Dog Health Dog Training

How Much Exercise Does a Lab Need? – Labrador Exercise Needs & Guide

A Labrador Retriever patiently waiting with his ball for some exercise time.
Written by Richard Jeng

There’s no doubt Labrador Retrievers are active, energetic and vibrant dogs. They’re super passionate dogs that know how to play hard. But if you plan to bring one home, you may be wondering how much exercise Labradors actually need.

So, how much exercise does a Lab need? Labrador Retrievers need at least 2 hours of exercise daily, to remain physically and mentally healthy. They will need plenty of exercise because they were bred for active lifestyles and they’re prone to obesity. After all, Labs were developed as flushing dogs that spent many hours a day on hunting trips.

Full of energy, Labradors need more exercise than the average dog. But why do these dogs need this much physical activity to remain healthy? Read on, and we’ll discuss why they it and how they can get their essential daily exercise in.

RECOMMENDED: Are Labrador Retrievers Smart?

Why Labs Need Exercise

Make no mistake, Labrador Retrievers need plenty of exercise. And if you’re unable to give them the necessary physical activity on a daily basis, then you may want to look into other dog breeds. Exercise is that important.

But why do Labradors need so much more exercise than other dogs? We’ve looked into the tops reasons why you should brush off the dust on your shoes and prepare for an active yet fulfilling journey with your Lab.

Bred For Active Lifestyles

Labradors were literally bred to be active dogs. And as with all highly-active dog breeds, the Lab needs plenty of physical activity to remain happy and healthy. The AKC names the Lab as one of the 15 most active breeds, and it’s easy to see why.

Labradors were once hunting dogs. Though they didn’t actually “hunt” down game, they still participated in long hunting trips with their owners. Their primary job is to retrieve or flush out game, such as ducks, upland birds or even rabbits.

He’s perfectly calm at home. On country walks in the south downs, he’s literally running all day up and down hills – I’m sure he would go all night as well.

– Simon D. (The Labrador Forum)

After the hunter shoots down the game, the Labrador is tasked with the job of running in muddy swamps, rivers and hills to bring back the shot animal. This isn’t a job that any dog breed can do. It requires focus, but more importantly, endurance.

These dogs are known for their boundless energy. It’s why they were, and still are, one of the most popular hunting companions in America. No matter what you decide to do with the dog, they’re up for the challenge with full enthusiasm.

Prone to Obesity

Canine obesity is when the dog accumulates a lot of excess body fat, thus leading to the dog being overweight. According to VCA Hospitals, a dog is technically overweight when he or she is considered 10-20% above the “ideal body weight.”

Furthermore, when the dog is 20% or more above that ideal weight, they’re considered to be obese. Labrador Retrievers are, unfortunately, prone to obesity. In fact, they’re much more susceptible than any other dog breed.

For reference, the ideal body weight for a male Labrador should be around 65 to 80 lbs for a male. With female Labs, they’re generally around 55 to 70 lbs, according to the AKC. Any more than that, and you should be wary.

A recent study on dog obesity has shown a certain gene mutation that’s linked with weight and food motivation. This mutation has been exclusively found in Labradors and other flat coat retrievers. Though, it’s much more frequently seen in Labs.

We’ve found something in about a quarter of pet Labradors that fits with a hardwired biological reason for the food-obsessed behaviors reported by owners.

Eleanor Raffan DVM (Cambridge)

What’s even more interesting is that the gene mutation occurs mostly in Labradors trained for service and assistance. Dogs that are food-motivated are typically the ones that are the easiest to train. Perhaps, this is why they make great assistance dogs.

So because Labrador Retrievers are prone to obesity, daily exercise is even more important than ever. Failure to do so may very well lead to an overweight dog, which consequently will lead to various health problems in the long run.

While it’s important for your Lab to maintain a healthy diet, we suggest laying off the extra treats. We know how hard it is to resist your dog. But should you decide to help satisfy the appetite of your dog, make sure plenty of exercise follow.

Not Getting Enough Exercise

Labrador Retrievers are intelligent because they have high working, obedience, adaptive and instinctive intelligence.

Exercise is important to your Labrador’s physical health and mind. However, not getting the necessary exercise can lead to problems with your dog. Obviously, there’s the risk of your dog being overweight, but also a risk of destructive behavior.

Have you ever spent the whole day at work, only to come home to your living room ripped apart and destroyed? This is not an uncommon sight among active dog owners. And, this tends to happen when your dog isn’t getting enough exercise.

You see, Labs are active dogs that have a ton of pent-up energy. As such, this amount of excess energy needs to be released every day through physical activities. So if Labs don’t have the opportunity to do this, they’ll take it out on your shoes or couch.

Signs Your Lab Needs More Exercise

Destructive behavior can mean a lot of things – and not just chewing up your favorite pair of shoes. Here are just some things to do look for in case you suspect your Labrador Retriever isn’t getting enough daily run in:

  • Lab is withdrawn and becoming less sociable
  • Excessive or unusual barking and/or howling
  • Rough play with children or other dogs and pets
  • Restlessness, or the inability to stay still and calm down
  • Whining or pestering to get your attention
  • Pulling and tugging at the leash when going on walks
  • Sluggish or lethargic, a lack of energy in movement

All individual Labrador Retrievers are different and may exhibit different behaviors due to a lack of exercise. However, it’s a pretty clear sign when your dog isn’t behaving like he or she normally would.

As you can see, exercise can prevent a lot of negative behaviors with your Labrador. Often times, owners don’t even realize this and “punish” the dog for behaviors that are avoidable. It’s up to you, not your Lab, to keep their energy levels in check.

