If you are a Lab owner, you may find yourself asking whether Labrador Retrievers walk long distances? Labs are full of energy, and exercise is important for keeping their heart, lungs, and joints healthy. It also helps them to maintain their ideal weight.
Labradors have the stamina, energy, and muscle strength to walk for long distances. Labradors have sound cardiovascular systems to handle long-distance walking. In fact, they need a lot of exercise.
As she got older and had a penchant for overeating, the walks helped her maintain a healthy weight. This also helped to ease the pressure off of her joints. To make those long distances comfortable, you would need to consider factors such as age, ailments, and overall well-being.
In this article, you will learn about the benefits that long walks can have on your dog. You will also learn how long Labs can go on their walks and what you will need to do to make the walks comfortable. In the end, you will know the best way to use walks to give your Lab the required exercise so that you will have a happy and healthy activity that you both enjoy.
Why Should You Listen To Me?
As a Lab owner for 14 years, I know how important it is that your Lab gets the right amount of exercise for their health and the happiness in your home.
When we would get lax with her walks, our Lab Bear would often get rambunctious.
When she would get overactive, a nice long walk would appease her and help calm her down.
Can Labrador Retrievers Walk Long Distances?
Labs were bred for hard work. They are descended from breeds that were once used for the water rescue of fishermen. Their breed has a significant amount of muscle strength. This allows them to pull rescue victims sometimes more than twice their weight from the water. This muscle strength can help them to have greater endurance when it comes to long periods of exercise.
But that is not all.
Labs were bred to not only be good swimmers but also divers. Thus, they have a large lung capacity, which increases their stamina. It also prevents them from fatiguing when exercising for long periods.
Their lighter weight and muscular body makes them quick on their feet. This allows them to walk long distances without excess weight slowing them down.
Walking is a great way to get exercise with your Lab without worrying about the overexertion that can come with swimming or running.
Since walking is a more moderate exercise and it is easier to monitor your Lab, longer distances can be easily and safely achieved.
What’s the Definition of a Long-Distance Walk?
When deciding whether long-distance walks will work for you and your dog, you will first need to understand what qualifies as a long-distance walk.
Generally speaking, a long-distance walk will be a walk for at least 10 miles or more, but usually is less than 20 miles.
Whichever distance you choose, it will be important to maintain a more even pace so that you and your Lab does not tire from starting out too fast too early.
If you plan to go a long distance, you will not want to attempt to speed walk. Save this for shorter distances when you are trying to get your heart rate up for a short duration of time. Instead, try to get up to a pace between a saunter and a speed walk. Your heart rate should be slightly elevated and breathing a little quicker, but you should not be breathing rapidly, nor should your dog.
Why is the Labrador Retriever Suitable to Walk Long Distances?
Labrador Retrievers are working dogs, which means that they need to be active and working out their muscles throughout much of the day.
Added to that is the fact that Labs are quite energetic and physically designed to undergo a lot of physical activity.
Their bodies are mostly lean muscle, which makes them more agile and able to manage long bouts of physical activity.
They also have a good lung capacity and a cardiovascular system that does not overexert as easily as you may find with smaller breeds.
On top of that, Labs have a double coat of short fur. This allows them to be outside in various temperatures as their body is better insulated, and they do not have heavy hair to weigh them down.
What Conditions/Physical Characteristics Need to be Met to Walk Long Distances?
Most Labs are capable of walking long distances without any problems. But there are things to consider to determine if your Labrador is in the physical condition needed.
One of the first things to consider is your dog’s weight.
Your Lab mustn’t be too thin or overweight before starting them on longer walks.
If your dog is underweight, they may not have the muscle strength for the long distance, and it may actually hinder their health.
60% of Labradors in the US are overweight. For overweight dogs, too long walks can put more strain on their cardiovascular system and joints. For an overweight dog, exercise is essential, but you should start off with shorter distances until they get to a healthy weight.
You can view the video below for the risks facing an overweight dog and how a dog can lose weight.
An overweight Labrador would typically weigh more than 85 pounds or 30 kilograms.
You will also want to consider your Lab’s energy level.
While most Labs are high energy throughout their life, some may be more laid back and not as active.
It is important they get a decent amount of exercise during the day. But for dogs with less energy, shorter durations of exercise more often would be recommended.
How to Train Your Lab to Walk Long Distances
Since long-distance walking requires endurance, you will need to train your dog to handle extended periods of exercise.
Training your dog for long-distance walks involves combining the proper endurance, drills, and behavioral training to ensure they are prepared.
