Dog Health Dog Training

How Much Exercise do Golden Retrievers Need? – Activities & Requirements

A Guide to Golden Retriever exercises.
Written by Tiffany Jeng

What if you came home and found all the wool from your couch pillows scattered all over the living room? You might spontaneously call out the name of the most likely suspect: your Golden Retriever! 

But that might turn out to be an unjust ruling because the real culprit is probably you, the owner. You’ve most likely left your Golden without exercise for hours on end, and the pent-up energy was taken out on your pillows. 

So, how much exercise do Golden Retrievers need? Golden Retrievers need at least an hour of exercise per day because they were bred to be active retrieving dogs. The exact amount depends on the age, health, and temperament of your Golden, but an hour is a good target to aim for. 

In the rest of this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about exercising your Golden. Plus, we’ll discuss the best Golden Retriever activities for a healthy and happy dog. To learn more, read on. 

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Why Golden Retrievers Need to Exercise

Golden Retrievers will bite, just like almost any other dog, but they are not vicious biters and mishaps are rare.

Exercise is an essential element of dog care. You may have heard people say that owning a dog is easy, but maintaining them is rather hard, especially with an active dog.

One reason dog owners will consider having a dog a difficult task is the canine’s need for exercise. This commitment is especially demanding if the dog is a high-energy sporting breed, like the Golden Retriever.

There are several reasons why your Golden Retriever (or any other dog) needs exercise. Here are the two you should always remember:

Exercise is essential for your dog’s health

Remember how your doctor once told you that you needed to exercise to burn the extra calories and keep lifestyle diseases at bay? Well, your Golden’s vet will say the same thing about your pup. 

Lifestyle-related health problems in dogs have been prevalent for quite some time. A study in 2006 among 1-year old dogs attended to by US veterinarians established the prevalence of obesity among a variety of dog breeds.

34% of the 21,754 dogs were considered obese. The Golden retriever, along with Shetland Sheepdogs and Dachshunds, was among those at high risk of obesity.

Buffy – Our beautiful boy, loved the kids and never growled. I had him for 15 years, but to his detriment, too many goodies turned him obese & he died of a stroke.

– Donsigns (Reddit User)

According to a 2014 feature in Veterinary Record Journal, pet obesity is directly correlated with obesity in humans. In other words, dog owners with obesity tend to raise obese pets. The Golden Retriever was once again, named among those at high risk in this study.

It’s advised that people with a low-exercise lifestyle should not own high-energy dogs. Poor lifestyle choices, among little exercise, are responsible for a lot of health issues in dogs. However, active dogs can be a good excuse for yo to exercise more.

Poorly exercised dogs are at a higher risk of cardiopulmonary diseases, joint disease, hip and elbow dysplasia, diabetes and of course, obesity.

The Golden Retriever was bred for exercise

Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve game in Scotland. Specifically, they were premier waterfowl retrievers that brought back injured ducks and upland water birds. This ability and skill, also called their instinctive intelligence, was bred into them.

This task meant walking for long distances, climbing hills, jumping over cliffs, and swimming through rivers to bring the game back to their master. As you can tell, a dog bred for such a task has to be sturdy and active.

There’s a good chance you won’t be hunting with your Golden Retriever. And if that’s the case, leaving your dog without exercise means pushing them to find an alternative way of letting out the high energy in them.

If you hear the owner of a Golden describe the dog as aggressive, question them about how much their dog exercises. That’s because when properly exercised, Golden Retrievers are supposed to be one of the friendliest breeds.

Golden Retriever Exercise Requirements

Not all Golden Retrievers are equal when it comes to exercise. Factors such as age and health create variation in the amount of exercise needed by each Golden. 

It’s impossible for us to determine the current health of your dog. If you have concerns, you need to consult with your breeder and/or veterianian. However, we can examine how age affects the amount of necessary exercise.

For Puppy Golden Retrievers

In the early stages of the dog’s life, a Golden puppy is still growing, and the bones are not fully developed. Submitting your young puppy to hours of exercise daily can cause more harm than good.

The English Kennel Club proposes that a good rule of thumb when it comes to exercising a puppy is “five minutes exercise per month of age.” In other words, a one month-old puppy will need only 5 minutes of exercise!

The 5:1 rule should be followed until the Golden Retriever is fully matured, which typically occurs at two years of age. During the dog’s gradual increase in activity duration, don’t go overboard with intensity.

Again, Golden Retrievers are prone to orthopedic issues. And yes, these issues can even happen with healthy puppies. Don’t take my word for it – read about Jennie’s 5 month old Golden puppy with severe hip dysplasia.

Over-exercising a puppy comes with damaged joints and early arthritis. As an owner of a Corgi with arthritis, I hate seeing my dog in pain. You sure don’t want that for your sporty Golden Retriever either.

For Adult Golden Retrievers

To simplify things, we will classify an “adult” as 2 years of age. However, some can argue that dogs reach adulthood by 15 months.

Adult Golden Retriever can take the complete exercise challenge. They’ll need at least an hour a day, and can easily handle two hours if you’re up to the task.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the day’s exercise should be distributed throughout the day and that it should involve different activities. While doing a single activity all day provides good exercise, it’s not ideal for mental stimulation.

