How Much Exercise Does a Labrador Need?

How much exercise does a Labrador need: Yellow lab running toward camera in snow

Just like humans, to stay fit and healthy, Labradors must have exercise.

Whether young or old, big or small, yellow, black, chocolate, from field lines or show lines, your Labrador needs exercise.

It will keep their heart and muscles strong, their mind stimulated and their weight under control.

But how much exercise does a Labrador need?

Labradors Are a High Energy Breed

The Labrador Retriever is a high energy working breed, initially bred for very physically demanding work retrieving game for hunters.

This would involve all day hiking, running and swimming in sometimes difficult conditions.

So Labrador Retrievers were bred to have lots of energy and be very active. And though their main role in life today is as a family pet, they still have those same genetics that made them suited to their original role.

This means they have a body built for and one that craves a lot of physical activity and if you don’t provide a way for them to release their pent-up energy, they may very well find a release for it themselves.

What Happens If You Don’t Exercise Your Labrador Enough?

If you fail to exercise your Labrador sufficiently, they’ll become bored and absolutely bursting at the seams with pent-up energy.

In this state they will often resort to destructive behaviors such as digging and chewing…and will often be very restless, may bark excessively and try to escape  your home and garden at every opportunity.

It’s now that many people start to use the words ‘disobedient and uncontrollable’ when describing their Labrador, when all that’s needed is to cater for their needs.

Insufficient exercise can also lead to weight problems with Labradors. They tend to put on weight very easily being voracious eaters and if they aren’t exercised enough they soon pile on the pounds.

Excess weight is a problem because it can lead to all sorts of problems such as damage to their joints (hips and elbows), heart disease, increased blood pressure and increases the risk of diabetes.

So a lack of exercise leads to behavioral problems, hyperactivity and possibly an assortment of health problems. So it’s very important to exercise them well!

So How Much Exercise Does a Labrador Need?

There’s no absolute concrete answer to this as it depends on your Labradors age, their overall health and even their genetics as Labradors from a working line will usually need more exercise than those from show lines.

However, as a general rule of thumb, a normally healthy adult Labrador Retriever will need 1 hour of exercise every day. The more relaxed Labs just 45 minutes per day, the more energetic 1.5 hours+.

This can be made up of running, swimming, playing fetch, jogging alongside you…anything that goes beyond a gentle walk.

But if the first consideration is your Labradors age, how much do puppies and the elderly need?

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How Much Exercise Does a Labrador Puppy Need?

A Labrador puppy doesn’t need any form of ‘structured’ exercise during its first 3 months as they’re only small, tire quickly and are sufficiently exercised with just their normal play.

During the first 3 months, it’s more important not to ‘over-exercise’ your pup.

If you have older dogs or children, the puppy may well try to keep up with them and over-exert themselves, playing to exhaustion and damage their developing joints. So keep an eye on them and interrupt play if need be, to give them plenty of rest.

From 3 months and older, there’s a much spoken rule of thumb called the ‘five minute rule’ I found on numerous sites on the web during research, and seen in an article by the UK kennel club:

“A good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown, i.e. 15 minutes when three months old, 20 minutes when four months old etc. Once they are fully grown, they can go out for much longer.”

-The UK Kennel Club

This means structured, deliberate exercise where you take time out to exercise your puppy properly and doesn’t include natural free play time.

It’s important to begin structured, planned exercise as early as 3 months+ in order to get your Labrador used to a regular exercise routine with you.

The 5 minute rule should be sufficient to keep your lab puppy fit, burn off excess energy yet not over-exert them and cause possible developmental issues.

Continue the 5 minute rule until your puppy is at least one year of age where you can then begin to exercise them more vigorously.

How Much Exercise Does an Elderly Labrador Need?

This is highly dependent on your labs overall health and can vary wildly from one Labrador to another.

Some labs may need to slow down from the 7th year onwards, while others remain extremely active beyond their 10th year.

As Labradors get older, many develop arthritis, dysplasia and other health issues that can prevent a Labrador from enjoying or needing exercise as much as they used to when young and healthy. And exercise can aggravate certain health problems so please ask your vet for exercise advice if your Lab’s been diagnosed with any health issues.

For an elderly Labrador that’s slowing down with age and possibly suffering with stiffening joints, gentle walking and especially swimming that takes the weight off their limbs are the best forms of exercise.

Close up of Labrador swimming in very calm water

Be mindful of asking less of your Lab in old age. They will likely still try to chase a tennis ball all day and hike mountains just to please you, even if it may be doing them more harm than good. Try not to put them in this position.

As your Labrador ages, you need to be more observant, looking for changes in their movement, excessive panting, slowing down, feeling tired. And during grooming sessions and massage, check for any painful spots indicative of sore joints or other problems.

