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?
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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?
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.
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 :-)
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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