Labradors are one of the most popular and loved dog breeds around the world, especially in America. They are often touted as excellent running companions for dog owners who are always on the move. You may be thinking that it’s more practical to go for greyhound dogs or other sleek breeds that can run long distances, so what makes a labrador retriever more desirable?
To answer this question and to shed some light on why a labrador might be the perfect pet for you, we have gathered all the information you need to make an informed decision.
A Little History About the Breed
Ever so gentle and always friendly, the labrador retriever has been a favorite dog breed for North American families for decades. To truly get to know this gun dog breed, let’s take a quick dive into history.
They are quite an old breed, dating back to the 1800s in the United Kingdom. Their lineage can be traced back to Canadian fishing dogs, from which the breed was developed. Labradors used to rub shoulders with nobility, such as earls and dukes as they accompanied them on hunting trips.
When we take a look at the older photos of a labrador and compare them to the labs we see now, not much has changed in terms of appearance. Since they are hunting companions and considered a gun dog breed meant to “retrieve” the game, labradors are made to run. However, their most coveted feature is not the fact that they are fast and good working dogs, but because they are some of the most good-natured dogs around.
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Is a Labrador Retriever a Good Running Buddy?
Let’s get down to the question of the day – are labrador retrievers good running companions? In general, they are, but it also depends on a few factors.
A labrador is naturally equipped with the body structure, stamina, and energy levels to run at high speeds or for a consistent period. A labrador is an excellent running companion if he is at the peak of his health. Age is an influencer on how fast a labrador can run and whether or not he makes a good running mate.
A puppy may be a bottomless well of energy, but they do tire out quite quickly. It’s also unideal to take a puppy exercising too vigorously as it is still growing and needs time for its growth plates to develop. Overextering your puppy can result in poor bone growth and affect his overall health. Conversely, senior labradors will begin to slow down as they age. They won’t be able to run at the speeds they could in their younger years, so it’s also important to not push them at this point.
Dog owners need to also consider the health conditions and fitness levels of their labrador. Unfortunately, labs are very susceptible to joint issues in their later years. Elbow and hip dysplasia are some of the most common problems that plague the labrador. You also need to make sure your labrador gets plenty of rest and enough nutrition to meet their body’s needs.
Although the labrador comes in a pretty standard size, there are always exceptions to the rule. There can be smaller labradors that are the runts of the litter, but there are also ones that grow to be quite a few pounds larger. How fast can a labrador run will depend on his size as well as his health.
You also shouldn’t expect a labrador that isn’t used to running long distances to suddenly become the Usain Bolt of the dog world. Just like with humans, speed and stamina need to be developed gradually over time, which we will go into more detail in a bit.
All living creatures on earth are at nature’s mercy, so it’s no surprise that your labrador’s running performance and the distances he can cover will depend on the weather conditions. Temperatures that are too hot or too cold will definitely affect his speeds and desire to run. You also need to pay attention to the precipitation. A light drizzle won’t do much to affect the speed, but torrential rain will definitely affect the distances your labrador can cover.
He isn’t a husky, who is bred to run in the snow, so the ice-cold snow-covered ground isn’t suitable for your lab to run at a fast speed. A more common adversary to labradors running quickly is high temperatures. Your labrador can overheat easily so make sure he doesn’t overdo it and get heatstroke.
How Fast Can a Lab Run?
In general, a labrador can run as fast as 35 miles per hour! While it isn’t considered a breakneck speed, it’s quite impressive for a dog. However, 35 miles per hour is a general estimate, and it’s considering your labrador is sprinting. How long your labrador can keep up this speed is debatable for long distances. A labrador isn’t a sprinter like greyhounds or German shepherds that can outrun people and a lot of other breeds. Instead, a lab is more suited for distance running.
If you are looking at how fast a labrador can run during a marathon, then the number is closer to 15 miles per hour give or take.
How to Train a Labrador for Running
Let’s say you want to train your labrador specifically to be your running companion. Before you start with training, you need to determine his fitness level by taking a trip to the vet. Your trusted veterinarian will be able to assess your dog’s health and body condition to make sure he is suitable for running training.
First of all, your vet will definitely tell you that running is an exercise for dogs at a healthy weight. You may think it’s counter-intuitive because running can be a slimming exercise, but in truth, the extra weight will put a ton of strain on your dog’s legs and joints. If your dog is overweight, the first action to take isn’t to heap on the exercise, but it’s actually to cut down the food intake.
