Need a Running Partner? How About Your Golden Retriever


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So you’re thinking about starting a running program, or maybe you’re already an avid runner. You decide you need a running buddy to make running more fun and motivational, and as a Golden Retriever owner, you wonder if you can run with a Golden Retriever? Good question!

As a whole, Golden Retrievers make great running companions. The breed is part of the sporting group of dogs, which require high daily activity levels, and running can help meet their exercise needs. However, consult your vet before starting, and be mindful of the dog’s age, weight, and fitness level. 

Of course, running with your Golden Retriever has some issues that need to be considered first. Running can be a part of their daily exercise requirements, but it’s essential to start slow and be mindful of not pushing your dog too hard, too fast. 

So, to ensure you start your Golden Retriever off right on its running program, let’s take a look at everything you need to know to get started right. 

At What Age Can I Start Running With My Golden Retriever?

Age is one of the most critical factors in determining if a Golden Retriever is suitable for a running program. Runners must be mindful of older, senior dogs and puppies due to the physical limitations their age poses.

For puppy owners, at what age can you start running with a Golden Retriever is one of the most important questions to answer before starting.

Golden Retrievers should NOT start running until 14 to 18 months of age. Running stresses joints and growth plates, which have not adequately developed before 14 to 18 months. Golden Retrievers are also prone to joint disorders, making it prudent to wait until joints and bones are fully fused.

Golden Retrievers are medium to large dogs. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), larger breed dogs take longer to develop than smaller dogs. As such, running at too young of an age for larger breed dogs (like Golden Retrievers) can damage their joints.

“It is imperative to know that excessive, prolonged activity, like jogging, can be extremely detrimental on the bones and joints of growing puppies. This is why it is never recommended to do road work or jogging on a dog less than 14 to 18 months of age, especially large and giant breeds until the growth plates have fully fused”. 

Dr. Jerry Klein, DVM and Chief Veterinary Officer at AKC

Just how long it takes for the joints of a large breed dog to fully develop is shown in the table below. The growth table shows large breed dogs as 51 to 100 pounds, which most Golden Retrievers fall within. (As a reference, the average size for Golden Retrievers is 55 to 75 pounds, depending on the gender of the dog.)

Puppy Growth Chart In Percentage For Large Breed Dogs

AgeLarge Breed Dog
(51 to 100 pounds)
6 months60%
9  months75%
12 months85%
15 months95%
18 months100%
Source: AKC

I wrote an article detailing if a Golden Retriever is a medium or large-breed dog. In the article, I discuss what distinguishes a medium dog from a large one, the size limitations of Golden Retrievers, and what factors affect growth. If you’re interested, you can find that post here: Is a Golden Retriever a Medium or Large Dog Breed?

How Much Should a Golden Retriever Run? 

So, we’ve established that Golden Retrievers make great running companions, and the appropriate age they can begin. But what about the amount of roadwork once you get going. How much should a Golden Retriever run?  

Healthy adult Golden Retrievers should be exercised 60 to 120 minutes per day, which can include running. Shorter, brisk runs, or slower, longer runs can be a healthy part of your dog’s daily exercise. Start slowly and take one, preferably two, days off from running per week to allow your dog to recover. 

So, yes, Golden Retrievers are well adapted to covering a wide range of running needs. For example, suppose you’re a recreation runner who prefers to do a brisk, shorter 30-minute run daily. In that case, your Golden Retriever will be happy to keep pace with you. 

Suppose you prefer slower, longer runs. Maybe it’s on the weekends, or perhaps you’re training for a marathon. No worries, the Golden Retriever is equally up to the task (provided you worked up to longer distances slowly – more on that later). 

Runners World ranked the Golden Retriever as one of the best dogs for running in their 2021 article.

In the article, The Best Types of Dogs for Runners, author Brian Dalek turned to some dog professionals to help determine the best dogs for running. Dog trainer JT Clough; Bryan Barrera, an experienced dog runner; Karen London, a certified animal behaviorist; and the American Kennel Club were consulted to list the best canine running partners

According to Runners World, the Golden Retriever, along with its cousin the Labrador Retriever, not only made the list of best dogs for runners but received the notable distinction of being the best dog for short, brisk runs and long slow runs. 

So, there it is. The Golden Retriever is an excellent running companion for short or long distances. Regardless of how much you run, the Golden Retriever is the dog for the job. It is imperative, however, to work up to longer distances and faster paces. 

