There are six different breeds of retriever –
1) Golden Retriever.
2) Labrador Retriever.
3) Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
4) Curly Coated Retriever.
5) Flat-Coated Retriever.
6) Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.
The best known of the retriever are the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever. These are very popular family pets because of their gentle and fun nature. For more information on how to exercise a Labrador Retriever see here.
Golden Retriever Exercise Requirements
The Retrievers were bred to be working dogs and to retrieve birds or other prey and return them to the hunter without damage. This involved hiking long distance, running and swimming. Even though they are commonly pets these days they still have the genetic makeup of a working dog and were bred to be high energy and very active.
A Golden Retriever requires at least a good hour of exercise a day, preferably more. The genetic bloodlines they come from will also affect how much exercise that your Golden Retriever needs. Golden Retrievers that come from working stock will require even more exercise than a Golden Retriever bred to be a pet.
This guideline of exercise needs of a Golden Retriever relates to a healthy adult dog. The exercise needs for a puppy differ as their bodies are growing and developing. See the bottom of this article for a guide for exercising a Golden Retriever puppy.
For an older Golden Retriever, exercise is still crucial to maintain good health and keep muscles and joints functioning well. However, the volume of exercise becomes a balancing act between enough to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. See the bottom of the article for more on exercising a senior Golden Retriever.
Failure to provide adequate daily exercise and mental stimulation for your Golden Retriever can lead to behavior issues. This can include destructive behavior, digging, nuisance barking and even escaping to find their own fun.
In addition, Labradors and Retrievers are very food driven breeds and not having the opportunity to burn off the calories they consume often lets to being overweight or even obese. This becomes a problem as it can lead to strain on the joints, damage to the internal organs such as the heart and even lead to diabetes.
Types of exercise for Golden Retrievers
There are three main types of exercise and activity you must provide your Golden Retriever every day.
- 1. Daily walk
- 2. Purposeful High-Intensity Activity and Play (see Golden Retriever exercise ideas below)
- 3. Mental stimulation (see Mental enrichment for Golden Retrievers below)
How to tell if Golden Retriever is overweight.
It is hard to say what the ideal weight for a labrador or retriever is as this can vary depending on gender, breed or whether they are small or large-boned. Also, muscle weighs more than fat so a well-muscled in shape dog may weight the same or more than an overweight dog.
On average an adult dog weighs between 27 to 30kg (60 – 85 lbs) but your dog may weight less if they are a smaller example of the breed.
The first way to determine if your labrador or retriever is overweight is to keep a record of their weight and notice if it changes. This will give you early warning if they start to gain weight.
Secondly, you should not be able to see the ribs, but if you give them a light touch there should be a light layer of fat but you should still be able to feel rip. If the rips are visible your dog may be too skinny.
Thirdly, is visual. Take a look at your dog to see if the belly slopes upwards towards the groin, or is it a straight line or is it hanging between their legs? A Labrador or Retriever should have an upward sloping line from the base of the rib cage to the front of the hind legs. Looking from above you should be able to see their waist just in front of their hips. They should not be the same width the whole length of the body.
For more information see “Is my dog overweight“.
Over exercised dog symptoms
Golden Retrievers can go hard and keep going, often not knowing when to stop. With any dog, it is possible to over-exercise them, especially in hot weather. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a dog that has overdone it. Read “Overexercised dog symptoms” and “Dog exercise in hot weather” to learn more.
How far should you walk a Golden Retriever
The daily walk is essential for a Golden Retriever not only to release some pent-up energy. The walk allows your Retriever to stimulate the mind with the sights, sounds and smells they come across.
The length of the walk is only limited by your time and energy as a Retriever was breed to hire all day long. Ideally, the minimum should be 45 to 60 minutes daily. This can be just once a day, or two walks a day would be better if your schedule allows. The pace of the walk should be a brisk quick trot. Even then it is unlikely to tire a Golden Retriever completely.
Dogs also like routine, so try to schedule the walk for around the same time each day. Daily walks are much better than nothing all week and a big walk at the weekend.
If your Golden Retriever has good recall and comes on command, walks at the park off the leash are ideal. Alternatively, you can use a retractable leash to allow them more freedom while maintaining control. In general, Golden Retrievers are obedient and usually have good recall if trained.
