As new puppy parents, you’ve probably already been advised not to over-exercise your Labrador. That is excellent advice as Labradors are susceptible to joint and bone issues, so keeping them safe from an early age is wise.
The general rule that does the rounds, and you’ve probably heard people mention, is the “5- minute rule.”
The “5-minute rule” suggests that you should only walk your dog for 5 minutes per month of their life. So if you have a 3-month-old puppy, the advice would mean that they get walked for just 15 minutes.
Of course, anything that avoids your dog picking up short or long term injuries should be listened to, but this advice isn’t always what is suitable for you and your dog, and the evidence behind the rule isn’t as straightforward as some may think.
This subject of how long to walk a dog is often a divisive issue, and you’ll hear lots of differing advice from owners, trainers and vets. As an experienced owner and Labrador trainer, here is my take on it and the advice that I give to my students at our Online Puppy School. I always advise that you allow your Labrador the amount of exercise they need on a walk.
If your dog needs to expel energy, it’s best to let them do it during a walk in a controlled environment where you can monitor and supervise them. The walk they need may last 5 minutes, or it may be 1 hour, and it will depend on their energy level, mood, previous exercise or activities, health and environment.
Remember…if a dog doesn’t get an opportunity to burn off their energy on a walk with you, they will come home and run around the house and garden to get the release they need. If they are zooming around your garden and jumping on furniture, they are more likely to cause damage or pick up injuries, so it would probably have been better to let them walk for longer or go further.
Whilst walking alone isn’t likely to cause injuries, you should avoid certain activities or actions. If you have a young or adolescent Labrador, avoid the things that impact their joints as much as possible.
Limit their exposure to:
- Repetitive fast movements such as chasing a ball over and over again
- Jumping from heights
- Running up and down steps
- Exercising your dog to the point they are overtired
- Exercising your dog to the point they are overstimulated
- Rough play with other dogs or humans
- Excessive running by allowing opportunities to rest and slow down when needed
- Walking or running on hard surfaces for prolonged periods – give them a variety of surfaces to walk on and allow walking on grass or softer surfaces.
Know your Labrador
If they have the energy to burn, then let them walk and enjoy your time together. Have fun, make it an enjoyable experience and don’t worry about how long you are out. Be guided by your dog rather than your watch. If your Labrador seems tired, bring the walk to an end and let them rest.
Believe it or not, dogs like a day off occasionally- they do not need to go for a walk every day and will probably appreciate a day off occasionally. Sometimes we humans want to stay indoors and chill out. Your Labrador is no different soo give your dog the occasional day off and work their brain instead by playing games in the house or learning a new skill.
If you have a Labrador with injuries or health concerns. You should always follow the advice given by the vet responsible for your dog’s medical care – even if other dog owners or trainers say otherwise – the vet treating your dog knows best!
Have fun, enjoy your walks (regardless of how long they last) and keep developing strong bonds with your Labrador.
If you have any specific questions about this subject, please get in touch.