Labrador Exercise Ideas

Providing exercise for your Labrador doesn’t have to be a “chore.” Rather, it’s better to think of it as an opportunity to bond and develop a stronger relationship with your dog. As you spend more time with your Lab, it’s natural they’ll trust you more.

Exercising with your Labrador can be fun for both dog and owner. If you’re having fun, you can be sure your dog will too. That said, here are the 7 best physical activities you can do with your Labrador Retriever.

Fetch or Catch

Fetch or catch with a ball, frisbee or favorite toy is the best activity for Labradors. They were practically bred for this activity. As we mentioned, Labs were once highly skilled retrieving dogs that still retain their retriever instincts today.

Retrieving is the Lab’s instinctive dog intelligence. That means your Labrador may be able to retrieve objects with little to no human training. Just like how Border Collies know how to herd, Labs may bring back whatever you throw.

I like to play it as a low-energy game when it’s hot. They bring me balls and I sit on the floor, throwing the balls into their mouths.

– Snowbunny (The Labrador Forum)

The only way to know for sure is to try it out! Here’s a pro-tip: after throwing the ball, try to hold the dog back immediately. Naturally, they’ll attempt to tug away. After letting the dog go, chances are, your Lab will go flying after the object.

However, if you have a Labrador puppy, you might want to wait until they’re at least 12 to 15 months of age. During this sensitive time period, a Lab puppy is still developing his or her growth plates. Letting them jump may cause long term damage.

Swimming With Labs

Swimming is another fantastic activity for Labradors. They don’t have the short legs of the Corgi or the short snout of the Pug. Rather, Labs have all the right body proportions and the energy level to make excellent swimmers.

Like with retrieving, Labradors were bred for swimming. On the field, they mainly retrieved waterfowl, which are aquatic birds (such as ducks or geese). That means Labs needed to be able to swim through rivers and lakes to retrieve shot game.

There are plenty of Labrador Retrievers that are natural-born swimmers. Of course, there’s no guarantee. So if you decide to take your Lab for a swim, we always suggest starting off with a dog life jacket, such as the Outward Hound Life Vest.

We use this life jacket with our Corgi and Australian Shepherd and we love it! It’s definitely of high quality and the rescue handles are a nice touch. Most Labradors will fit a size large or extra large. However, you’ll want to check the sizing charts!

It’s no surprise why the AKC names the Labrador Retriever as a dog breed that was born to swim. Just make sure to introduce them to the water gradually to prevent scaring them from ever going back into bodies of water.

Running and Walks

When all else fails, there’s always the good ol’ fashion walk around the neighborhood. The great thing about walks is that it provides a lot of mental stimulation too. Although, make sure to go on multiple, long walks with your Lab.

While out for a stroll, do you ever notice your Labrador sniffing around at the grass, flowers or bushes? Don’t be so quick to tug them away. By letting them sniff at new and interesting smells, you can help with their mental stimulation.

Running with your Lab is another excellent way of providing high-intensity exercise. Not all dog breeds are suited for this, such as the brachycephalic dogs (pugs, bulldogs, etc), but a Labrador is more than capable of long distance running.

But you should be careful as to not overwork your dog. Plus, we don’t suggest running if the Lab is still in puppyhood. They may be highly energetic dogs, but like humans, they’ll still need training to work their way up to longer distances.

Running Leash For Labs

When you start with your Lab, we suggest using a hands-free dog leash that’s made for running with dogs. There are features and components that make them much better and safer for your Lab. For us, we went with the Tuff Mutt Dog Leash.

The biggest difference is that it’s hands-free, meaning you can run comfortably with your natural running motion. However, we also love the fact that there’s a strong and durable bungee to absorb the shock of sudden stops in mid stride.

Hiking in the Woods

Labrador Retrievers are undeniably nature-loving dogs. They were, after all, bred to be in the wild and not necessarily on your lap (though they’re decent oversized lapdogs too). The Lab is the happiest while playing outdoors.

According to Active, they’re one of the 10 best dog breeds for outdoor enthusiasts. Even if they’re not outdoor dogs, they would certainly appreciate going for wilderness hikes every now and then. Just think of all the stimulation they’d receive!

Walking around the neighborhood is one thing, but hiking through the outback of your city can be the most wonderful experience for your Lab. In the mountains, they’re exposed to all types of new sights, sounds and smells.

It’s important that you put them on leash when walking downhill (free running downhill isn’t too good for young bones and joints) and slowly increase the strain.

– Chris W. (The Labrador Forum)

Though there probably wont be too many humans up there, it’s still important that you keep them on a leash in the beginning. During their first hike, it’s possible they get caught up in so much new stimuli that they start wandering off.

Always be prepared in case of an emergency, like your Labrador injuring him or herself. It’s also very important that they’re well-trained and fully socialized before you start off-leash hiking with your dog. You don’t want them lunging at kids or animals with no control.

I also want to stress that young Labradors should not be hiking! During the first year of life, they’re still developing strong joints and bones. And because the surface of these trails tend to be uneven, it can be even more detrimental.

Providing Exercise For Labs

So, you already know that Labrador Retrievers need at least two hours of physical activity each day. Plus, you’ve learned the potential negative behaviors that can arise if they don’t get the necessary exercise.

That being said, are Labradors for you? We highly recommend these retrievers to active single owners and families. If you’re the type of person to regularly go on walks or runs anyway, then a Labrador might be perfect for you.

When you’re able to meet the Labrador’s exercise needs, you can expect a friendly, highly devoted and good-natured large dog. Not only are they highly obedient but intelligent too, making them easy to train.

For the most part, they’ll be mild-tempered dogs, unless they’re not getting their exercise. So if you think you can meet the physical and mental needs of these amazing dogs, go for it! There’s a reason why Labs are America’s favorite dog breed!

Posts you may like:

About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

Leave a Comment