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Lucky is a bundle of fur with a couple of big bright eyes sticking out. His tail wags as soon as you look at him and he spends most of his days lying on your lap drooling. However, although Lucky seems timid and worried a lot of the time, it doesn’t seem to be affecting his appetite. In fact, he's happy to hoover up any food that is put in front of him. Now, this might be entertaining to watch and harmless at this stage. But you know if Lucky is going to continue eating everything in sight then he needs to start exercising too.
Training your puppy to exercise is absolutely essential. Firstly, exercise is a great way for you both to bond and for a dog to put their nose to good use in nature’s backyard. But exercise is also important if they are to grow up to be fit, strong and healthy.
The good news is training your puppy to exercise is going to be both fun and relatively straightforward. Your little buddy simply needs the right motivation. Food and toys will be used to that end. The other thing they need is an upbeat, playful owner. Puppies mirror their owners' feelings, so the more fun they see you have, the more they will want to play and the easier it will be to train them.
If your pup is keen to get on your good side and follows instructions then you may see results in a matter of days. However, if they're stubborn and would rather spend their days lying around, then you may need a few weeks before you see regular results. Training Lucky to exercise could well save them from illnesses and ailments when they're older, such as arthritis. Breeds like Labradors, in particular, are susceptible to developing such conditions.
Before you start training you need to make sure you have everything you need. The most important requirement is space. You don’t want to break anything, so a large yard or local park is a good place to work. You will also need a friend or family member.
You will also need a decent supply of treats, as well as some toys to get your pup excited about. You’ll need about 15 minutes each day for training. The more often you train, the sooner you will see results.
Once you have all that, just bring optimism and some sneakers, then work can begin!
The Soccer Method
Soccer is a great way to exercise your puppy. Not to mention, training can be fun for you and your friends too. All you need to do is make sure you have plenty of space around you. Then let your pup off the leash and have a soccer ball at your feet.
Kick between you
Start gently kicking the ball among your friends. Don’t kick it too hard as you don’t want to scare the pup. Also, don’t kick it too close to the puppy either, you want to build up his confidence gradually.
After a few minutes of kicking it among yourselves, you can then start encouraging the pooch to play. To do that, talk in a high-pitched voice, call their name and point at the ball. It may take them a while, but they will quickly catch on.
As soon as they touch the ball, hand over a treat and give them lots of praise. You want them to associate the ball with positive consequences from their owner. This will make them keen to touch the ball again.
Practice makes perfect
Now all you need to do it practice playing soccer regularly. Continue to praise them and give them treats. Then once it gets to a stage where your pup charges after the ball without you encouraging them, then slowly start phasing out the treats.
The Swimming Method
Swimming is fantastic exercise for puppies. It helps their muscles grow lean and strong. A swimming dog also makes for a great Snapchat! But before you get them swimming, you need to take them out and play fetch with a ball or stick for a few minutes each day.
Head for water
Once they're used to the fetch game and excited by the toy, you can head for the water’s edge. Now start throwing the toy near the water’s edge for them to retrieve.
As soon as they return with the toy, give them a tasty treat. Then continue to throw the ball closer to the water and then into the shallow water.
The pup may be uneasy around the water at first. So give them high-pitched words of encouragement and stand by the water to put them at ease. If you’re feeling brave you can also get in to show they have nothing to worry about.
Increase the depth
Try to take your pup to a pond or pool a few times each week. Every time you go, throw the ball further in so they have to swim more. Then continue to reward them with treats until they no longer need extra motivation to dive in.
The Fetch Method
Start at home
Fetch is a quick and easy game to teach a puppy. It’s brilliant exercise and easy to get them excited about. Start by spending a few minutes each day playing around with a toy at home, such as a tennis ball. Be animated and get the pup jumping up and down at the mere sight of it.
Now take the puppy outside with the much-loved tennis ball. Dangle it in front of their face to capture their attention, then launch it so they can see it. Keep it relatively low so it stays within their eye line.
While you throw the ball, have a friend kneeling beside your puppy holding their collar. The very fact they can’t instantly run towards it will only make them want it more. After a couple of seconds of holding the puppy, have your friend release them.
Tempt them back
They will now naturally charge towards the ball. Once the pup has it though, you will need to get them to return it. So hold up a treat and call their name in a high-pitched voice. You may also want to pat your legs to encourage them further.
Reward & practice
As soon as they return and drop the toy, you can then quickly hand over the treat and give them some verbal praise. Now all you need to do is practice regularly. Stay up-beat whenever you play and this will quickly become a favorite game and a fantastic way to exercise them.
By James Barra
Published: 03/16/2018, edited: 01/08/2021