Running With A Labrador: What You Need To Know


Running Labrador

Labradors are a prevalent breed of dogs to have as a family pet and for many good reasons. Generally speaking, most labradors possess traits like friendliness, athleticism, and stable temperament that all work together to contribute to their easy-to-train reputation.

Since labradors can be high-energy dogs that benefit enormously from regular exercise, taking them with you when you go running is beneficial to them and you. If your dog is new to running, ensure that you gradually build up its stamina to allow for longer runs over time.

Before you hit the trail or your favorite streets, it is essential to learn the ins and outs of how to bring your lab with you on runs safely. Part of this is learning about the breed, and part is assessing your dog in particular, but don’t worry, we will cover everything you need to know to ensure you’ve prepared your new running partner.

Learning About Your Labrador

Walking is a prevalent form of exercise for dogs because it is low impact, and any breed can handle it. While labradors possess an athletic build and are usually energetic, it is vital to remember that not all dogs fit into the same categories, even those of the same breed. If you are introducing running to your existing labrador’s routine, speak to your veterinarian first to see if they recommend doing so and if they have any suggestions to keep your furry friend safe.

Labradors as a breed have a very storied history, as they were bred initially to retrieve game for hunters and later to help fishers recover their catch from icy waters. As a result, they are naturally excellent swimmers, and they are straightforward to train into specific behaviors. Additionally, labradors enjoy spending a lot of time with their humans, so bringing them with you during a long outdoor run can be a great way to bond with your pet as well as exercise them.

How Far Can You Run with Your Labrador?

This question does not have one dedicated answer but depends on a variety of factors specific to your dog.

A young adult labrador in healthy condition, can likely run for up to about five miles without stopping. If you build up your labrador’s endurance carefully, without increasing the distance ran by too much, they can manage up to ten miles at a time without stopping.

However, it is vital to understand that you should not run your labrador more than five to ten miles per day (depending on their endurance levels) as the labrador breed is already prone to individual muscle and joint issues, especially hip dysplasia.

However, if your lab is a little bit older or has spent most of its life until that point lounging around the house, you will need to start out a little slower. Just like humans can’t suddenly leap off the couch and run for miles if they haven’t conditioned themselves to do so, your lab won’t be ready for the sudden change without preparation.

Preparing Your Labrador For Running

There are numerous ways to prep your lab for running, and it is important to implement all of them to ensure your dog’s safety and health. Remember that your dog has the natural capability to run for many miles at a time; you just need to build up their endurance properly. Start with some of these tips to get your labrador up and running with you!

Start Slowly

This tip is also crucial for building up your own endurance if you’re new to running long distances. Rushing your labrador can cause some of the injuries mentioned above, along with a whole list of other potential problems.

When you’re starting your labrador-accompanied runs, limit the distance to only up to one mile per day for the first two or three weeks.

While it might be tempting to go for longer distances right away, especially if you have an excitable dog, they cannot judge their own health. Your dog won’t want to leave your side, so at the end of that first mile, make sure to let them stay at home and rest, or they will absolutely overdo it.

Give Them A Rest Between Runs

Once again, your lab may show signs of wanting to run with you every day because they are attached to you, but you are working to build their stamina, so you should give them a day off every three or four days. By letting them have proper resting periods, they will recover their energy and build up their muscle and endurance.

Diet Is Key

Just as our diet as humans plays a crucial factor in our exercise routines, your labrador’s diet is equally important. Once again, consult with your veterinarian before making any significant changes to your pet’s diet, but there are some consistent considerations to make when reviewing your labrador’s food intake.

  • Their diet should consist of 20-30% protein at the absolute least.
  • Their diet should include between 10-15% fat. This number can go up as high as 20% if your dog is running long distances regularly, but no more than that.
  • Their diet should have no more than 30% carbohydrates, and fewer carbs are even better.

Be Mindful of The Weather and Time of Day

When running with your labrador, especially over long distances, the outdoor conditions are something that needs to be at the top of your mind. Remember that humans have the advantages of various kinds of clothes to protect our skin, sunglasses to protect our eyes, and shoes to keep our feet free from harm. Your dog does not have any of these resources.

Whenever possible, avoid running when it is sweltering outside. Especially if you live in an extremely sunny environment, your labrador can overheat quickly. These dogs were bred to have a double coat to protect them from the chilly waters they would dive into for fish, but that coat also traps heat in, and hot days can seriously affect your labrador’s health when they are exerting themselves.

During the hottest months of the year, try to run early in the day, while it is still cool outside and without the sun beating down or late at night. However, while running late at night, ensure that you prepare both you and your dog with reflective clothing. This precaution is vitally important if you run near roads or other places where vehicles are prevalent.

Despite their double coat, if temperatures get low enough, running with your labrador can be risky as well. If you live in an environment prone to snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures, consider finding waterproof dog booties and a jacket. These items, the booties, in particular, are fantastic because they will protect your labrador’s paws from the scorching pavement as well as frigid ice.

Terrain Matters

Though it might seem like a minor consideration, the very ground you choose to run on with your labrador can have a considerable effect on their health and their ability to run. Common surfaces like concrete, asphalt, and pavement are all problematic as they put more stress on your furry friend’s joints and paws and should be avoided if possible or only run on for short periods between other types of terrain.

Try to run on softer ground like dirt, grass, or sand for long runs. These kinds of land shouldn’t cause any pain to their paws, and it will reduce the strain that happens to your lab’s legs.