The next step is to build up your labrador retriever’s endurance gradually. Don’t start the training by forcing your dog to run as fast as greyhounds in a single try. Their stamina should be built up slowly, just like marathon trainers. Identify if you want a sprinting companion or a long-distance marathon buddy. We advise the latter because a labrador retriever is built for distance rather than speed.
If the distance is the case, then pick your route (a short one) to start. Continue the routine for a few days, such as every weekday, and give your dog the weekend to rest. Try to give him one day that’s just for rest and one more day where you can take him to the park to play or engage in a game of fetch around the house.
Keep to the same routine for a week or two and when you start to notice your labrador retriever can keep it up every day with minimal effort, then start adding a half-mile into your routine and so on. Make sure you are feeding your labrador retriever high-quality foods with enough carbs and protein to keep up with his energy output. Other than the food, water is another extremely crucial element to training your labrador dog. Always make sure to bring water for both of you during a training session.
Can I Run with a Puppy?
We would suggest holding off on running with your labrador puppy until he is at least 10 months old. As said, you need your puppy’s growth plates to fully develop before pushing them to go at higher speeds. The best exercise for a labrador puppy is fetching and just touseling around the house. When your lab gets to be about 10 months to a year old is when you can start gradually training him.
We recommend going in short bursts first for sprinting and maybe starting anywhere between half a mile to a mile for distance training. Again, make sure to consult with your vet first before you try and see how fast a labrador can run.
Can I Run with a Senior Labrador Retriever?
Yes, you can run with your senior labrador retriever. In fact, it can even be beneficial for your elderly dog to keep up with his exercise. Again, it really depends on your dog’s health and a vet can help you reach a conclusion quickly. The veterinarian will also be able to advise you on the speeds at which your dog is not to exceed and how long each session should be.
Running Safety Tips
Running with your lab is another bonding activity to strengthen the relationship between the fur baby and its human. Even the most enjoyable activities require a certain level of precaution. Below are some safety tips we have compiled to make sure your daily runs with your labrador dog are as safe as can be.
Don’t Go Off-Leash
There are some dogs out there that are excellent at staying close to their humans. Unfortunately, not all dogs are the same and there are some that are easily distracted by the slightest movement or noise that will send them shooting off into the street. When you are just starting to train your lab, we recommend not going off-leash.
It may not be the best idea to run with a leash around your wrist, but don’t worry because there are plenty of accessories available online that address this problem. There are leashes specifically designed for runners and their canine companions. One end hooks onto the harness just as a leash would, but the other end goes around the dog owner’s waist instead of the arm. This way, you will be able to run hands-free without worrying about your dog.
You never know what can cause your dog to suddenly veer off, and you don’t know how fast a labrador can run after couriers and anything else enticing. It’s for this reason that we do not recommend people to let their dogs off-leash. Not only is it for your dog’s safety, but it’s also for others that may come into contact with an overly friendly dog.
Having enough water is vital during a running session. The most dangerous thing for a dog after vigorous exercise is dehydration. When you bring yourself a water bottle, don’t forget to prepare one for your dog as well. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t able to communicate with us despite their best efforts. It’s our job as loving pet parents to try to think for them and to prevent anything harmful from happening to them.
Dehydration is more common than it should be in dogs, and it can be potentially life-threatening. If you suspect your dog is dehydrated, an immediate vet visit is necessary. If you do not catch it in time, dehydration could cause organ failure and potentially even death. Dehydration is much more common in hot weather. Rainy weather conditions are less dangerous because your dog could just find a clean puddle to drink out of if worse comes to worst.
Speaking of hot weather, don’t take your dog out for a run if it’s sweltering hot. Not only will he not be able to process the heat well, but the asphalt and concrete will be hot to the touch and hurt his paw pads.
Most people train during the day, but sometimes a night run could be inevitable. If you have ever driven at night and seen a biker or runner, you will notice them wearing reflective gear. The reflective strips will reflect the beam from headlights to gain more visibility for the runner. You wearing reflective safety gear isn’t enough, because a car may not miss you but the driver probably won’t see your dog.
Luckily, there is plenty of dog clothing and safety gear you can purchase that has these reflective stripes. If it’s too hot out for apparel, you can consider a flashing light you can easily affix to your dog’s collar or harness. This nifty accessory will flash in different colors to alert all incoming cars of your dog’s presence.
