that it’s not acceptable behavior.
3. Take Turns Calling Your Dog
This is a game that’s great for the whole family. Make a circle of about 20 feet or more with your Labrador square in the middle and take turns calling him or her to you. Praise your dog or give a treat when they come, and then step back to let someone else call.
Once your dog understands how it works, call faster and faster for a great doggie workout. You can also have family members in different parts of the house calling to give your Labrador the exercise they need on a rainy day.
4. Create A DIY Agility Course
You can make hurdles out of old blankets, pillows, towels or anything similar and adjust as needed for your dog’s height. It’s a great way to start puppies on agility training as the hurdles will be soft.
If you have the room, you can set up the hurdles indoor and have your dog run through them until blissfully tired.
You can also set them up in the yard and create a true agility course, complete with jumps, twists and turns.
5. Teach Your Labrador A New Trick
We could all stand to learn a few new skills once in a while—and your Labrador is no different. There are many advanced commands you can teach your dog such as “bark”, “roll over” and the (polarizing) command of “play dead”.
Puppies especially are keen to learn new commands once they’ve mastered the basics, so make a list of the commands you’d like to eventually teach your Labrador and have it on hand for days when you can’t go out on a walk.
6. Who Doesn’t Love A Good Game of Hide’n’Seek?
Your Labrador has an incredible nose. Keep it in top shape by hiding treats around the house or yard and asking your dog to find them all.
You can hold one treat in your hand and let your Lab sniff it before sending him or her out to search to give an idea of what to look for.
Alternatively, you can use people instead of treats and have your dog find your loved ones instead for a twist on the game. Just make sure to have treats on hand to reward your Labrador for their excellent finds.
7. Help Your Dog Self-Entertain With These Toys
Food dispensing toys are a huge market. Kong makes some of the most popular models, but you have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to picking the right toy for your Labrador.
Designed to help cut down on boredom, food dispensing toys are like puzzle treats for your dog.
You can get extra strong rubber toys if your Labrador is particularly rambunctious, softer toys for senior dogs or toys made to fit your puppy’s smaller mouth.
Click here for our list of the best chew toys for labs and strong chewers.
8. Upgrade Your Fetch Toy To a Frisbee
Unlike balls that tend to sink and roll away, Frisbees hold air much longer, making them a very fun toy for your Labrador. See if you can teach your Lab to jump and grab the Frisbee midair for even more of a workout.
As for durability, you can choose between soft Frisbees your dog can easily grip with their teeth (yes, even puppy teeth!) or an extra-tough version for rowdier dogs.
9. Teach Your Labrador To Put Their Toys Away
Yes, you can teach your dog to tidy up!
Start by picking up a toy and showing your dog how you drop it into a basket or box while saying “put it away”. Ask your dog to put away another toy and practice until your Lab understands what you’re asking.
Then you can scatter multiple toys around the house and give the command for your dog to put them all away.
10. Can You Find The Treat Under The Cup?
This is a game that’s low on physical activity but a great brain-teaser for your Labrador—and especially handy on rainy days when you can’t get outside for exercise.
Start by having your dog sit and show them a piece of their favorite treat. Hide it under a plastic or Styrofoam cup right in front of them. Don’t use a glass cup as your dog will be knocking it over. After you’ve placed the treat under the cup, give your dog the command to grab it.
Once your Labrador has gotten the idea of how it works, rub a piece of treat over three cups to keep your dog from cheating with his nose. Then place the treat under one of the three cup and ask your dog to find it.
If your dog is a whiz at identifying the right cup, you can then make things more challenging by slowly rotating the cups.
Have you any favorite games you like to play with your Labrador? Let us know in the comments!
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