When choosing the right dog breed for your family, there are many factors that come into play. You need to choose the right temperament, the right size, as well as a breed that works with your lifestyle.
Runners know this all too well, which is why they look for popular dog breeds that can run alongside them. Retrievers are popular dogs in every sense of the word,
Are Golden Retrievers good running companions? For the most part, they have the potential to be excellent companions for casual athletes. They are fast, agile, and have quite a bit of stamina as well.
Of course, there’s more to choosing a dog breed for your running routine than just knowing they might be alright. To make sure the Golden Retriever you want to buddy up with is right for you, read this guide.
Are Golden Retrievers Good Running Companions?
If you ask most people, having a Golden Retriever is a great way to keep in shape. These are very active dogs that enjoy long walks and are willing to play.
Though they aren’t the most active dogs you can adopt, they definitely are more suited to an active lifestyle than most lapdog breeds.
It’s important to remember that both Labrador and Golden Retrievers were originally bred to fetch birds shot down by hunters.
This means that they do, to a point, naturally enjoy running after things. Having them as a companion for a daily run or jog just makes sense.
How Fast Do They Run?
If you were worried about these loyal pups being unable to keep up with your pace, think again. You would actually have a much harder time keeping up with a sprinting retriever than you’d think.
Believe it or not, a typical Golden Retriever could give Usain Bolt a run for his money. Most would never guess it, but the top speed of a Golden Retriever is approximately 35 miles per hour!
How Far Do They Run?
Golden Retrievers aren’t just speedy on their paws; they’re straight-up running machines. They are known for having seriously strong stamina in terms of run length. Though rare, it’s not unheard of for these dogs to finish a 5K alongside their owners!
That being said, how far a retriever can run varies based on certain factors, including:
Why Run With Your Golden Retriever?
Going on runs is great for your health, and that’s no joke. Even a brisk run every morning can help heal your cardiovascular system, lose weight, and also improve your energy. Having a running companion is linked to steadier exercise routines and better workout results.
Having Fido as your running buddy kicks those very same benefits up a notch. Running with a dog, in particular, has been linked to even more benefits, including:
- Better Moods
- Lower Cholesterol
- Better Heart Health
- Lower Cortisol Levels
Training Your Golden Retriever For Runs
Just like with any other aspect of dog ownership, owning a retriever doesn’t mean that you will immediately be able to take them out on marathon runs.
You will need to build them up to that point and make sure they’re going to be capable of handling it.
Training is always a complex process. With running, it also comes with some biological issues to be aware of. Here’s what trainers and owners need to know.
Is My Dog Too Old To Run With Me?
After a certain age, dogs are no longer ready to run as they once were. This is true for every breed. Most vets strongly advise against trying to train with a mature dog simply because of the increased risk of injury.
There aren’t any set guidelines for older dogs and running, but common sense can help you figure out what to do.
A single human year is equal to seven canine years in terms of maturation. You need to do the math to figure out what’s appropriate.
If your Golden Retriever is over seven or eight years old, you need to tone down the running considerably. If your dog is over 10 years old, they should probably not be running at all.
When Can I Start Running With My Dog?
You should never try to run long distances with a young puppy since this can cause hip dysplasia and other lifelong issues. Puppies that are still clearly in their developmental age are generally not ready to become running companions.
The jury is still out on when the youngest age Golden Retrievers can safely run.
- Some veterinarians will say that six months is the absolute youngest age.
- Cautious vets recommend starting with short walks until they are done growing—at least 12 to 18 months in age.
- It’s generally assumed that long runs are doable immediately after dogs stop growing.
That being said, prepping your Golden Retriever for runs can definitely start earlier on. So, you might as well get started on that.
Notes About Canine Health And Running
Not all Golden Retrievers are going to be good running companions. In order for your dog to be a running buddy, you need to make sure they’re healthy enough to handle the stress it’ll put on their bodies.
You should not try to make your dog run alongside you if any of the following things are true:
- Your dog has been diagnosed with joint issues. Running with a dog that has joint problems can seriously injure him and should not be done.
- Your dog is seriously ill. It’s better to focus on getting your dog feeling better than to worry about finding a running partner.
- Your dog is morbidly obese. Just like with humans, morbidly obese dogs can have heart attacks if their bodies are too stressed out. Work on getting your dog to a healthier weight before you hit the roads.
Notes About The Weather
Weather can have a huge impact on how you should plan out runs. Here are some quick tips to help you out:
- Keep things moderate. Extreme cold temperatures and high heat are not appropriate for long, strenuous trails.
- Clothe your dog on very cold days. Golden Retrievers might be hardy, but they will still start to shiver and shake on freezing days.
- Raincoats are a thing for a reason. Raincoats can prevent your dog from smelling terrible, but they also can trap heat. Make sure that the raincoat won’t become too warm for your pup!
- Use common sense. If a storm is outside, your dog should stay inside.
Getting Your Dog Into Running Shape
Before you can start running long distances with your dog, it’s a good idea to work on getting your pup into top shape. The most important thing to work on prior to doing long-distance runs is to focus on your dog’s weight.
A dog that is a healthy weight is a dog that will have less stress on its joints when it runs and will have the ability to run faster, for longer distances. It’s in both you and your dog’s best interest to keep them at a healthy weight.
Vets agree that the ideal weight range for Golden Retrievers is between 55 to 71 pounds for a female and 65 to 75 pounds for males. If your dog is overweight, reducing their food portions and avoiding too many treats will help them get into shape.
First, Start With Walking
Getting your dog to be a running companion is something you need to do gradually. That’s why it’s best to start your dog off with walks. Even young adult puppies can do short walks around the block to get used to a little exercise.