Later in the article, I will provide some formal guidelines and resources on how to ease into running with your Golden Retriever, including some distance guidelines.

How Far Can a Golden Retriever Run?

So, Golden Retrievers are well adapted to running short or long distances. We’ve established that 60 to 120 minutes daily is how much exercise they should receive, and that can include running. But that is a time requirement. And maybe you’re a distance person (most runners are) and want to know what distance or how far a Golden Retriever can run.

As a whole, a healthy adult Golden Retriever can run 3 to 12 miles regularly and even work up to running a marathon (26.2 miles). First, however, check with your veterinarian to ensure running is suited to your Golden Retriever’s age, weight, and health status, and increase distance and pace gradually. 

So, there you have it. Golden Retriever can run long distances. For most runners, a Golden Retriever can comfortably accompany them on a 5 or 10 k run (3 to 6 miles) after some conditioning.

Running that mileage 4 or 5 times per week is not problematic for most Goldens, provided they have been given time to adapt and become conditioned. 

The fact that Golden Retrievers can comfortably run longer distances should not be all that surprising, considering Golden Retrievers require 60 to 120 minutes of exercise per day.

For example, suppose you run a 10-minute mile (fast jog). That pace is slow trot or quick walk for most Golden Retrievers and should pose no issues after a conditioning period. A 10-minute mile would translate to 3 miles in 30 minutes, 6 miles in an hour, and 12 miles in two hours.

Hardly unreasonable for a fit Golden Retriever.

Still, an unconditioned Golden may find 6 miles too much, never mind 12, so you must build your dog up to longer distances gradually. 

How Fast Can a Golden Retriever Run?

Golden Retrievers were bred to run and do fieldwork for hours on end. Therefore, the breed is efficient runners distance-wise. However, many runners monitor their speed or “pace” and may be concerned that their pace is too fast when running with a Golden Retriever.

So, just how fast can a Golden Retriever run?

Golden Retrievers can reach top speeds of 35 mph for short bursts. The breed can run at a sustained pace for more extended periods at about 12 mph. Contrast that with Usain Bolt, who briefly reached a speed of 27.5 mph. As a result, a Golden Retriever will have little difficulty keeping pace with most recreational runners.

So, Golden Retrievers can run fast at top speeds. Very fast.

Faster than 100-meter world record holder Usain Bolt (source). Obviously, like distance, the pace needs to be increased gradually over time. However, keeping pace with most runners should pose no issues for a conditioned Golden Retriever.

Consider a 6-minute mile, which is a very fast pace. For example, a 6-minute mile translates to a sustained speed of 10 mph, whereas 12 mph is slightly less than a 5-minute mile.

While a Golden Retriever could maintain that pace, it would not be recommended due to its potential for being too much. However, we run with our dogs for fun and the health benefits running provides.

Safety is priority one, and our dogs matter most. So, save the high speeds and pace for your lone competitive aspirations if you need to go fast and hard.

However, for the vast majority of recreational runners – be it leisurely running for health, training for a 5 Km or 10 Km run, or even a marathon, your Golden Retriever can run fast enough to accommodate your pace. But, runners still need to be mindful when it becomes too much.

When running becomes too much for your Golden Retriever is discussed next.

Can a Golden Retriever Run Too Much? 

Healthy adult Golden Retrievers are well suited to running both short and long distances. However, sometimes distance is not the only issue. Running distance can be impacted by certain things, which can turn a seemingly routine run into too much for your Golden Retriever. 

So, how do we know when it’s too much running for our Golden Retriever and when we need to back off on the road work.

Signs that your Golden Retriever has run too much include excessive panting, lagging behind, and looking exhausted. Pad abrasions, limping, or soreness are also signs that it is too much running. Other factors that may limit how far your dog can run are weather, weight, running pace, and lack of conditioning.   

So, the key takeaway is to keep in mind that running distance is dependent on many factors. In her article How Far Can I Run With My Dog, veterinarian Justine Lee summarizes some considerations to be aware of when running has become too much for your dog.

Pad Abrasions

Dogs run barefoot, and their pads can wear off. Dr. Lee believes pad abrasion is a sign of too much running, and I’d agree. If you’ve ever run with blistered feet, you can attest to how painful it can be. 

Soreness

According to Dr. Lee, once a dog has developed osteoarthritis or orthopedic problems, then “it can be painful for them to have that constant pounding of running.”

The best advice here – work with your vet to determine less painful ways to exercise your dog. Dr. Lee suggests swimming – something Golden Retrievers are bred for and love to do. 

