A Lazy Golden Retriever? (Do They Exist and Possible Causes)


When you think of a lazy dog, what do you envision?

Maybe it’s having to encourage your dog to get moving or be active? Or it’s a dog that has firmly affixed itself to your favorite spot on the couch and won’t move or hasn’t for hours.

In any case, it’s probably safe to say that a Golden Retriever would not be the first dog to come to mind when thinking about “lazy dogs.” 

But it did get me thinking, so I decided to do some research to determine the answer to the question, are Golden Retrievers lazy? 

Are Golden Retrievers Lazy?

As a whole, Golden Retrievers are not lazy but relatively high-energy and very active dogs. Aside from individual personality differences, common reasons for laziness could include health or medical issues, age, too much exercise, boredom, weight issues, diet, emotional distress, or weather. 

It is far more common for Golden Retriever owners to complain that their dog is highly energetic and requires a lot of physical activity.

It is usually out of the ordinary for a Golden Retriever to be tired, lazy, or lethargic in the extreme. However, there is usually a driving force behind it that needs to be investigated in such cases.

I think it’s important to keep in mind that most Golden Retrievers, once out of early puppyhood, will sleep a good portion of the day if exercised adequately.

In other words, it’s not typical for an adult Golden Retriever to be active every hour upon the hour if their physical, mental, and social needs are met.

What might be concerning is when a Golden Retriever is sudden lazy or inactive beyond what is normal for the individual dog.

If being lazy is not out of the ordinary for your Golden Retriever, then the reason could simply be that it’s your dog’s personality.

Individual Personality

Yes, it’s possible to have a Golden Retriever that is more mellow. However, dogs are not unlike us, and they do have unique personalities, including just having a lower energy level.

Some Goldens may be goofier and others more even-keeled, and you’ll get Goldens that are everything in between.

Similarly, some Golden may be more active and require a lot of physical activity, while other Goldens may require far less.

Suggested Actions: 

  1. Work within a Golden Retriever’s personality and accept them for who they are. You may find advantages to a lower energy Golden, such as the dog prefers to cuddle with you on the couch and is exceptionally well-behaved. 
  2. Try finding lower energy activities where a Golden can still be physically and mentally active while still allowing time for the dog to be itself. 

Individual personality aside, if your Golden Retriever is suddenly lethargic and lazy and it’s not the norm for your dog, then there could be another issue at the root of the problem.

Possible causes could be:

  • Health and medical issues
  • Age
  • Too much exercise
  • Too little exercise
  • Weight
  • Diet
  • Emotional distress
  • Weather

Health and Medical Issues

If low energy and/or laziness is unusual or a recent occurrence for a Golden Retriever, there could be an underlying medical issue. 

Ruling out health issues should always be the first course of action when a behavior change is sudden and out of the norm.  

Possible causes for extreme lethargy could be infections, metabolic disorders (e.g., heart, lungs, liver, kidney diseases, and diabetes).

Don’t discount medications. If a Golden Retriever is on a prescription for a health issue, that could be causing its lethargy and laziness. 

Your Golden Retriever may also be suffering from an injury. Dogs can be very good at masking pain, and often they won’t vocalize it.

While signs of pain can often be agitation or restlessness, equally as likely is withdrawing or lethargy. 

Look for constant licking of a body part or if the dog favors one side or body position over another. You can try examining your Golden but be wary that a painful injury could result in aggressive behavior due to the pain.

If you suspect an injury, it’s best to see the vet. 

I wrote an article on some of the most serious and costly health issues that Golden Retriever can be afflicted with. If you’re interested you can check that article out here:

The Most Serious and Costly Health Issues in Golden Retrievers

Suggested Actions: 

  1. Take your Golden to the vet to get it checked out. There is no sense guessing, be sure. Let your vet rule out any issues. 
  2. If on medications, check the drug for a common side effect that includes decreased energy as the cause. 
  3. Have any suspected injuries checked out, and be mindful when examining and transporting your Golden to the vet’s office. 