Signs Your Labrador Isn’t Getting Enough Exercise

It’s relatively easy to tell when your Labrador isn’t getting enough exercise and knowing the signs will allow you to adjust accordingly.

If your Labrador tears around your home like a tornado. If they chew, bark and dig what seems like ‘all the time’. If they don’t listen to commands they’ve been reliably trained to follow, then it’s fairly safe to say they aren’t getting enough exercise.

Also, if you Labrador’s putting on excess weight and you aren’t over-feeding them, including table scraps and treats, then it’s also likely they aren’t getting enough exercise.

However, if your Lab can relax around the home, isn’t destructive and follows your commands, looks athletic and not overweight, then it’s fairly safe to say they’re being exercised enough.

If your Lab displays any of the restless and destructive symptoms described above, try increasing their levels of exercise for a few days and see if their behavior problems improve. You may be pleasantly surprised :-)

Conclusion

Labradors are energetic and need lots of regular exercise. If they don’t get it, then you, your ears, your shoes, furniture and flower beds will soon know about it!

Don’t over-exercise a puppy, and be observant of and mindful to an elderly Labradors ailments and needs. Over-exercising very young and elderly Labradors can do more harm than good.

For your adolescent and adult Labrador, exercise them well. They’ll be able to out-perform you so it’s unlikely you’ll exercise them too much, they can go all day.

As a general rule of thumb, aim for 1hr per day and scale this up or down depending on your Labradors individual needs. This could mean 45 mins for the more sedate and elderly, or 1.5 hours+ for the more energetic and highly strung.

Particularly if they’re restless and destructive, try upping the amount of exercise you provide and their behavior should improve.

And at the end of the day, think of it like this: You have the best exercise machine to rival that of any gym to keep you fit and healthy yourself.

Walking, hiking, throwing, swimming…A lab will relentlessly work you and make you go nuts if you don’t get outside for your 1hr+ of exercise together per day. And hey, what fun!!! What better motivation and need is there to keep yourself in shape? :-)

Anything to add?

As always, we’d love to hear your feedback, comments and any thoughts you may have on the subject of “how much exercise does a Labrador need?”.

Do you mostly agree with the above? What are your experiences with Labradors you’ve owned yourself? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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Comments

  1. Roooo if Labradors are considered a high energy breed then I’m a dog with an extra turbo drive. I’ve never met a labrador I couldn’t out-run in the park! *waggy tail* Jokes aside though, Its not all about exercise – we both have clever brains that need to be entertained too *Waggy tail*

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Alfie! Thanks for stopping by on your walk.

      Couldn’t agree more! Hopefully via other articles…most yet to be written!…I will give over that info, but maybe I should insert something into this post to be sure.

      Thanks for your feedback…Keep that tail wagging :-)

  2. Shannon Dean Lim says:

    My 6yr old black lab (namely Morgan) had put on some pounds this year and possibly due to his lack of exercise because we don’t have extra time. When we went to exercise him for atleast 30-60 mins. a day for the past few weeks, at first he was very energetic just by going out the gate of our house and he was pulling us with his leash (he isn’t trained) but then just after 20 mins, he just panted very heavily and when he was having a dump his poop was all watery. Also, when we were going into our secluded area, he would just stop and lay down and turn the other way around and it seemed like he doesn’t want to come home yet so we had to force him to.

    Is this all normal for a lab to act? Is he exercising too much? By the way when we actually go home, we have a round drum filled with cold water and I bathe him in so he could be hydrated. Answer please. :)

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Shannon,

      If he has watery poop for any length of time at all, even just a couple of days, then it would be wise to speak to a vet as there can be many reasons. Also a Lab that doesn’t like to exercise or struggles with it (short of breath) could also have an underlying health issue. I really do think you should seek professional help, hopefully if only to get the all clear but you need to be sure.

  3. Angela Whicker says:

    hi , have a 11 year old female lab she is over weight vet as put her on a prescription diet for weight loss , when i take her out she is panting and walks very slowely help

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Angela,

      Does your lab enjoy swimming at all? This is a much gentler form of exercise well suited to older dogs. At 11 years old your Lab is becoming an elderly lady. Some labs can still go and go at that age…but not too many! A good number start to slow down at 8 and onwards. So being overweight and getting on in years, she may just not be able to exercise as she used to, may even have soreness in her limbs or diminishing mobility.

      It’s quite usual for overweight dogs to pant heavily and for old dogs to slow down, so I don’t think there’s too much to worry about. However…please ask the advice of your vet (which it sounds like you already have!) A good vet will be able to give you exercise tips, or at least peace of mind if you describe the situation.

      Stick with the weight loss plan, keep exercising her and I’m sure (and at least truly hope) that she will improve as the weight drops and her overall fitness increases. And try swimming if you can :-)

  4. I’ve got a 1yr old and 6yr old lab but only recently started walking them. Is it OK to do interval exercises instead of the steady pace? Such as jog for 30 seconds and walk for 10.