Hot weather

Dr. Lee advises taking the temperature in Fahrenheit and adding it to the humidity – if it’s 150 or over, then it’s too hot for your Golden Retriever to run. Running plus hot weather is a recipe for heatstroke, and the farther the run on hot days, the greater risk of it being too much for your dog. 

If you’re interested in what temperatures are too hot for Golden Retrievers, I wrote an article on when summer temperatures become problematic, the signs of heatstroke, and what actions to take if your Golden Retriever is suffering from heatstroke. Check it out here: Golden Retrievers In Hot Weather: What’s Too Hot?.

Conditioning

In a companion article, How Many Miles Can You Run With Your Dog? Dr. Lee confirms that Golden Retrievers make great running partners but cautions runners to take things slow. 

Slowly acclimate your dog to running – don’t just expect him to cover 5 miles on day one and 12 miles by day 2. If your dog is panting excessively, dragging behind, or looking tired (even on a cool day), take it easy. It’s not worth hurting your pooch just to train for your marathon!

Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT

Building on Dr. Lee’s great advice, I’ve added a few additional items to keep on your radar. 

Cold weather

It’s best to keep runs shorter in colder weather. Humans can modify their dress to accommodate the weather. Our dogs do not. 

Veterinarian Joe Whalen suggests sticking to shorter runs of 3 to 5 miles in the winter (source). He also advises that if you have to wear a facemask to cover up from the cold, then it’s too cold for your dog to join you. 

Weight

Obese or overweight Golden Retrievers should not run. The extra pudge adds stress to joints, something we Golden Retriever owners need to be cautious of when exercising our dogs. It’s better to put your dog on a weight loss diet and stick to walking until it is at a healthy weight to run. 

Pace

As discussed earlier, Golden Retrievers can run very fast. However, the quicker your dog has to run, the harder it becomes. So be wary of not only the distance you’re running with your dog but how hard you’re pushing it.

Remember, your dog does not wear a Polar Running watch and doesn’t know how to pace itself. So setting a reasonable pace for your dog is your job. 

Can a Golden Retriever Run a Marathon

While running is a recreational activity many people love, many runners do not aspire to run a marathon. Most of us are content to stick to 5 or 10 K runs. However, some runners enjoy longer distances, which begs the question: can a Golden Retriever run a marathon? 

Golden Retrievers can run a marathon given adequate time to build their conditioning. However, Golden Retrievers can be prone to joint issues and dysplasias, so consult your vet before starting. Provided there are no health issues, start slow and build distance slowly by adding 0.25 miles per week. 

While some may be concerned that running a marathon with your dog is too much, it is more common than many think. 

However, successfully running a marathon with a dog largely depends on the breed of the dog. Fortunately, as we learned earlier, Golden Retrievers belong to the sporting group of dogs, a highly energetic breed and well suited to running. 

Consider Bella – a four-year-old Labrador Retriever, and her owner Elizabeth spotlighted in an article by Runners World in 2019. Since being adopted, Bella and her owner have completed 18 half marathons and two full marathons.

A lab is not a Golden Retriever, but they are genetic cousins and belong to the same group of dogs, with both possessing a penchant for high activity and running. 

Hold up. Suppose you’re curious about which is the better dog, the Golden or Labrador Retriever. In that case, I have the right article for you: Golden Versus Labrador Retriever: Which is The Better Dog? Please take a few minutes to check it out.

Elizabeth proceeded slowly with Bella. First, she got the all-clear from her vet, who suggested she wait until one year before Bella starts running (remember those joint issues for retrievers). Then she started training Bella like a new runner, starting with ¼ mile runs and building from there. 

Elizabeth and Bella follow a structured plan when training for a marathon, with their roadwork now ranging between 30 to 45 miles weekly. 

Going slow with the right dog breed is echoed by Bob Halpenny, an avid long-distance runner with years of experience running with dogs. In the article, Can a Dog Train For a Marathon?, Halpenny cautions runners to select a bigger breed and one suited to do work for hours (like hunting dogs). 

“The most important thing in training for distance races is to go slow. Going too quickly is the biggest mistake people make for themselves, and that’s true for your dog too. All bodies take time to build up for distance running.”

Bob halpenny

How Do I Start Running With My Golden Retriever?

So, you’ve taken your Golden Retriever to the vet and have been given the okay to proceed. You’re eager to start running with your dog, but you’re unsure how to start running with your Golden Retriever.

