Running With Your Labrador Retriever

Running with Labrador Retriever

A fun, active way of spending time with your Labrador Retriever is to take them running with you. Labradors make excellent running partners.They love to run, and their enthusiasm will definitely encourage you. It is one of the best ways to keep them, and yourself, healthy.

Labrador Retrievers’ high energy levels and stamina make them well adapted to running long distances. They are ready to start running with you from 12 to 18 months of age. Both on-leash and off-leash is possible with Labrador Retrievers due to the breed being very easy to train.

This article unpacks everything there is to know about running with your Labrador Retriever – what skills to train into them before you take them running with you, how to ensure that they stay safe during long runs, what speed they can run, how far they can run, and how to train them to improve their stamina and physical condition.

Benefits of Running with Your Labrador Retriever

There are a number of benefits you and your dog will enjoy by going running together:

  • Lower stress levels. People that regularly run with their dogs experience less stress and manage their mental health better. Daily exercise also lowers stress levels in dogs. Especially if they stay home alone all day. 
  • Cardiovascular health. Regular exercise is important for keeping your heart and respiratory system healthy. Running is a great cardiovascular exercise for you and your best friend.
  • Increased sense of productivity and motivation. There are two things that are proven to increase the levels of happy hormones and chemicals in our brain: dogs and exercise. Put the two together and feel your sense of purpose and motivation soar. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Going running with your dog will help you both stay in the best physical shape. Regular exercise is key to maintaining healthy body weight. 

What Makes Labrador Retrievers the Perfect Running Partners?

Running with your labrador retriever

JT Clough is a professional dog trainer who specializes in running with dogs. They consider Labrador Retrievers one of the best dog breeds to run with. Runner’s World and the American Kennel Club also consider them one of the top canine running companions

Labrador Retrievers were bred in Scotland over 150 years ago as working dogs. They were used by hunters for retrieving fallen game, like ducks and pheasants, from dense vegetation and water. Dogs were required to spend days hiking, swimming, and running with their owners.

Therefore, Labrador Retrievers have high energy levels and are built to run. With a deep chest and long, muscular legs, they are athletic dogs with strength and stamina. They are very eager to please, and this, together with their strong instinct to retrieve, make training Labrador Retrievers to run alongside you a breeze. They can be trained to run with you off-leash. 

Labrador Retrievers require at least 40-120 minutes of rigorous exercise per day. This prevents pent-up energy and boredom that will cause them to dig up the garden, chew stuff, and jump all over the furniture. A daily run that incorporates a game of fetch is enough exercise for these dogs.

When to Start Running with Labrador Retrievers

You should wait until your Labrador Retriever is around 18 months old before you start running with them. Before this age, their bones and muscles are still growing and developing. The growth plates on the bones cannot handle the impact and stress of the long runs. Intense running at a young age can lead to joint problems, like hip dysplasia later in life.  

You can spend the first year and a half with your Goldie leash training them and getting them used to walking along at your side. Building a solid foundation of obedience training will guarantee that your puppy will grow into a great running partner. 

Labrador Retrievers are Marathon Runners

What better motivation could there be when running a marathon than having your best friend at your side the whole way? Labrador Retrievers are able to run marathon distances! That is provided that they train for it in the same way you do. 

Dogs can injure themselves if they are not in the right physical condition. If you want your dog to run long distances with you, you will need to start by running shorter distances and increasing the length as their stamina improves. This is especially important if they are older or overweight. 

Start By Walking Your Labrador Retriever

Before taking your Labrador Retriever running with you, consider if they are good at going for a walk on a leash beside you, with a slack leash. Running with a dog that is not leash trained is not fun, so start by building a strong training foundation. 

Use lots of treats and positive affirmation in leash training. Start off by training in the garden or in a quiet park or public space without any distractions. Dogs need training to develop their attention span. High-value rewards will help to keep their focus. Make training sessions fun and incorporate bursts of play.

It is best to socialize Labrador Retriever puppies to wearing a collar and leash from as young as possible. This makes leash training much easier. Also, socialize them well with other animals, strangers, and cars – all the things they will encounter when they go running with you.

When you leash train your puppy, approach it with structure and consistency. Teach them to always walk on either your left or right side. Train clear, concise command words or phrases, like “heel”.