Age

As a Golden Retriever gets up in age, it will naturally begin to slow down and become less active. This is because senior Golden Retrievers don’t have the drive and physical capability that younger ones do.

More senior Golden Retrievers don’t recuperate as quickly, so a long walk or exercise session might require more “downtime” until they’re ready to go again. A decline in activity with age is normal and expected.

If you have noticed a decline in energy over the years, it’s most likely the dog is just enjoying its well-earned senior years by being lazier. 

Suggested Actions: 

  1. Ensure you modify any physical activity to be aligned with a Golden’s advancing age. 
  2. Ensure your home is senior-friendly (e.g., move the dog’s bed from upstairs to downstairs.), especially if your dog is having issues getting around.
  3. You may also need to modify your Golden’s diet to align with any reduction in activity levels. 
  4. Talk to your vet about steps you can take to make your Golden’s senior years as enjoyable as possible. 

Too Much Exercise

Yes, it can happen. Just like after a challenging workout, you feel a little rundown; this can happen to a dog too. Or suppose your Golden is a lower energy dog and has a natural inclination for less activity.

In that case, he may not need the same level of activity as a more high-energy Golden. 

If your Golden has been over-exercised, it may be resistant to activities, become lethargic, and develop mobility issues. Be alert to any potential issues.

If you’re starting your Golden on a new exercise program or to manage its weight, avoid more prolonged bouts of exercise early on.

Instead, increase the amount of activity gradually over time so your Golden can adapt. 

Suggested Actions: 

  1. If you think you have over-exercised your Golden, give him adequate time to recover. 
  2. Modify the amount and duration of exercise to align with the energy requirements while still meeting your dog’s needs. 
  3. Be mindful of intense exercise sessions such as running, which can impact a dog’s joints and muscles. 

Boredom (Too Little Exercise)

While over-exercising a Golden Retriever is rare, it’s common for an active dog like a Golden Retriever to be under-exercised. The breed is known to need a high level of activity.

Often, owners are too busy with work, kids, and life in general, to give a high energy Golden the physical and mental outlet it needs. 

The Golden Retriever is one of the smartest dogs and needs to have mental stimulation and physical exercise. Mental stimulation comes in the form of play, training, and games. 

Lack of physical and mental stimulation can result in boredom for your dog. While boredom usually takes the form of mischievous behaviors, a Golden Retriever may also become withdrawn and unenergetic, i.e., lazy. 

If you’re interested in some great activities to keep your Golden from getting bored, then check this post out:

Boredom Busters: 21 Great Activities for Your Golden Retriever

Suggested Actions:  

  1. A fetch game is a great way to exercise the mind and body. 
  2. You can play some tug in the house or get your Golden some puzzle game to challenge its mind. 
  3. Consider enrolling your Golden in rally, agility, obedience, or other canine sports games. In addition to helping your Golden relieve boredom, it gives you an activity you can bond over together.
  4. Ensure your Golden has lots of chew and play toys available at all times. 

Weight Issues 

Golden Retrievers always seem to be hungry. To say their food motivated can be an understatement. But, unfortunately, that food drive is a double edge sword.

To learn more about why Golden Retrievers are always hungry, check out this post:

Golden Retrievers: Why Are They Always So Hungry?

While a high food drive makes reward-based training more effortless, it also makes a Golden more prone to weight gain. Therefore, it’s essential to keep an eye on a Golden Retriever’s calories and weight level. 

Being overweight or obese can most definitely affect your dog’s energy levels, as well as cause health issues.

This is because your Golden has to carry around that extra weight and may tire more quickly or lack the motivation to exercise at all.

Excess weight can also increase stress on joints and muscles, making it more difficult for your Golden to exercise. 