    I have found I enjoy walking them much more now that I bought different halters (Sporn). Much more enjoyable! They’re 70lbs each and can be a handful to walk myself.

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Amber.

      As long as both your labs are fit, healthy, have no medical or mobility problems then absolutely you can yes!

      I mountain bike a bit and often go through our local woods on a cross-country track and Monty runs alongside, behind or in front of me. I’m very fast…downhill! haha. But pretty slow uphill. So he’s forever changing pace, but always keeps up and loves it. I’m pretty sure you’ll find that no matter what exercise you do with your labs you will tire waaaaay before they do. Most are athletic machines!

      So as long as they have a clean bill of health, go for it! Just be mindful of heat and hydration. Take water along for them and don’t run them into the ground in extremely hot weather.

      Have fun and enjoy your exercise together :-)

  5. Hi, I have a one year old male called Georgie. He’s a hunting dog. We take him for at least 1 hrs walk a day and try to do about 15 minute training in the garden as well. Our problem is at the moment (since hitting puberty) he can get a bit loopy around other dogs. We took him to dog training last week and he kept barking and pulling on the leash and jumping about, wouldn’t pay attention to commands. Georgie otherwise NEVER barks. Now Georgie is normally the sweetest, well bred dog a person could ask for. But without our special nose halter we now have to use, has turned into this pubescent mad teenager who is embarrassing the hell out of us both when amongst other perfect labradors who do everything perfectly on cue! Or annoys other dogs by making sure they know he is the best of the bunch (he gets snarled at with great, sad regularity). So I am getting a bit worried about letting him off the leash around other dogs, or his controllability in a pack. Suggestions welcome. Thank you.

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi,

      Was your dog socialised properly to other dogs of all ages when young? It sounds like he may not have learnt how to behave around other dogs?!

      But anyhow, all dogs have to go through an adolescent period where their hormones are raging and their desire to challenge authority is somewhat heightened and they try to push and see how far they can go and get away with things. With their owners…and other dogs.

      With Labs, being a large breed, so full of energy and very smart, this can result in what we see as nuisance behaviors. And this can last probably until 24 to 30 months of age before he’s truly over it.

      Has your dog been neutered? This can help in controlling the hormones somewhat and is known to generally calm a dog down. Testosterone especially that flies around an adolescent males body can send them a bit loopy and neutering calms this.

      Anyway…

      I would say the two best things you can do is plenty more and varied training. This so it truly hits home that you’re boss and should be listened to so hopefully you can control him more.

      But outside of training the only thing you can really do is to socialize your dog a lot more.

      I know socialization is most important in the very first days and weeks of life, but a dog never stops learning. And in your case your Lab needs to learn a bit more respect around other dogs. The only way he will do this is to be around other dogs and learn their social code.

      As you’ve said, other dogs are snarling and snapping at him, and although this isn’t nice, this is a good thing in some ways because he will be learning about the canine social code and how she should behave around other dogs. If he goes too far, he’s getting valuable feedback that he should and will remember.

      It’s a bit like a teenager going out (human I mean) and learning about the real world, via work or whatever route. They hardly know how to behave and have to experience it and learn from it.

      The same is likely true for your Lab. He doesn’t yet know how to properly behave around other dogs and needs to experience it more and learn from it. This needs lots of interaction, lots of fun playing with the other dogs when he gets things right, but (somewhat sadly) also lots of doggie tellings off when he gets things wrong.

      Do you have any friends with older dogs that have a calm and balanced temperament? That aren’t too boisterous? If so, you could try to organize lots of time for your dog and theirs to spend together. Hopefully this time with other dogs in situations you can more readily control will create a good learning environment where the older dogs let him know how to behave and how to react around other dogs.

      I assume you are walking your Lab very often, so you could offer to take friends dogs for a walk at the same time. They get a free dog walker for a short while and your dog gets socialized and spends time with other dogs so it’s a win win.

      If you think he could react badly to doggie tellings off it is a good idea to muzzle him before doing so…but it sounds like you already are. And if he does start to get aggressive and reactive, you should speak to a professional behaviorist ASAP. This is not something you want to let continue at all for obvious reasons and the earlier a problem like this is addressed, the easier the cure. And only a professional should be allowed to try and help here. But if he’s just boisterous, try the above.

      For some reading on the subject and a couple of interesting points of view, please read the following two articles also:

      A 3 page article, be sure to read all three pages: how to handle an out of control dog

      A reasonable article with some advice and other articles linked to for some reading and advice: Surviving our dogs adolescence

      Hope this helps.

