Running With Your Labrador


Running with a Labrador is a great way to keep fit and have fun together. Are you hoping to go running with your Labrador? We take a look at whether Labs are good running companions, and give you all the information you will need to get started.

We will also be answering some of your most popular Labrador running questions. Such as how fast can a Labrador run, and how far can you take them. We also give you some important information regarding getting your Labrador up to running fitness, and when is the right time to begin.

Watch cute Labrador puppies running for the first time!

Are Labradors Good Running Companions?

Fit, healthy, adult Labradors can make fantastic running companions. In fact, any healthy dog can enjoy accompanying you outdoors as you jog or run.

Labradors make especially good running companions because they enjoy exercise, and they love being together. When I was a teenager my Labrador would accompany me on runs through the woods on an almost daily basis. He stayed by my side, kept pace with me and we both loved every minute of it.

Labradors, as a breed, are fit and athletic dogs. Like all sporting dog breeds, Labradors are ‘designed’ to work all day in the shooting field.

The only factor dictating how far your Lab can run is how fit they are. Just like you, your Labrador will have to learn to increase his stamina gradually. They are strongly constructed, muscular animals with good powers of endurance and considerable agility. Labradors also have a surprising turn of speed.

We take a look at whether Labs are good running companions, and give you all the information you will need to go running with your dog

How Fast Can A Labrador Run?

Although we have plenty of data on Greyhounds, there don’t seem to be any good studies recording how fast other breeds of dog can run. There are claims that the average is 14-18mph, but I haven’t been able to find any studies to back these up.

It is thought that many fit breeds, like Sight Hounds, may in fact reach speeds of up to 40mph over short distances! So it is likely that a fit young Labrador can outrun most humans and could sprint at over 35 miles per hour for short bursts.

However, the Labrador’s real talent as a running partner lies in his stamina and endurance. He is more of a ‘distance’ runner, than a sprinter at heart.

How Far Can A Labrador Run?

How far your dog can run will depend on several factors

  • Fitness
  • The weather
  • Health
  • Age
  • Ground surface

Like any athlete, distances need to be built up gradually. You need to get your dog fit in stages, just as you do yourself. You also need to consider the weather, particularly the temperature.

A healthy young Lab should be more than able to keep up with the average human jogging a couple of miles before breakfast. Although only under mild weather conditions.

If you are a serious long distance runner,  then you will need to chat to your vet about the effects on your dog, and whether he is up to it. Distances over four of five miles can put a lot of strain on a dog, no matter how much he may want to be with you.

Running on hard surfaces for example, for long periods of time,  may cause problems with joints and feet. Serious competitive running is a very different matter.

Getting Your Dog Fit For Running

Before you begin, get your dog checked over by the vet. You want to make sure he is in good health before you start putting demands on his body.

Running Is For Slim Dogs

Although Labradors are athletic dogs, they are at a disadvantage to smaller dogs when it comes to running, purely because of the weight they are carrying. So it is vital that you don’t run with your dog if he is overweight. Cut down the food and the pounds first, don’t use running as a weight loss device, it puts too much stress on a heavy dog’s joints.

Build Up Labrador Running Distance Gradually

You wouldn’t go out for a five mile run after six weeks of activity, and neither should your dog. Like you, he needs to build up to it gradually.

Start with some short jogs, a mile or so, each day for a few days, then give him a rest day. Repeat but adding a little distance each time, with a break every few days to let him rest and repair his muscles. Including that all important heart muscle!

Remember, every year people pass away during or shortly after running marathons. Often because they cardiac muscles hadn’t had time to grow as well as their leg muscles!

If you are already fit and want to run further, leave your dog behind on your longer runs, until he is fit too. That way, you’ll both enjoy your runs safely together.

Labradors Running In Warm Weather

Take extra care when running with your dog in warm weather. It isn’t natural for a dog to run continuously. Left to himself he would trot for a while, stop and sniff a bit, then trot a bit more.

