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 escapeĀ  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?

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, whilst 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?

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