  6. HI
    I have a 3 1/2 mth old black lab who I love dearly already. I take him out twice a day for 30-45 mins most of which is off the lead. After reading the above I’m worried that I may be doing too much and am going to cause him problems in the future. IS this true? As for his behaviour he’s pretty good. He knows the basic sit & stay but doesn’t understand that I want him to do it at the kerb too. Also when off the lead in the park he generally doesn’t go more than 15-20ft away from me which is good but the more confident he’s getting the further he’s going. He comes when called but only because he thinks he’s going to get a treat as in the beginning that’s what I used. Once or twice he has ignored me so I don’t think he’s actually listening to me he’s just coming as he’s realised that he’s far away from me and just catching up. All in all I’m lucky as he seems to be a bright dog and doesn’t really give me any problems other than the usual puppy things. Chewing and digging the wrong things and pooping in the wrong place. But he’s getting better. Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thanks

    • Hi Mark,

      30 to 45 minutes twice per day is certainly excessive for your puppy’s age, yes.

      But the truth is there’s still debate as to how much exercise a puppy should get with many ‘believing’ that excessive exercise in Labradors can contribute to joint problems and there is some evidence, but it’s not irrefutable. There’s just not been enough study that’s resulted in concrete evidence (or at least none I have found) but it’s accepted that it’s better to ‘play it safe’ and just not push them too hard.

      What is for sure is allowing them to run about on very uneven ground, up and down stairs for lengths of time or lots of jumping is definitely not good for them while still young and growing. So please avoid this. Try to keep all exercise and play on flat and even ground if possible.

      Anyway, in your situation I would definitely cut the exercise down and try to stick to the rule of thumb in the article above. Google ‘how much exercise should a puppy get each day’ or ‘how much exercise does a Labrador puppy need’ and read the first few results to get some others opinions.

      I would look at this way: Extra exercise when so young doesn’t offer any extra benefits but by providing too much exercise, there’s a ‘chance’ you could do harm. By sticking to the rule of thumb in the article above, you’re not losing any benefits, but but are avoiding that ‘chance’.

      Nothing lost by cutting back, possibly something to lose by doing too much. So may as well stick the rule of thumb?!

      Don’t worry, he’ll soon grow and be demanding hours and hours of exercise. There will be days you’ll miss these times when you could relax at home, haha.

  7. My 13 yr old male lab has recently started waking at 4.30 a.m. to 5.30 a.m with loud barks. He is going deaf and developing cataracts. I live in an apartment and have to take him outside to the street when he wakes. He does not seem desperate to pee but will not settle down until I have taken him out. Any suggestions? I have tried putting a night light on for him.

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Pat,

      Usually for a change in behavior there will be something triggering it. Either something environmental, or possibly even health.

      You say he doesn’t seem desperate for a pee, but has anything changed about his routine at all? Is he drinking more before bed at all?

      Also, it sounds like it’s always the same time, between 4:30 and 5:30. So is anything different happening outside around this time? A milk float started a round? Or bin men with a noisy lorry? Or a new neighborhood dog stirring and barking loudly?

      Is there anything you’ve noticed that is different around this time?

  8. I have a seven year old golden lab and he has been running with me since he was very young and loves it. I live in rural Ireland and I run along the canal with him off his lead & he goes swimming in the canal regularly during the run. We run about four times per week, short runs during the week of 4 to 5 miles and then a long run at weekend of 8 to 12 miles. This has never been a problem for him. He does have a great sleep after the long run but shows no signs of exhaustion and has no problem keeping up. I would never bring him out in the middle of the day in summer, run mostly early mornings. Some people have been saying to me that 10 to 12 miles is probably too much for him now. I was just wondering what you would think? I love him so much and would hate to hurt him or shorten his life with overdoing it. He really is a great companion and looks so happy when he is out running with me, people always smile when they see the big happy head of him!

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Emma,

      Basically you need to be observant, read, understand and react to your Labs body language in response to the exercise you are giving him.

      It’s a fact that in their undying love for us and wanting to please us, also their love of consistency and routine, a dog will often ‘do too much’ to please us, and there is such a thing as ‘too much exercise’ but it’s up to us to recognize this and act on it. Some dogs will just go and go like they did as a 4yo, even if they are doing themselves harm when old and arthritic at 12.

      So you need to watch for the signs of over-exertion, and that your dog may not be up to it anymore and know when it’s time to cut back. Some dogs may suffer joint problems from a puppy and not be able to enjoy 2 mile runs, others who have had a life of great care, high nutrition and regular exercise may be running 10 miles still at the age of 10. Like us, dogs are individual.

      When running with your dog, some of the signs you need to look out for showing they may have over done it are:

      • Starting to fall behind, and slowing down compared to their usual performance.
      • Limping or lameness in any way and to any level of severity.
      • Shortness of breath or excessively panting during the exercise.
      • An increased amount of time to recover after exercise (again, panting excessively for long afterwards where they didn’t before.)
      • Resisting your requests to exercise, refusing to run and so on.