Dogs can and do overheat if running continuously in warm temperatures It’s usually coolest early morning and evening, but even then, a dog can overheat if running constantly. Keep an eye on the temperature and on how your dog is coping. If in doubt, walk him home.

Running With A Lab Puppy

It is probably best not to go running with a Lab puppy. The current thinking is that we should let puppies finish growing and allow their joints to mature and harden before subjecting them to long periods of activity.

When Can I Start Jogging With My Puppy?

If you are hoping to go jogging with your puppy, then you can start to gently do so in very short bursts of 5 to 10 minutes from around 10 months old.

Running With An Older Dog

Many senior dogs will enjoy and benefit from some short regular runs. But this really is a decision that has to be made on an individual basis. Do talk to your vet about your plans and get his advice on keeping your old friend safe and happy.

Labrador CaniX

During the last few years an entire sport has developed around running with a dog. It is called CaniX or Canicross. Events are organised in different parts of the country where you can race against others that like running with their dogs.

CaniX caters for all ages and abilities and you can be as ambitious or as laid back as you like. Serious competitors often teach their dog to pull in a harness which is attached to the runner’s body leaving his hands free.

During CaniX events dogs must be on a lead or line, they cannot run loose at heel. Of course you don’t need to enter events in order to run with your dog. If you teach your dog to walk to heel, and then to run to heel, you will be able to give him/her loads of exercise whilst keeping you fit.

Safety When Running With A Labrador

Safety precautions include paying attention to temperature (dogs can overheat quite quickly in hot weather), and building up distances and fitness gradually. Be sure to bring a bottle of water for your dog, to keep him hydrated.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Overweight or elderly Labradors,  and those with existing health problems should have a thorough check up with the vet before beginning any programme of exercise. Apply the same common sense precautions to your dog that you would to a person,  avoid running with the dog is he is unwell for example. If in doubt, check with the veterinarian.

Training For Running With Labradors

There is no special training required to go running with your dog,  but the whole experience will be more pleasant if your dog has been taught to walk and run at heel.

If you want to compete in events it’s probably a good idea to have an obedient dog, read our section on Labrador training for more information. Check out our Labrador Health section for more fun ways to keep fit with your Labrador.

Find Out More

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. I have a seven month old lab who is very agile and absolutely loves chasing balls. I’m now concerned whether we should have been letting him as I don’t want to damage his joints but his parents both had excellent hip scores and there is no suggestion my puppy has a problem and I’m worried now he will be unhappy if he wasn’t allowed to chase it? Thanks

  2. My Labrador / Golden Retriever cross is 6 months old. I have read endless advice, but finished up with 2 fundamental questions:

    1) “If she were in the wild, would she be running more or less than she is likely to do as a pet?”

    2) “When she is off the lead (which is most of the time as we live in countryside), what does she do?”

    The answers to these questions should tell you what you need to know about the individual needs of your dog. Mine is incredibly energetic and has no family history of health issues. At the moment she is already doing 3km runs with me, while breaking off for playfights with 4 legged friends and scratching her head at how humans are such useless athletes (and I run a 40 minute 10km).

    I wouldn’t dream of running my dog on hard surfaces or pushing her on if she wanted a rest, but I think the modern world is getting as over-protective with dogs as children. Just read their needs and respond to them.

  3. Hi my female lab is 9 year 4 months. Active n want to play always is it ok if I make her play n run to fetch da bal for 10, minits on hard surface like on road
    Daily? Pls guide how much excersice she needs

  4. Hi Pippa

    Our lab crossed with collie is two tomorrow and my husband runs between 3-5 miles and wants to take Lily with him. Is she old enough to start running with him if what mileage do you suggest.