For example, it might be a long walk in the morning, a hide and seek game at midday and fetch and catch exercise in your backyard in the evening. Golden Retrievers are easy-going and flexible, so that’s up to you to decide.

Whichever decision you make, it must meet the criteria of lots of exercise and different activities that serve to stimulate your Golden physically and mentally. We’ll discuss some great activity ideas later on.

For Senior Golden Retrievers

The senior Golden Retriever has done a better part of the years that make its lifespan. In fact, the life expectancy of Golden Retrievers ranges between 10 and 12 years.

By the 8th year, your Golden will have already slowed down in energy and may be showing signs of age-related illnesses common in this breed. However, that doesn’t mean your older Golden should be sitting at home all day.

Two things can help in deciding how much your senior Golden can take in exercise:

  • Consult your Golden’s veterinarian and ask how much you can demand of them him or her in terms of exercise.
  • Pay attention to your Golden’s level of fitness. If your Golden ran for three hours without showing signs of fatigue before, but now seems to be exhausted after an hour, it’s probably time you reduced the amount of exercise.

There isn’t an “ideal recommendation” we can make for a senior Golden Retriever. Each individual dog will be dealing with different energy levels, health issues, genetics, etc.

The best way is for you to always be gauging your dog’s fitness levels – from puppyhood to adulthood. After so many years, you (the owner) know your Golden Retriever best.

Signs Your Dog Needs More Exercise

Sometimes it’s not obvious whether your Golden is getting enough exercise. Many owners blame the personality of the dog, calling them “hyper” and “overly happy” dogs instead.

Different dogs can show different signs of not getting the adequate physical activity. But, here are three common signs that your Golden is exercise-starved:

The dog is chasing the cat

These dogs aren’t known to have a high prey drive and get along with small kids, humans, other dogs and cats. Though the Golden Retriever is a friendly breed, leaving them caged in can give that friendliness a 180-degree turnaround.

Chasing your precious kitty may be the only option that your Golden Retriever has to “get some work in” and release some of the energy they’ve built up.

And if it’s not a friendly dog-chase-cat game, it could end up badly. This wouldn’t be the first time that a Golden Retriever has killed several cats.

The dog is idle or chewing stuff up

If your dog is lying down frequently or chewing up your couch pillows, you need to get the leash, put on your jogging gear and get out of the house for a long run with your Golden.

One of the most common sights dog owners experience, especially with puppies, is coming home to chewed up furniture, shoes or a flipped trashcan. It’s easy to blame the dog. But know this is partly the owner’s fault too.

The dog is gaining weight

If your dog begins to show signs of being overweight, a good explanation for it is that they are not getting enough exercise. As with humans, the balance between calories in and calories out is an indispensable health practice.

If they’re eating more calories than they’re burning off, your Golden will start gaining weight. You can fight this weight gain by feeding them less and exercising them more.  

According to Embrace Pet Insurance, your Golden Retriever needs about 25 to 30 calories per pound of weight, per day. Don’t take this as a hard rule because it can vary depending on the dog’s current activity level. However, it’s a good place to start.

Best Golden Retriever Activities

Fortunately, Golden Retrievers are up for almost any activity within reason of their athletic ability. They’re truly fun-loving and energetic dogs. All they really want is to spend time with the owner.

After surveying owners and deep-diving dog forums, we’ve found some of the most popular and best activities for Golden Retrievers. We recommend introducing them all to your dog but sticking with the few they enjoy the most.

1. Fetch or Catch

This is the most obvious choice for the Golden Retriever. After all, these dogs were bred to retrieve. It’s literally in their DNA to enjoy and be excellent at fetching objects (or small animals).

I recommend trying a variety of objects or toys for your Golden Retriever to play fetch with. These dogs will respond differently to different objects. Some of the common choices are squeaky balls, frisbees and tennis balls.

You shouldn’t worry about your Golden injuring his mouth. They’re known to have “soft mouths,” which can carry things without damaging their chops. In fact, some owners have trained their Goldens to hold raw eggs in their mouths.

2. Tug Of War

Tug of war is a great option for Golden Retrievers because these dogs are prone to mouthing or biting down on things. Again, this tendency is because of their instinctive ability to retrieve waterfowl in their mouths.

What better way to get some exercise in and satisfy their mouthing needs with a game of tug of war? And if you’re like me, you’ve probably heard that tug of war leads to aggressive behaviors. But I’m here to tell you, that’s not true.

Tug games can build confidence and help the dog use up excess energy. Games such as tug-of-war provide mental and physical stimulation, and they can be used to teach a dog self-control.

Dr. Mary Burch (AKC)

According to Dr. Mary Burch, a dog behaviorist from the AKC, this was a common myth but has no truth to it. There may be accidents, but as long as you set boundaries, this activity is one of the best methods of exercising your Golden.

3. Swimming

Not all dog breeds are great swimmers. For example, the Bulldog will often sink when in water. However, Golden Retrievers are excellent swimmers.