To start running with your Golden Retriever, begin by warming up and end with a cool down. Keep the runs short to start, letting the dog set a comfortable pace. Bring 2 to 3 times the water you drink for your dog. When starting, let your dog walk if it wants and explore. It’s about having a good time.

Always watch your Golden Retriever, regardless of the distance being run, to see how the dog is adapting. Only when your dog has easily adjusted to a certain distance is it safe to increase mileage.  

While running, listen to your dog for signs of labored breathing or excessive panting. If you hear anything concerning, stop immediately or walk until the dog recovers.

One of the best ways to begin a running program is to alternate walking with running. It eases the dog into running for longer distances while allowing you to assess how your Golden Retriever is handling the increased mileage.

Watch Coach Bennet, Nike’s Head Global Running Coach, as he offers general tips to hardcore runner Keely Henninger on how to get started running with a dog. It’s pretty funny too.

Should you want running suggestions that are more structured or formal, then consider Brian Dalek’s recommendations.

Brian, a running enthusiast, and director of content operations at Runners World recommend starting at 2 to 3 miles per run, 3 or 4 days per week. Then, after a week or two of running at that distance and an easy pace, it’s time to bump it up a bit.

“Once you have a week or so of running down at that easy pace, try adding 0.5 mile or 10 minutes to your original 2-3 mile runs during the week”, says Brian.

If your Golden Retriever adapts easily to that extra distance or time, increase the pace a bit or add an extra run to the week. After a month or so at that base mileage, Brian recommends increasing to four or five days a week.

Brian stresses that most dog trainers strongly recommend at least one, preferably two, rest days per week. However, walking is considered active recovery, so I’d recommend taking your Golden Retriever for a leisurely, fun walk on rest days to ensure you meet its daily exercise requirements.

In the last section, I discuss dos and don’ts for running with your Golden Retriever. Some of these tips may have been discussed earlier, but they are so important that it bears repeating. 

Dos and Don’ts for Running With Your Golden Retriever? 

Alright, you’ve learned that Golden Retrievers make great running partners and are well suited to running short or long distances. Heck, with proper training and time, they can even run marathons. 

The following section covers some essential dos and don’ts (tips) to keep in mind when running with your Golden Retriever to ensure it’s the most enjoyable (and safest) experience possible. 

Dos

  • Do consult your vet before starting a running program to ensure your Golden Retriever is healthy to run.
  • Do teach your dog to walk politely on the leash. Leash pulling will tire you more quickly.
  • Do respect your dog’s wishes if it does not like running. Running should be enjoyable for both of you.
  • Do hydrate often – remember, dogs don’t sweat like humans, and a good rule of thumb is they need 2 to 3 times the hydration we do when running.
  • Do watch for signs that your dog’s running too much. Signs include paw abrasions, limping, soreness, difficulty getting up, and excessive panting or lagging behind you during a run. 
  • Do warm-ups and cool-downs. Start workouts by walking before running at a leisurely pace. Finish with a walk as a cool down. 
  • Do examine your dog after each run, and especially the paws for signs of abrasions. Clean the paws to remove dirt and debris, especially in the wintertime. Use a paw cream (check out my Must-Have Dog Gear at the end of the post for some great paw cream).

Don’ts

  • Don’t begin running with your Golden Retriever until it’s 14 – 18 months of age. Joints need to be fully fused first.
  • Don’t progress too fast – start slow and allow your Golden Retriever lots of time to adjust.
  • Don’t run if your Golden Retriever is overweight. Instead, walk the dog until it reaches a healthy weight. 
  • Don’t ignore the weather. If the temperature plus humidity equals 150 or greater, it’s too hot. If you have to cover your face in the winter, it’s too cold.
  • Don’t run on the hard pavement if possible. Instead, stick to grass where available. It’s easier on your dog’s joints and paws. Joint health is essential to a long and healthy running career.
  • Don’t run every day. However, Golden Retrievers still need daily exercise, so walk 2-3 times per week on designated rest days.
  • Don’t forget to have fun. If your Golden Retriever loves to run, then you not only have an activity that you both can enjoy for years but one that will keep both of you healthy as well. 

So, that’s it.

You should pretty much be set now to run with your Golden Retriever, and you have all the helpful information your need to get you on your way.

You know to check with your vet first. You know to start off and build slowly, and you are well versed in the dos and don’t of running with your dog. 

Now all you need to do is get your running gear on, put a leash on your Golden Retriever, and head out the door.

Happy running! Woof-woof!


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