      Your friends showing concern do have a point. You should be mindful of your dogs advancing years and will at some point have to slow them down for their own good.

      But you know you dog better than anyone. You should know how fast they can run, how far, how much they pant during a run, how long it takes to recover afterwards, how thirsty they get from exercise, how keen they are to get going, reluctant to stop and so on. When any of these things change in any way, you should spot it. And only you can spot it. And then you may need to make a change. That could be now, tomorrow, or 2 years from now. Who knows?

      Also, make sure during your regular check ups with your vet you describe your situation and and ask them their advice on exercise levels as they will have the best advice.

      Hope this helps :-)

      • Hi Mark

        Thank you so much for the prompt & very informative reply. I will proceed with caution & be very observant ot my little running buddy

  9. Lisa slatter says:

    I have a female 4 year old labshe is very overweight and I take her on a 49 min walk and 20 min ball time is this enough for her to start losing weight she weighs 50kg vet said I need to get her to 35

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Lisa,

      It’s hard to say without further information on your labs health and previous levels of exercise. It sounds like you’ve seen a vet, so if given any advice I would follow what they’ve said.

      Some things to bear in mind:

      If your lab was having little exercise, you want to build up slowly, much like a human would. Don’t go from half hour slow walking per day to running a half marathon without ramping up to that. You want to add just a few minutes extra per day to allow the building up of fitness, endurance and so on. Go for 45 mins slow walking for a few days, then 50 mins for a few days, and so on up to your target time. Then when some weight has been lost and your Lab is used to exercise, start to increase the difficulty, speed and how vigorous the exercise is by adding jogging for a few days. Then some running a few days. Eventually perhaps even some jumping.

      Another thing to consider is if your lab is 50Kg and should be 35kg, she is carrying an extra 2 1/2 stone! or to put it into perspective, going from 35kg to 50kg is an increase in weight of 43%. This would be the equivalent of me going from 85kg to 121Kg and carrying an extra 36KG / 80 pounds!

      Vigorous and high impact exercise if I was carrying that extra weight could cause damage to my joints and bones. It’s the same for our dogs. So running, jumping and so on with all that extra weight could cause other problems.

      So I would recommend helping her lose weight by simply controlling her calorie intake and slow walking until she has lost a good amount of weight and then increasing her exercise difficulty to include running and jumping once slimmed down.

      Hope this helps.

  10. Alivia Bliss says:

    My husband and I have an 8 month old chocolate lab named Koda. He is such a great dog! He knows what items are his toys and which ones aren’t, so we have never had any problem with him chewing. Not even while he was teething! He is crate trained, but we have been trying to leave him out for small lengths of time while we aren’t home. He was doing very well, any time we left the house we kept him out and he did great. It stayed like this for about 3 weeks, until one day I came home and a pair of my flip flops and sneakers were torn up. Then another day we left him out and another pair of my flip flops were destroyed. So we figured it was only happening while we were away. Well today, I am sitting here on the couch doing my work and he brought one of my sneakers into his crate and started chewing it. Could this possibly be due to lack of exercise and boredom? We live in an apartment so we don’t have a yard of our own. There is a small yard though, enough for him to have a good run around, but anytime we bring him outside to play fetch or anything he will play for a few minutes and then just lay down and forget about his toy and start trying to eat sticks or pinecones. Basically whenever we try to give him exercise he just lays down. Then we go inside and all he wants to do is run around. I’m at a loss. What are we doing wrong?

    Thank you in advance for any tips or advice you have for us!!

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Alivia,

      From your description, it sounds like you’ve had a very lucky and delightfully easy time so far with your Koda when it comes to chewing! :-)

      Labradors are a very ‘mouthy’ breed as they were designed for retrieving, to carry things in their mouths. It’s what they are born to do. So not only is it in most dogs nature to chew, but Labradors can be the worst!

      Not only because it rhymes do people say about labs they ‘chew ’til they’re two’. This is a good ball park figure to keep in mind.

      Labs will chew throughout their adolescence, and this runs up until between 2 and 2.5 years old. So you should expect your Koda to be chewing until 2 to 2.5, and I mean he could chew ANYTHING! Anything you leave around that’s within reach is game to be a chew toy.

      After adolescence, if you’ve done a good enough job of preventing him chewing things he shouldn’t by keeping them out of reach and intervening and re-directing his chewing to toys when you do catch him, you should then be able to trust him. After this though, don’t be surprised if he still likes to carry something, anything, around in his mouth for much of the th ime. So make sure he has plenty of chew toys around.

      The thing with shoes and slippers is that they smell so nice to a dog, carrying the scent of their family. Also they’re a good size, shape, and with rubber soles…very chewy! So footwear is a common target.