Step 1 Diet
Ensure that your Lab has a healthy diet that can build lean muscle and provide them with the energy they need to go the distance.
Their diet should be high in protein and fat but low in carbohydrates.
Ensure they are eating the appropriate amount of food throughout the day and intake plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Step 2 Control their behavior
Next, you will want to get control of their behavior.
They should be trained to walk well on a leash and be able to keep an even pace. This means walking with a loose leash while beside you.
A dog that continually pulls will overexert themselves quickly and is not yet ready to embark on distance walks.
If your Lab is not good on the leash, start small by taking them on short walks, making sure that they stay beside you, and listen to your verbal commands.
When they do well, be sure to reward them with a treat to reinforce the behavior.
For Labs that are aggressive pullers, you may need to use a head halter until the habit is broken. Before you go down that route, try this “leash respect” technique taught by dog trainers, McCann Dog Training.
Never use a retractable leash when walking your dog, as the ability to move freely or be pulled back quickly may encourage them to pull more.
Step 3 Responding to other verbal commands
Your dog should also be well-trained enough to follow your verbal commands, such as heel, stop, and stay.
During a long walk, you will need to maintain control over your Lab at all times for your safety and theirs.
Step 4 Endurance training
Once your Lab is correctly trained with good walking behaviors, It is time to move on to endurance training.
Determine the distance that you would like to achieve for your long walks.
Start by doing that same distance over five days. You can then slowly decrease the days while keeping the same distance until your Lab is ready to complete it all in one day.
Step 5 Supplement with short walks
While doing these shorter walks, you can also work on their muscle development by having them perform short sprinting activities.
This will give their muscles a good workout and recovery period, allowing them to keep their muscles in shape.
A fun activity for sprinting is frisbee catching.
During your training regime, be sure to have your dog stretch, just as you would. You can help stretch and massage their muscles or mimick stretching movements for them to do. There is a good chance they may want to join in.
How Often Should You Do Long Distance Walking?
If your dog is fit enough for long-distance walking, the walks’ frequency will be up to their individual endurance levels.
When getting started, you should limit long-distance walking to once a month. But if your dog does well with it and seems to still have energy even after the long walking session, then you may be able to up their frequency.
Once they have built up their endurance, you should limit these long walks to once a week to give your dog time for their body to recover and recharge.
The Benefits of Walking: Short vs. Long Distances
Walking your dog can be beneficial not only for your health but for your Labs as well.
One of the most significant benefits of walking your Lab is that it can help keep them at a healthy weight and maintain their muscle strength.
When your Lab is fit, they will enjoy better respiratory and cardiovascular health, leading to improved longevity.
Exercise and weight control can also improve your Lab’s joint health, which is a common ailment that Labs can face as they get older.
On top of all the physical benefits, walking your Lab can provide them with mental benefits as well.
It can help them get out excess energy, socialize, and enjoy new sights, sounds, and smells. In short, walking will make your dog happier.
While both long and short-distance walking share the benefits we’ve covered, long-distance walking provides added benefits:
- Allows them to get a lot of their excess energy out so that they can get better rest and sleep;
- Enables them to improve their lung capacity as they build up their stamina; and
- Provides them with added muscle strength, which will help them to better burn fat and keep a healthier weight.
Labs That Should Not Walk Long Distances
As mentioned above, while most Labs can walk long distances, some Labs should not.
Certain conditions and age can play a factor as to whether or not walking for long distances would be considered safe.
Below are the Labs that should avoid walking for long distances.
While puppies have endless energy, they have yet to develop the physical strength and maturity in their respiratory and cardiovascular systems to handle longer distances. On top of that, they are still learning commands and how to walk on a leash properly.
Once your Lab is an advanced age, their walks should be limited to shorter distances. Elderly Labs will have more wear on their joints, becoming more damaged by walking long distances. They also will not have as good of endurance as they used to and will be more prone to overexertion.
Recovering from an operation
If your Lab has had an operation or procedure, you should wait a few months after your dog has healed to try to walk for long distances. After they recover, they will need to rebuild stamina and muscle strength before you consider extended walks.
Labs that are overweight already have stress on their heart and their lungs. Adding too much exertion can lead to possible complications resulting from this stress. Walking a Lab for long distances when they are too heavy can also put too much strain on their joints, causing them to wear down quicker than they should.
What To Look Out For When Walking Labs Long Distances
Once you begin your Lab on long-distance walks, you will need to be aware of the signs and symptoms that they could be in distress and need a break.