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As we said, it’s important to have the proper gear when you go running with your labrador. A dog can run off-leash easily if you pick a flimsy harness for a big strong dog. In our experience, harnesses are much better for medium to large dogs as a collar could end up choking their necks when they are pulling at high speeds. Other dog breeds that require harnesses include terriers, greyhounds, a german shepherd and pit bull, as well as boxer dogs.
You also have to be sure to get the right fit so that there is no chafing in sensitive areas such as the armpits and above the abdomen. For puppies, try to find harnesses that are adjustable so your dogs can grow into them easily. Unless your puppy is a smaller dog breed, you may need to change the harness at least once, even if you purchase adjustable ones as a medium to large breed dog can outgrow any harness quickly.
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Knowing When to Stop
It’s not about knowing the optimal time to start, but also when to stop. When you’re on an especially difficult trail or on an extra-long route, your dog may start to show signs of fatigue. Overworking your dog can result in many health issues, especially if the overexertion persists. Typical signs of your dog getting too tired can be refusing to walk any further, sitting or lying down and refusing to move, whining and crying, and scratching and pawing at you to pick him up.
If you sense that your dog is getting tired, then you should turn back to the car or head home. Account for the distance from your current location to your home and see if you can carry your dog part of the way. We generally advise not to allow your dog to get too tired, so always take rests between miles.
Frequently Asked Questions
How fast can labrador dogs run?
A labrador can run at around 35 miles per hour at the fastest sprint. This speed is quite impressive, but not something your labrador can maintain for a long time. 35 miles per hour for short periods is the fastest we’ve seen, but for distances, the labrador averages 15 miles per hour. They aren’t sprinters, but labradors are quite impressive in terms of endurance and stamina.
At what age do labs calm down?
You hear people tell you dogs settle down when they are adults. That usually happens around 1 year old, but the truth is, dogs are surprisingly active, fun-loving, and mischievous. Aside from the age, the breed and personality also affect when your dog settles down. For example, a labrador with the propensity to be lazy and chill might settle down at the one-year mark. However, most of the labs we have seen average around 2 years old before they calm down.
The best way to get your dog to calm down and behave regardless of age, breed, and personality are to provide them with adequate stimulation. You need to take your dog for walks and exercise consistently and give them mental stimulation. People underestimate the importance of mental stimulation for a dog, but it’s one of the key factors to tiring your dog out.
How far is too far to run with your dog?
How far is too far a dog can run will also depend on a few factors such as health, age, speed and breed. For labradors, they can average around 30-40 miles per week without issue, but a smaller dog will have problems matching that output. We never recommend getting your labrador to run at super-fast speeds from the get-go. Just like with humans, the speed, endurance, and stamina of your labrador need to be built up gradually. We recommend starting training by measuring time and not distance.
Take your dog out for his daily walk or run, and see how long it takes until he is tired. He will run slower, or start walking when he has hit his limit and you can use that initial trial time as a gauge and the starting point for future training sessions.
How long can a lab go without going to the bathroom?
We never advise having your dog hold it for longer than he needs to. Ideally, he will always have access to the bathroom and use it whenever he likes. We know that with work demands and errands to run, sometimes keeping your lab in his crate is not only to protect your home but your dog as well. The time he spends in the crate is how long he will need to hold it.
Dogs are resilient and can hold it for up to 15 hours if they have to, but we don’t recommend over 8 hours if possible. Making your lab hold his pee for too long can result in UTIs and bladder issues.
Can labradors be left alone for 8 hours?
It’s hard in this economy where so many people work desk jobs to not leave your dog alone for at least 8 hours. While a lab may not like it, they can be left alone for 8 hours if necessary. The aftermath of this alone time will depend on the personality of your dog. If your pooch is destructive, we recommend leaving him in the crate so he cannot get up to mischief. Make sure he has plenty of chew toys to keep him company until you get home.
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How fast can a labrador run? They are big dogs and contrary to some people’s belief, they are super fast and can run at speeds up to 35 miles per hour for short periods. If we’re talking about distance running, then the lab can run around 15 miles per hour, which is still impressive. Just because this breed can go this fast, it doesn’t mean they can do it right out of the gate. It takes time and effort to develop your labrador’s stamina. Make sure you take it slowly and train your dog consistently.
Labs are high on the list of dog breeds that can suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia. A preventative measure for this is to supplement his diet with healthy amounts of glucosamine and chondroitin.
Did You Know?
Labradors are very easy to train, not stubborn for the most part, and pretty intelligent. They have all the ingredients you need to train your pooch to run fast or for long distances.