      To prevent any chewing, you and your family need to restrict your Labs access to the things you don’t want chewed. And the only way to do this is to get everything out of reach. And if you leave the home you need to restrict Koda to a single ‘dog-proofed’ room, otherwise it’s highly likely you will one day return to some destruction.

      So Alivia, the chewing Koda has begun is perfectly normal, it’s nothing to worry about and isn’t due to anything you have or haven’t done. :-)

      Regarding exercise, I don’t know how large your yard is so it’s hard to comment, but you should be venturing out further every day. From the limited info given it does sound like Koda could probably do with more exercise, in line with the article above. Try getting out further, to a park, wood or other area where he can run around more and explore. Or try jogging or cycling with him? He’s still a puppy and as he grows his exercise needs will increase so it would be good to get into some habits and routines now.

      Also, too much fetch with a puppy can kind of kill their fetching drive. You should mix things up by playing fetch, then tug, then a short burst of a few training commands, a little jog…be random, and exciting.

      Hope this helps.

  11. Hi,
    I have a 7 month old fox red lab. I’m worried I’m over exercising him. He never seems to stop when we go out, I can take him to the woods, beach and he never seems to tire. I ‘ve started taking him for aprox 1.5hrs a day most days, is this ok or will it cause him harm? We are in an apartment and he is fine when he is in and can be left for long periods on his own without problems. He is excellent at recall and loves playing with the children (though we messed up the lead training along the way somewhere as he constantly pulls ) if we reduce his walks to the 5 mins a month theory he comes home and is restless and is bouncing of the walls. Any tips on how to give him enough ex cerise but not to possibly damage his development?
    Thanks

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Jake,

      He never seems to tire sounds about right! Labs are athletic machines! In my life I’ve had three, also a lurcher-terrier cross, a lab-collie mix and so on, every single one of my dogs could go on and on, far longer than I could and never seemed to tire. Maybe I should work on my fitness? haha.

      Anyway, I did a lot of reading before writing the article above and the truth of the matter is, nobody really knows if too much exercise will ‘definitely’ do damage, but it’s a safe bet that not giving too much definitely will not. So, it’s probably not worth the risk and better to be safe than sorry?

      It’s definitely known that too much running up and down steep slopes, stairs, and too much jumping could cause damage to weak and growing bones and joints, so you should avoid too much of this at all costs. But with regard to duration of gentle exercise on flat ground it’s not so clear cut. I can honestly never find scientific research that says for sure how bad it is, if at all. It’s just generally accepted that too much is not a good thing.

      The ‘5-minutes per month of life’ is a generalization that is a good guide, but all dogs are different so it will not suit all dogs. And in your situation, if your Lab has been receiving 1.5hrs, he will have gotten used to that and now expect it as his body is primed for it. So on the days he doesn’t get that much, he will have excess energy. Using the rule for a 7 month old would be 35 minutes of structured exercise. Stuff like running, jogging, playing fetch and so on.

      What you’ve not said is what kind of exercise makes up the 1.5hrs? Gentle walking? Running? Playing fetch? This has a bearing as 1.5hrs walking isn’t as strenuous as just 15 minutes of playing fetch with all the explosive sprinting and what not. So what you are doing together for 1.5hrs matters a lot.

      For instance, if you are taking a 25 minute brisk walk on leash, then a 5 minute rest, then 25 minutes of fetch / running, then a 5 minute rest, then a slow 30 minute walk home, I would say this is fine. Slow, gentle waking isn’t going to do much and you have a good 25 minutes explosive, structured exercise by playing fetch in the middle. Sounds good.

      But if your boy is non-stop running, or non-stop playing fetch for 1.5hrs straight, I would say you should cut down on it to a more respectable amount as it would be excessive.

      Sorry I can’t be completely clear and give you a definite answer, it’s just not that clear cut. I hope my thoughts help somewhat though!

  12. Valorie brown says:

    We have 2 fantastic labs and a calileau (cattle dog) that “rescued” my husband and me 4 years ago. All females. Our white lab VERY energetic, slim and trim.We started walking all of them over 6 months ago at least a mile or 2 a day. They all love it. My husband had a heart condition, and the black one definitely could lose some weight. She has always laid down to eat. Lately I’ve noticed when we walk she’s great. We get home and she starts limping sometimes. I give her dissolved 325 mg of aspirin and by the next day, she’s fine. I’ve also noticed the muscle above her hips area seems to be getting harder, but after reading about HD, I’m very concerned. . She was begging awhile to go for her walk, but I don’t know what to do. She ate large breed blue mountain puppy food until 2. Then Taste of the wild, but she was gaining so much, we switched her to Nutro lite. I have very limited funds, but want to help her. Due to weather, she’s put some weight back on. But did notice that with less weight, she was losing this hardness.