Being vigilant about these signs can prevent your pet from experiencing a major medical complication.
Some things to watch for on your walks include.
Your dog may be overtired if they begin laying down during the walk. Also if they keep stopping to sniff the ground, are panting more than usual, or seem to not be listening to your commands. If you see this, stop and let your dog rest before returning home.
Your dog may be suffering from heat exhaustion if they become confused, vomit, collapse, excessive panting, or have an increased heart rate.
You can prevent heat exhaustion by making sure your dog is well hydrated, walking on cooler days, and making sure there is shade on your walk route.
If your dog begins to look lethargic, their eyes or nose are dry, or their gums are sticky, it could be a sign that they are dehydrated.
Always make sure to take plenty of water on your walks and make stops for hydration.
Exercise-induced collapse in Labs
This is a genetic condition that some Labs may have.
When at rest, they will seem normal and as fit as a Lab without the condition. But once they have done more than 10 minutes of strenuous activity, they may become weak or collapse.
If you notice signs of this condition in your dog, you will have to develop a modified exercise routine.
The Best Gear For Walking Your Labrador
Best dog collars for Labradors
Given the Labrador’s size and strength, you need something well made, strong, highly rated, and durable so that it lasts.
We recommended the Signature Canine collar.
It’s made in America by Amish artisans in Pennsylvania from leather that is double layered for extra strength.
The quality of the Signature collar is considered fit for use in law enforcement and military purposes.
If you walk that long-distance, not inside a National Park, I’d recommend a simple standard leash that’s strong enough for your Lab. These leashes can range between 4-6 feet long.
|Sassy Dog Wear dog leash||6 feet||American made; colorful; made from nylon webbing; matching collar and harness available if you like all your dog items to match.|
|Signature K9 heavy leather leash||6 feet||American made; black; professional grade for the military and law enforcement|
If you are going for those long walks inside a National Park, regulations stipulate you need to have your Lab on a 6 feet long leash. For longer length leashes, you can buy adjustable dog leashes.
Best harness for a Labrador
|Kurgo||Journey||Best option for hiking; back handle to grab your Lab when you need to|
|Julius||K9 Powerharness||Heavy duty|
|Frisco||Padded front lead dog harness||Dual clip (extra strong); slip on design|
|Ruffwear||Front Range||Padded for extra comfort; 2 leash points front and chest.|
Best options for labs that pull
There are a couple of options for Labs that pull hard on a leash and are challenging to control:
- No pull harness
A no-pull harness goes across the chest and clips on the dog leash at the front.
- Head halter
This is a harness for your Lab’s head. The idea behind it is that your Lab can’t put as much force behind their head as they can with a standard harness that sits against their chest. The halter loops over your Lab’s muzzle, shown in the photo below.
If you are walking long distances, I would recommend a no-pull harness over a head halter for comfort. But if your Lab is a terrible puller, then for your own convenience, go with a head halter.
Here are the best options I recommend when walking long distances with a Lab that pulls.
|Gentle leader||Head halter||Comes with a training DVD|
|Halti head collar||Head halter||Customizable to your dog’s head shape|
|Freedom no pull harness with leash||No pull harness||Has front and back attachment points and comes with a matching double-ended leash.|
And what long-distance walk wouldn’t be complete without a collapsible water bowl. Our recommendation is the Prima Pets dog bowl, which can clip on the dog leash.
Are Labradors good off-leash?
Bred as retrievers, Labs spent much of their time off-leash returning shot game to their hunter-owners. Labs will be good off-leash when they are well trained. As they are an intelligent breed of dog, they can be easily trained in recall commands.
Even the best-trained dog will have triggers that can cause them to give chase, such as seeing a rabbit or another dog. This can be dangerous, especially when on busy roads or when they approach another dog that may not be friendly.
If you want to let your Lab enjoy some time off of the leash, keep them leashed on roads and more populated areas. Then let them off when you are on wooded paths, parks, or along a beach.
If you plan on having your dog off the leash at any time, be sure you know the leash laws of the area you are walking in to make sure that it is allowed.
Long-distance walking is an excellent way for high-energy dogs to get their exercise and bond with their owners. As long as they are healthy and fit, a Lab should have no problems walking for distances of even 10 or 20 miles. Good endurance and behavioral training, along with a good diet, can help to prepare your Lab to make these long walks successful. Once you have your dog trained for distance walking, you will be able to explore together and build an even stronger bond.
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