    Thank you

  5. I have a 9 month male lab who has been going out for small runs (Jogs) with me about once a week as I got told not to take them out by a dog trainer. After reading the above comments is it to early to be taking him out with me. We was doing about 3 miles which he done easily and seemed to enjoy it but I don’t want to harm him in any way. Any advice please

  6. My dog loves running, will sprint off to fetch a ball, run on a head and back again on walks, run alongside joggers along the path, loves running up and down hill sides but will not let either my husband nor I run. As soon as we go from a brisk paced walk to a jog he rushes back and jumps up on to us sometimes so much so his paws are on my shoulders, his head with all his teeth at my head height. It is quite intimidating. I’ve tried taking a few running steps then go back to walking, then when he’s calmed down run a few more steps but he just gets too anxious or overexcited. I’m not sure which? So we’ve stopped trying and keep to a fast paced walk.

    • You never said how old but it sounds like youthful exhuberance. If I don’t let my Jake run loose for a while and burn some energy, he is like a sled dog on the leash. Also when we go to the woods trails where he can run free the first half mile he does a lot of what you describe as gratitude. He really wants you to know he appreciates your doing something with him and he really doesn’t know its for you too. Increase the distance and wear him down some.

  7. I’ve slowly introduce jogging with my lab right away. He is a beast ! I started out walking him 2 miles as a pup 2-3 times a week also swimming in those two times. He’s now 1 1/2 years old and runs 3 times with me a week 4 -6 miles at a time. We only go a pace we’re he’s trotting. Which is great for me;) I feed him sweet potatoes before our run so he has enough energy levels to not be exhausted. I also have a dog back pack on him for longer runs with ice packs in it to help him cool down, dogs don’t sweat they pant to keep cool so it help him run longer with me at a good pace.

  8. I have a 17 month old 68 lb lean, mean running machine lab/gsd mix…We have just started running together…2 miles in the morning and 2mile run or offleash run in the pm everyday. I usually have to adjust my pace with his because i dont think it is good to make them “run” the whole time. I think it is better to keep them at a trot for long distance.
    Be careful of the hot weather! Labs are sensitive to the heat. I wont take him out running above 70 degrees…Above what temp would you not take your labs out at?

  9. A study was done by a veterinarian that does dog sled racing. She found that if puppies do not get enough exercise to burn off the sugar and protein in their foods it is just as detrimental to their joints as too much exercise. You did not harm your dogs joints but most likely made them stronger. Keep exercising yourself and your dog. Barry Ravegim , pet exercise expert and sales mgr GoPetUSA Healthy Pets Exercise

  10. Hi Pippa,

    I tried running with my lab and only made it .5 miles with about 3 stops for potty breaks for him. He ended up with what I believe to be muscle cramps in his front legs. He is only 3 1/2 a bit overweight and had this happen before while playing with another dog. We do take long walks 1-3 miles and in the past he was my running buddy (2-3 miles weekly). When we do go for walks or a run I make sure he is in the grass area and do not drag him if he slows down. Do you know if this common condition among labs, will or should I every try to run with him again?

  11. Hi Pippa

    I was wondering if I can now go running my lab. She is nearly 15 months old as I have purposely held off until she had completed the 5 minute for every month rule on her walks. Has she fully finished growing now as I obviously don’t want to cause damage to her joints. I know I need to slowly build it up for her. How far can she run and how often. I go running 4 times a week usually somewhere between 3-4 miles. I am presuming she can last the distance once she’s built up her stamina but wondered if maybe I only took once / twice a week as I don’t want to overdo it for her. Thanks for the advice

    Ps love this site. Thanks for all the helpful tips and information that you give, I enjoy seeing the links on Facebook and reading your various articles.

    Thanks Liz

  12. Hello, I am concerned that I may have caused some damage to my choc labrador ‘Maisys’ joints .. She seems fine but I have perhaps mistakenly ran with her from age 15/16 months approx 12 times 2 miles each time… (Went on 2 runs per week)…. I have now stopped running with her she is 20 months old.. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Hi Matt, she should be completing her growth now, so running is not a problem provided you build up slowly and get her fit. Without an xray, there is no way of knowing whether or not her joints have been affected, but if she was well grown when you started running, she will probably be fine. Try not to worry and just build up her fitness nice and slowly. Pippa