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Valorie,

      I know you’ve said your funds are low, but you really do need to find a way to take your lab to the vet. If it is HD, arthritis, or another joint problem, then you need to know! Only a professional diagnosis and advice can tell what the problem is and it’s crucial you do find out as different medical issues require different treatment and care. The advice you would get from a vet isn’t something you can replace with others advice from the web I’m afraid…so please, really do find a way to get her to the vet.

      Anyway, it can be a bit of a spiraling situation: If she has a joint problem, it will slow her down so she can’t do as much. But if she slows down she could gain weight as you’re finding now. And extra weight puts more strain on the joints, making it worse.

      Regardless of the brand of food she is on, if she’s gaining weight you should cut back on the portion sizes. Extra weight is definitely not doing her any favors. You can be fairly sure cutting down on her food intake will do no harm because if she’s gaining weight, she must be consuming excess calories and the only way to stop that is to cut down on the food she eats or add in more exercise, likely a little of both. Feeding her less will be harder on you than it is on her. She will be fine eating less, but will likely give you those puppy eyes every time there’s anything remotely edible in view. Just don’t give in!

      Some advice for exercise is to try and walk her only on unpaved / soft grassy surfaces, avoiding hard surfaces as much as possible. This will severely lessen the impact of walking and delay the onset of pain or inflammation.

      If she enjoys running, playing fetch, jumping around etc. I’m afraid you need to drastically cut down on it and do less strenuous forms of exercise. Walking, light jogging only and if you can…and it’s highly recommended…swimming is good.

      NSAID drugs (anti-inflammatorys) do work well for dogs with joint problems, the same as they do for humans. But you should definitely seek the advice of a vet before administering any. Although aspirin works, long term use can lead to bleeding (DISCLAIMER: Only that I’ve read…I’m not medically trained!)

      Other things said to help are glucosamine and Omega-3 fatty acids, though the jurys still out on this and I’ve not seen any concrete proof they work.

      Valorie, the only right advice is you really do need to get her to the vet for diagnosis and professional, specifically tailored advice. I know it’s an expense but any treatment and advice you get now could save you lots more money in the future, fending off or delaying possible problems that will require more expensive treatments or surgery later.

  13. Hilary Temperley says:

    Hello
    We have a two year old black lab who is slim and fit. She usually has a good one hour walk in the middle of the day plus two shorter walks at the start and end of the day, plus her ‘mad half hour’ in the evening with her toys. My husband and I are planning on doing a week long coastal walk with her in April where the longest walk will be 15 miles and the shortest about 7. We walk once a month on a Saturday with a group of friends on all types of terrain and she has no problem with this (about 7-8 miles on average), but I would just like to know your thoughts please on whether we are expecting too much of her to walk these distances with us every day for a week or whether this is well within her capabilities?
    Thanks

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Hilary,

      At 2 years old she has basically finished growing now so there’s no fear of damaging her growing joints, so that’s not a worry. And you say she is fit, slim and healthy? As long as she truly is and has no underlying health issues it will be absolutely fine and I’d have no problem with it at all. She will likely love the experience! Labs are working dogs ‘designed’ to work all day by retrieving, walking, running and jumping in all sorts of demanding terrain, so gentle 7 to 15 mile walks won’t be troublesome. A fit, healthy lab will be able to out-walk and out-run any human, speed or stamina wise, and it’s not even a contest.

      It will definitely help to ramp up to that level of exercise, much as it’s advised a human should do. So if you are going on any training / practice walks yourself beforehand, take her along too. Going from no exercise to lots isn’t a good thing with dogs, the same as it isn’t for us. But it sounds like she gets plenty of exercise so should be fine. I would try to up her exercise levels for a couple of weeks prior if you can, ramping it up with a bit extra each day. This will help prime her for the change and will be a good thing.

      Just couple of things to bear in mind are:

      I don’t know where you are in the world or what the weather is like, but you of course need to mindful of how heat will affect her if the sun is beating down, making sure she doesn’t get heat stroke and has plenty of water.

      You should also increase her calorie intake for the week to cover the extra energy she is using.

      And as it’s a coastal walk, take advantage of the opportunity to get her in the sea for a swim! And don’t be afraid to take a dip yourself, haha.

  14. I have a 11 year old black lab. This summer he’ll be 12. However, besides graying, he shows no signs of age. Looks and acts more like 5-6. I got him when he was 10 yrs old so I don’t know how much exercise he got previously. At the park he runs for hours so I tried roller skating with him. He seems to like it. But I’m not sure how long he can run. So far the longest we have done was about 1 1/2 miles because we’re just starting. But not I’m wondering if maybe that should be the limit. He pants but not excessively like he does at the park after playing fetch.

    • Hi Paty,

      It’s great that you’re maintaining such a good level of activity for him, it will maintain muscular strength, keep joints moving and help keep his mind and attitude stay youthful too! Exercise is very important for older dogs.