Maintaining Their Paws and Muscles

If your lab has longer nails, it may struggle to run short distances or even simply walk around the house. If your dog’s nails continuously hit the floor or the ground outside, it will put additional pressure on the nail bed and lead to potential discomfort. While dogs can naturally file their nails down on hard pavement and asphalt, that is not the ideal ground for running over longer distances, and as such, you may need to trim your labrador’s nails from time to time.

Paying close attention to the effects of your new running routine on your dog will also be extremely important. Keep an eye out for any kind of adverse health effects, whether that be muscular pain, wear and tear on the pads of their paws, or even just stiffness. Watch their behavior throughout their run training as changes in how they act can be a red flag and signal that something may be wrong.

Hydration and Taking Breaks

Hopefully, this consideration will be a no-brainer for seasoned runners, but ensure that you bring along enough water for both you and your adventuring companion. If you find yourself getting thirsty, it’s a certainty that they will as well. Labradors, in particular, are prone to dehydration, especially in hot climates. Since they cannot request water whenever they are thirsty, you will need to offer them water frequently throughout the run.

Additionally, dogs approach running much differently than humans. As people, we usually only run for specific purposes, whether exercising or going to or from a particular location. On the other hand, dogs like to stop and smell the flowers and pretty much everything else around them, so ensure that you give them a bit of space to do just that while you are on your excursions.

One aspect that is the same for humans as dogs is the need to warm up and cool down before and after runs. Just as you should always stretch and walk around to warm up before running, your labrador should as well. The best way to do this is by walking for a short distance with them before running and doing the same routine at the end of the walk to help them cool down before getting back home.

How Does the Age of My Labrador Effect Running?

As mentioned above, most younger labradors who exercise regularly and eat well should be able to handle short-distance runs and slowly ramp up to longer ones. However, the labrador breed’s penchant for health problems like hip and elbow dysplasia and arthritis goes up even further as they age.

You can help slow or prevent the chances of these issues cropping up by limiting your labrador’s exercise to only an hour or an hour and a half at the maximum per day. This amount of time provides the best blend of activity without going overboard and will help your lab be capable of running longer and farther during that period of time.

Senior dogs still need exercise as they age, and while they might not be capable of running marathons, they will always love going outdoors for shorter runs with their humans. The biggest thing to remember is to pay attention to the signs your lab is giving you while out on runs together. As mentioned above, dogs generally do not have the ability to regulate themselves, so you will need to be alert for signs of them being thirsty, overheated, or simply too tired.

If you have a labrador puppy, there are also considerations you need to make on that side of things, especially if you intend to raise them to go on runs with you as they grow up. It is very possible to over-walk a puppy, and a good rule of thumb is to limit labrador puppies to only five minutes of walking for every month of their age. So if your puppy is six months old, they should only get about thirty minutes of walking per day.

You can start taking your labrador puppy for short runs only when they reach around eleven months of age. Even then, these runs should start with only five minutes at a time before slowly building up their stamina for longer excursions.

How Fast Can Labradors Run?

Labradors are talented runners, and in their peak physical condition, they can easily outsprint a human at speeds of between thirty to forty miles per hour.

Remember that these speeds will only be found in extraordinarily healthy and reasonably young dogs, so don’t expect your puppy or senior lab to get close to that.

However, it is essential to remember that humans are built to be endurance runners, whereas most animals can sprint for short periods of time. As mentioned above, you will need to ensure that your lab has plenty of rest stops and breaks along the path. Even if they don’t show it, they need this time to rest and recover before tackling the next leg of the journey.

You need to be aware of several signs of exhaustion and continuously on the lookout for them. Remember that even if your dog is exhausted and lagging, they will continue to run alongside you to the best of their ability because they want to make you happy. If you notice signs of them stuck behind you, panting heavily, or limping, recognize that they are telling you in their own subtle way that they need time to rest. You’ll find that this is the time to offer your pup some water and sit in the shade together for a little while.

Should I Run With Or Without A Leash?

Of all the questions related to running with labradors and other dogs, this is one of the most commonly debated ones. It is always best for most people in most situations to run with their dog on a leash. Even the most well-trained dog can be distracted sometimes, and running often means encountering things like other animals or strange smells with little to no warning. 

Even though you may experience some discomfort involved with running leashed to your dog, especially if you each try to go in opposite directions at any point, it is the safest choice for you, your pet, and other people along the paths or trails.

Only let your dog run off-leash with you where it is clearly legal and safe to do so. Before you even consider taking your pet for a run with you without a leash, make sure that your pup responds to recall commands, even with distractions present.

It might be the difference between you, your pet, or someone else becoming injured and should not be overlooked.

Time To Run

Labradors may not be the famed runners that greyhounds or other similar dogs are. Still, these loyal and energetic pups can be fantastic running companions with some dedicated training and stamina building. Above all, remember that you need to be patient with your dog, mostly if they have lived a pretty sedentary lifestyle before now. 

Take the time to build their stamina and endurance, ensure that you go on every run prepared to take care of their needs, and always be on the lookout for those changes in behavior mentioned above. You may have found your new favorite running companion, and they will be ecstatic to get to spend so much time with you. Just take care of them, and they will be in it for the long haul!

Mark Norman

I've been running for over 6 years and now try to balance it with life as a dad to two young kids. I'm not super quick, I just try to run consistently, not always easy! I'm lucky enough to have run the London Marathon twice along with countless other half marathons and 10ks. I'm also one of the Run Directors at my local parkrun.

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