Suggested Actions: 

  1. If your Golden Retriever is overweight or underweight, talk to your vet on how best to proceed. 
  2. Avoid table feeding your Golden and watch the treats. 
  3. Increase exercise duration gradually over time to avoid over-exercising your Golden Retriever.  

Diet

Often a change in the brand of dog food or amount being fed may be at the heart of changes in energy levels.

High-quality dog foods are designed for dogs based on their age and size. Your Golden needs to have the right type of food to ensure its nutritional requirements are met.

As discussed above, overfeeding your Golden can cause weight gain and a decreased ability or desire to be as active.

But, underfeeding your dog or not providing high-quality dog food can have the same outcome.

Without the necessary calories and energy, your Golden may not have the fuel to be active. As a result, your Golden Retriever can also become underweight or too skinny and thereby affecting its energy levels.

I wrote an article on identifying if your Golden Retriever is too skinny, including possible causes and solutions. You can read that article here:

Is My Golden Retriever Too Skinny? (Signs to Look For).

While much rarer, a Golden Retriever may also be a picky eater. Most often, that is due to table feeding and acquiring a taste for human food. Let’s face it I’d rather have tasty Doritos than icky dog food.

While most dogs will not starve if there is food available, their diet may not have the necessary macro and micronutrients if they are being fed a diet that is proportionately table scraps and human treats.

Also, be mindful of feeding your Golden Retriever fruits and vegetables. While some can be a healthy snack full of vitamins and minerals, some can be harmful or even deadly. Snacks should only compromise 10 percent of your dog’s diet and that includes acceptable fruits and vegetables.

Suggested Actions:

  1. Make sure your brand of dog food is high quality and your Golden nutritional needs are being met. Talk to your vet or the pet store to determine the right dog food for your dog’s age and size.
  2. Ensure your Golden is getting the right amount of food. Check the food table on the back of the bag to ensure it is getting the appropriate amount.
  3. Monitor the weight of your dog and adjust food and exercise accordingly. Enlist the guidance of your vet if you feel your dog is under or overweight.

Emotional Distress

Golden Retrievers are one of the most emotionally sensitive dog breeds. As a result, Golden Retrievers become very attached to their families and prefer not to be left alone for long periods. 

Goldens can become fearful and withdrawn if physical or loud verbal corrections are used. Moreover, they need to have their mental, physical, and socialization needs to be met to ensure they are well-balanced and healthy. 

Emotional distress can manifest itself in various symptoms, including becoming withdrawn, lethargic, and even depressed. The withdrawn behavior can easily be mistaken as laziness.  

Suggested Actions:

  1. Ensure your Golden Retriever’s mental, physical, and social needs are being met.
  2. Utilize positive-reward-based training and a lot of love and attention.
  3. Don’t leave a Golden Retriever alone for too long.
  4. Socialization is essential for a dog. Look into playdates for your dog or consider a puppy daycare. 

Weather

When temperature and humidity levels begin to rise, a Golden can become overheated. Heat exhaustion or overheating can manifest in an unwillingness to exercise or be active.

In fact, it is not uncommon for a Golden Retriever to be lazier during the day when temperatures become very hot in the summer.

To learn what temperatures are too hot for your Golden Retriever and how to keep it cool, check out this article: Golden Retrievers In Hot Weather: Keeping Them Cool.

In the article, I also discuss signs of heatstroke and what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion.

Conversely, when temperatures drop, a Golden can become frostbitten, and its nose and paws are especially susceptible. The cold can make a Golden uncomfortable. It may also fatigue more quickly due to the effect of cold on muscles. 

Just like we prefer to be indoors on a cold day, snuggled up on the couch, a Golden may naturally migrate to the warmth of the home over the cold outdoors. 

Suggest Actions: 

  1. Avoid exercising your Golden Retriever when the weather is too hot. Instead, opt for early morning or evening sessions and bring water for your Golden during outdoor activities. 
  2. In winter, keep exercise sessions shorter and utilize booties and a coat if extremely cold. 

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