Training your Labrador Retriever to Run with You

Just like humans, dogs need to gradually increase their fitness so that they do not sustain injuries. Follow a training program that you and your dog can do together. Start training at a comfortable pace and aim to go for a 2 to 3 mile run 3 to 4 times weekly

Once you have been training for two weeks, you should notice your dog getting fitter. Increase the distance or time of your runs. After a week or so, add in another run on the weekend. 

When you have trained consistently for a month, and your dog’s fitness has improved, aim to go for a 4 to 5 mile run every day. Remember to take rest days, no matter how motivated you are feeling to run. They are important for you and your dog. 

Continue in this way, slowly increasing the distance of the runs. Their stamina and endurance will gradually increase, and soon your dog will be training for a marathon with you!

Running with an Older Dog

One needs to take care when running with older Labrador Retrievers. Because they are so eager to please you, they can easily overexert themselves when running or playing. Older Retrievers cannot run as far or as fast as when they were younger. 

Watch your dog closely. If they are more tired, out of breath. or stiffer than usual after a run, reduce the distance and intensity of your runs. When dogs get very elderly, they may still want to come walking or running with you, but it is best not to do too much physical activity.

Labrador Retrievers generally start to feel their age at around 8 years old. However, this varies, and some Goldies still run around at 12 years of age. Take them to the vet for regular check-ups and give them supplements for their joints and bones.

What Do You Need to Go Running with Your Labrador Retriever?

While anyone can go for a general run with their Labrador Retriever without much equipment, it may make this time spent with your dog more enjoyable for both of you if you have some quality equipment.


If you regularly go running with your dog, it helps to have the proper equipment. The ultimate goal is running with your Labrador Retriever off-leash, but until you work up to this, you will need a proper hands-free, anti-pull leash

These are designed as a belt you wear around your waist. The leash is elasticated, like a bungee cord, and attaches to the front of the belt. Some hands-free leash belts even have zippered pockets for treats. 

Collars and Harnesses

When leash training your Labrador Retriever puppy, using a collar is most effective, as there is maximum contact with the dog, allowing for communication between them and the owner. However, once they are leash trained, it is more comfortable for your dog to wear a harness. 

Harnesses exert less pressure on your dogs’ neck and throat because the leash attaches at their withers. Harnesses do not restrict their movement and have handles, so you can help your dog over obstacles or difficult terrain when they need. 

Other Useful Gear

To keep your dog safe, comfortable and happy while they accompany you on long-distance runs, consider some of the following items:

  • Collapsible water bowl. If you go running where there is no fresh water for your dog to drink, you can carry along a compact, silicone water bowl to take out whenever your dog needs a drink. You can just fill it up from your water bottle. Some collapsible bowls can even attach to your dogs’ collar with a carabiner. 
  • Reflective harness for running. If you go running early in the morning or at dusk, you and your dog both need to wear reflective gear. Reflective harnesses for dogs are available
  • Training treats in a pouch. Rewards are essential to take on walks and runs with your dog. It will help speed up leash training by maintaining their focus. It is useful to get a waist-bag for treats if your hands-free leash does not have pockets. 
  • Bags for poop. Be responsible – pick up and dispose of your dog’s droppings. This is important not only in urban areas but on hiking trails too. Your fellow runners will thank you. There are small plastic bag dispensers available that attach to your dog’s harness. 


Labrador Retrievers make great running partners. However, it is important to remain safe and prepare your dog for the distance you plan to run.

Before you go, just be sure to remember the following three tips to ensure your dogs safety.

  • You should wait until your Labrador Retriever is at least a year to 18 months old before you take them running with you. Before this, their bones and muscles are still growing and cannot handle the stress of running long distances.
  • Begin by running short distances a few days a week, and as your dog’s fitness and stamina improve you can gradually increase the distance and number of days you go running. With proper training, Labrador Retrievers can run a marathon!
  • Older dogs cannot run as far or as fast. Adapt your runs to your dog’s capabilities. Always keep an eye on them and check how they are doing. If they pant excessively or are exhausted after a run, it may be time to dial it back.

Now you are ready to start running with your Labrador Retriever and building your health and relationship together. Be sure you are getting them the nutrients they need for their runs, and enjoy your new routine.

Dr. Anne Traas

Anne Traas, DVM, MS, DACT is a veterinarian and the President of Labrador Retriever Society. She is a specialist in canine reproduction. In her day job, she is a leader in a small biotech where she and a team of vets and scientists are working to develop new medications for pets.

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