While Golden Retrievers are capable retrievers on all types of landscape, they are most famously known for retrieving birds from water. As such, they needed to be excellent swimmers.

Despite most Golden Retrievers being highly capable swimmers, it’s still recommended that you provide the dog with a life jacket in the beginning. As for dog life vests, we’ve only tried and recommend one: Outward Hound Dog Life Vest.

It’s made from high quality and lightweight mesh, plus comes with a useful “rescue handle” just in case. For adult Golden Retrievers, you’ll likely need a size XL. However, there is a sizing chart you should double check with.

When teaching your Golden how to swim, don’t throw them in the deep end and assume they’ll swim. The best way is to slowly introduce them to water. Let them sniff it and get their paws wet first.

If possible, keep your dog on a leash in the beginning. Slowly bribe them into the deeper end with some of their favorite treats. And because Goldens are such great learners, you should get in the water with them! Before they know it, instincts will take over.

4. Agility Training

Statistics claim that medium-build working dog breeds are the most successful in agility trials. As such, Border Collies are likely the “gold standard” for agility. But Goldens can be just as skilled.

According to K9 of Mine, Golden Retrievers are one of the 9 best dog breeds for agility. A large part of it is because they’re easy to train and biddable dogs with an excellent work ethic. I would call them highly underrated agility dogs.

Even if you don’t go any further than an agility intro class, you’ll see a difference in how your dog pays attention to you.

– Jeffrey (Golden Retriever owner)

These dogs are unexpectedly fast for their size. And while they may look goofy at times, they can really surprise you on the field.

Training a dog agility champion can be a costly process. However, getting started won’t be too bad. We recommend the PawHut Agility Course, which comes with all the basics your Golden needs to start. It’s perfect for beginners!

5. Hiking

Hiking is one of the best activities for all types of dogs. Not only does it help with your dog’s physical stimulation, but also mental. On an outdoor hike, there’s just so much stimuli for your Golden Retriever.

Just think about all the flowers, trees and various smells your dog will get to enjoy in the outdoors. In addition, the wonderful sights and sounds – plus the wild animals they’ll spot. All of this, provides mental stimulation.

Unless you live in the mountains, it may not be practical to take your Golden Retriever to the wilderness every day. Still, it would be a fantastic weekend “ritual” where you and your dog can bond over beautiful nature.

6. Obedience Training

I know what you’re thinking; how is obedience training a form of exercise? Sure, your first thought is common. However, it can be great exercise depending on what your teaching your Golden Retriever.

Owners can get creative and teach more physically-demanding tricks and commands. For instance, we taught our Aussie how to weave. We’ve also taught our Corgi how to crawl or jump through our legs.

What’s great about obedience training is that you’re meeting your retriever’s physical and mental needs. And considering how intelligent Golden Retrievers are, they’ll need it.

The reason why obedience training is ideal for Goldens is because of their eagerness to learn. After all, they are ranked the 4th smartest dog breed for working & obedience intelligence.

7. Walking & Running

Walking is by far the most popular form of exercise for all dogs, and not just Goldens. It can be convenient, quick and a healthy routine for both the dog and owner. That being said, it’s arguably the best activity.

And while some Golden Retrievers are capable of running long distances, they aren’t as suited for marathons. So if you do plan to run with your dog, make sure to establish a reasonable running regimen.

You should wait until he is full grown 12-18 months. Running too soon can lead to an increased chance of hip dysplasia and other joint disorders.

– Cromartie (Golden Retriever owner)

Again, Golden Retrievers are susceptible to orthopedic health issues. So it’s in your best interest to start running after your dog reaches adulthood, especially for long distance. Their bones and joints need to fully mature.

When running with your Golden Retriever, we always suggest using a hands-free leash that attaches to your waist. There’s none better than the Tuff Mutt Hands Free Dog Leash.

It’s necessary in order to easily control your dog, especially if you need to stop after hitting your stride. The elastic bungee helps absorb the shock should you need to suddenly stop, thus minimizing unnecessary injuries.

Exercising is Easy!

Age and health are key factors to keep in mind when deciding on how much exercise your Golden can take.

As a sporting dog originally bred to retrieve aquatic game, the Golden retriever needs a lot of exercise. An average of an hour a day for a healthy adult retriever is a good amount to aim for.

Puppy retrievers will need less exercise while their bones mature. Too much exercise can harm them, so don’t over-exert your puppy Golden Retriever. 

Your senior Retriever will give you signs of slowing down on exercise towards the last part of their life. Be keen to notice these signs and discuss any doubts with your Golden’s vet. Finally, there are three primary signs that your Golden isn’t getting enough exercise:

  • Chasing the cat around. 
  • The dog is often idle or bored. 
  • Gaining a lot of weight. 

If you notice any of these signs, you need to increase your pet care efforts and ensure your Golden frequently gets outside to play. 

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About the author

Tiffany Jeng

Tiffany is a product of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine (class of 2022). Combined with over 5 years of veterinary technician experience, she's dedicated her life and career to dogs. When she's not studying or working, she's taking care of her Mini Australian Shepherd - Olympus! Read More.

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