      Is the exercise you’re giving him too much? I couldn’t possibly say. But dogs are good communicators and he will let you know if you look out for the signs. Mainly he will be lagging behind, reluctant to continue and so on. I don’t mean when playing fetch because an elderly dog might just run themselves into exhaustion if you continually throw a ball for hours, some just don’t know when to stop. But on long walks, jogging and the like, they will often lag behind, show reluctance to continue and so on.

      Can I ask you to please read a previous question from Emma and the answer I gave?…you can read that by clicking here: How to tell if exercise is too much. All the advice there applies to your question too.

      Another good tip is a few hours after such exercise, give him a massage. This has all the benefits it has for humans, improving circulation and aiding recovery from exercise and so on, but you will also be able to pick up from his reactions any sign of soreness in his muscles and joints when you touch there as he will recoil / pull away if you massage a sore spot. If he is sore, it’s likely the exercise is getting too much.

  15. Patti Walsten says:

    Greetings,

    I have a 1 1/2 yellow female that is a very tall and big (72 lbs) yet lean machine. We live in Vermont and while I had a difficult time dealing with the cold weather this winter Abby thrived in it. I took her on a 5 mile hike in April where she did her “dolphin swim” in the snow for most of it. With that said, the temperatures are approaching the 80’s and Abby cannot seem to handle the heat. Even when on a slow and short walk she turns around with her leash in her mouth and is telling me that she wants to go home. When we get back into the house she pants excessively and breaths heavy for at lead 15 minutes. I realize that taking her swimming is her best form of exercise in the heat but it also means 1 hour round trip of driving for me and at the most I can only fit that in 3 days a week. Two questions: 1) Should I be concerned about her lack of tolerance for the heat considering her age and lean body make up and 2) What should I do with Abby on the days that I can not give her enough real exercise? We do walk 1 1/2 miles in the morning and 1/2 mile at night with very sort walks in-between …is that enough exercise for her?
    Thank you so much in advance for your advice and for also the wealth of info that you have provided on this site!

    Patti & Abby

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Patti,

      In answer to question 1: For moral reasons I have to stay away from giving anything but the most basic of health advice. I’m not a qualified vet and besides this, I’ve not seen your girl to be able to give any kind of informed opinion. It would be horrific for you to receive incorrect advice from me (or anywhere else on the internet) that meant an underlying health issue went undiagnosed. So if you have worries that your girl isn’t dealing with the heat as well as she should be, please see and discuss this with your vet, to get the correct advice and hopefully to put your mind at ease.

      In answer to your second question: 2 miles per day is on the low side but could be OK as you’re doing far more on other days with the swimming. You’re working in some smaller walks too during the day which adds up, so it doesn’t sound too bad to me. Are you also playing fetch while on these walks? It’s a great way to get a good run in for your girl meaning she will cover far more ground than the 2 miles you’re walking. Anyhow, it sounds to me like you’re doing a great job at trying to match her needs, so well done :-)

      I should say that if the exercise she’s getting on some days isn’t enough, she will soon let you know with her behavior. She will have pent up energy, be restless, be attention seeking more than usual, possibly destructive and so on. The good news is though there are many things you can do beside getting outside for exercise. High amounts of mental stimulation can be just as tiring as physical activity as I’m sure you’ve felt yourself at times. So you can try indoor activities to mentally stimulate her, keep boredom at bay and use up some energy.

      Of course, obedience and trick training is a good place to start. Also, please Google ‘indoor activities for dogs’ and find a few suggestions you like. The following should give you some ideas:

      http://bestfriends.org/uploadedFiles/Content/Resources/Rainy%20Day%20Activities.pdf
      http://www.cesarsway.com/tips/thebasics/indoor-activities
      http://www.puppyleaks.com/easy-ways-to-keep-your-dog-busy-indoors/

  16. Janet walker says:

    I walk my daughters 2 year old lab male dog once or twice a week. On occasions we walk between 6 and 8 miles over 2 walks in a day. She continues to tell me this is too much for him but the dog and I enjoy the walk
    Am I doing him any harm?
    They walk him twice a day around 20 mins each more due to time restraints but I am semi retired and have the time.

    • Mark Jenner says:

      Hi Janet,

      At 2 years he has reached or is very near full maturity, so no need to limit activity like you would for a puppy. Therefore, so long as he is fit and healthy, 6 and 8 miles is truly nothing. Labs were bred to be walking, running, swimming and retrieving ALL DAY, over very harsh and rough terrain in the Scottish Highlands. If fit and healthy, he will be able to outperform any human in any physical activity. It’s not too much for him.

      Had to pop back and edit to add one caveat – temperature and water intake. As long as this isn’t in 90 degree heat! :-)

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