Here’s what you need to know about training a puppy for walks that will later turn into runs:
- Socialize him to everything. You really can’t bring a dog outdoors without making sure he can handle seeing everything from people to cars, to cats. By training your puppy to behave appropriately, you’re ensuring that tragedy won’t strike your runs.
- Make sure he understands (and responds) to basic training cues. Your dog should be able to respond to “no,” “stop,” “slow down,” and “come here” before they start walking outside of your backyard.
- Start small and build up distance. Distance is the first thing you should conquer before you start running with your pooch. Start off your walks at 15 to 30 minutes, then slowly build up to an hour.
- Try different terrains. Uphill, downhill, and level terrain will all tire your Golden Retrieve out at different rates. Varying terrains will help build up stamina for running later on.
- Reward your dog for walking. It’s rare, but some Golden Retrievers can get a little lazy and refuse to walk. A treat for good behavior can help you get your dog into running if he’s resistant to training.
Realistically, taking your dog for a walk should be a basic cornerstone of their care. This is the least any Golden Retriever owner should be doing to keep their dog fit, regardless of your intent to run with them.
Then, Start Jogging
Once your Golden Retriever has gotten used to long walks with you, it’s time to start picking up the pace. Much like with walking, introducing your retriever to jogging should be done gradually. These tips can help:\
- Startby making trails that alternate between jogging and walking. Going for a full jog at the very start will tire out your dog, so keep it varied until it’s clear your dog is used to both paces.
- The first initial, “jog” should be only 20 minutes long. Since jogging is a lot more intense than walking, short sessions are a must when you’re first starting up.
- Slowly start to build up the amount of time you jog, versus the time spent walking. Once you and your dog start jogging a trail in full, you can start to lengthen the time spent jogging.
- Have hydration breaks. Walking with your retriever might not be strenuous enough to require water breaks, but jogging is a different story. Your pup needs to stay hydrated in order to keep going, particularly on longer trails or during hotter days.
- Watch your dog’s reactions while you jog. The distances you’re jogging may not seem like much, but to a new training Golden Retriever, it can be a lot! Keep an eye on your dog to watch for signs of fatigue or stress. If your dog seems exhausted, take a break and give him water.
After You Start Jogging, Run!
Jogging is the bridge that makes all the difference between taking your dog on a walk and taking your dog on a run. For the most part, getting your dog to this final step is very similar to how you approached the switch from walking to running.
Though the method is similar, there are still some important details to remember when you’re finally breaking into running with a Golden Retriever:
- Runs should be introduced by alternating paces, too. Much like with jogging, taking your dog out for its first bunch of runs will require short (20-minute or so) beginner trips that just start switching up paces.
- Take extra hydration breaks. Do you know how you tend to feel a little parched when you go out for a run? Your dog will feel that way too! Even though drink breaks became a regular staple in your jogging routine, it’s worth pointing out that extra water will be necessary when you run. Skipping this can cause your retriever to overheat.
- Choose trails that are easy at first. Running is strenuous for both people and pups. So, start with trails that aren’t overly hilly.
- Have a warm-up and cool-down planned out. With both running and jogging, it’s a good idea to spend at least five minutes before and after your session doing some light exercise together. A brisk walk is all you need to make sure you’re both physically ready to speed up.
Rest And Recovery
A little “R and R” does everyone good, especially when you are in the process of kicking your exercise routine up a notch. That’s why vets suggest doing “transitional walks” every other day until your dog gets used to the pace.
When it comes to phasing jogging, long walks, or running into your dog’s life, doing this slowly is best. Each transition phase should take at least four to six weeks. A good rule of thumb is to avoid more than a 10 percent increase in time or distance in a single week. After all, it is a build-up more than a steep climb.
Recovery will help your dog enjoy walks, improve his health, and also boost his stamina. So, let him rest up. Once each transitional walk is done, bring your dog home and let them relax.
Leashing Your Golden Retriever
We’ve all seen dog owners who are able to go everywhere and anywhere without their dog leashed. It’s a sign of great training!
However, if you’re looking to turn your dog into a running buddy, you need to know certain things before you give this a go.
Will They Stay By My Side?
One of the reasons why trainers suggest Golden Retrievers as a top running companion is because they have a natural tendency to want to stay by their owner’s side. So, yes, it’s safe to say that your Golden Retriever will stay right by you while you run your trails.
Leashed or unleashed, your Golden Retriever will most likely want to run right next to you when you’re out and about. That being said, you still will need to train them to run by your side consistently in order to get your best results.
Do I Need A Leash?
Not all dogs work well leash-less, but Golden Retrievers do. If you are willing to work on training them for leash-free walks, you will not need a leash. That being said, there are things to consider when choosing to go lead-free with your dog:
- Local laws may require a leash. Even if your dog is super well-trained and socialized, the law in your area may still require a leash. If you aren’t sure whether or not you can go lead-free, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- You will need to train your Golden Retriever to be leash-free. Golden Retrievers are notoriously good at being obedient, learning tricks, and following commands. However, teaching your dog all the commands will take time. If you’re not willing to take that commitment, it may be an off-limits table.
- Your dog might also have personality issues that make leashes a safety measure. If you adopted a retriever who has dealt with trauma from a previous owner, a leash may be necessary for the dog’s own safety. You never know what may trigger a dog with a sketchy past to run off.
How To Avoid A Botched Run With Your Dog
Golden Retrievers might be easy to train, but even the most well-trained dog will still get curious about all the new sights and smells they see on a trail.
Both leash and leash-free dogs will occasionally need some guidance while on a run, especially when they’re just getting used to running with you.
Along with making a serious effort to train your dog to avoid distractions before you hit the trail, coming up with a way to make sure your dog doesn’t walk, you can help. Bringing treats with you can help drag your dog’s attention back to you if they get too distracted.