You can add extra resistance to the walk by using a weighted vest or dog backpack. It is recommended that no more than 10% of their body weight be added. This is more than sufficient to tire them and strengthen their muscles without overworking them. Other ways of increasing the resistance on the walk are to walk on sand or include uphill sections in the walk.
Golden Retriever exercise ideas
In addition to the daily walk, it is essential to also provide some high-intensity activity and play to further tire your Golden Retriever and to maintain muscle tone. By keeping the muscles strong they will support the joints and tendons preventing injury.
These are some of the recommended activities and exercise ideas to play with your Golden Retriever.
Golden Retrievers were bred to swim. Swimming is also one of the best exercises for any dog. The benefits of swimming for your Golden Retriever include
- a strenuous activity that burns energy fast.
- helps strengthen and tone muscles from the resistance provided by the water.
- is a low impact activity that doesn’t put a strain on joints and tendons.
- is an ideal therapy for a dog recovering from injury or surgery – see what is Canine Hydrotherapy to learn more.
- Golden Retrievers love to swim and will want to do it
If you don’t have access to a pool, river, lake or the ocean for your Golden Retriever to use most cities have canine hydrotherapy centers especially for dogs to swim.
You can also add other activities to your Golden Retrievers swimming session to make it more fun and provide a fuller workout. This can include activities such as retrieving toys, flirt pole (see below for what a flirt pole is) and using a Jolly ball (see below for what a Jolly ball is). For more on swimming exercise for dogs see here.
A Flirt pole is like a giant cat tickler for dogs. It has a long handle with a bungy type rope with a lure or toy attached to the end. You simply move the lure along the ground around in circles or in different directions as your dog chases it. It works directly with their natural prey instinct. Be sure they have a good “leave it” command and don’t allow them to destroy the toy. This game is excellent for burning up that pent-up energy in a short amount of time. For a full guide to flirt pole exercise for dogs see here.
Also, a great toy to use in the water to encourage your dog to chase the lure as you move it around.
View Flirt Poles on Amazon
A Jolly Ball is a nearly indestructible ball for dogs that they push and chase around. As the ball is too big for them to pick up in their mouths, so they must push it with their nose or paws.
Jolly Balls come in a variety of sizes, styles and are also available with a handle or rope attached for tug of war. With these type of Jolly balls they are able to use their mouths. For additional resistance and strength building you can fill the Jolly ball with water to add weight.
Also a great toy for adding variety to swimming as it will float and your dog will chase and push it through the water.
View Jolly Balls on Amazon
Playing Fetch with your dog is another fantastic way to burn pent-up energy. Obviously, retrieving games like this are exactly what Retrievers were bred to do.
Golden Retrievers can play this for hundreds of throws. A great alternative is to use an Automatic Ball Launcher so your dog can play Fetch by themselves. For more information check out “Automatic Ball Launchers for Dogs”
Most dogs can chase and catch a ball. But a Frisbee requires a little bit more skill, coordination, and timing. Golden Retrievers look spectacular playing this due to their agility. Roll the Frisbee on the ground towards your dog. They will instinctively want to grab it in his mouth.
Once you’ve accomplished this, try tossing it at a very low level first to your dog. If you feel like your dog is ready to go to the next level, toss the disc a little higher and further. Great energy burner and you may be amazed at your dog’s agility and acrobatic skill.
Dog toys that move
There is a wide selection of dog toys that shake, rattle, roll and make sounds. Similar toys move around on their own. These type of toys are highly stimulating to dogs as there is more interaction than passive dog toys.
For more information on dog toys that move on their own see here.
Set up an agility or obstacle course in your backyard. You can use items you have around the home, build your own agility or you can get reasonably priced agility sets on Amazon.
You can include tasks such as the weave, hurdle jumps, tunnels or jumping through hoops or a platform to jump on and stay.
Running, biking or skating with your dog
The faster your dog is moving the more energy they will release. Try running, biking or skating with your dog to really get them moving. As Golden Retrievers have good levels of stamina and can go for long distances, they can make great running partners. Just be sure to build up the distance and intensity of the activity over time to prevent causing injury to your dog. Read “Running with your dog” for more on this.
Tug of War
A firm favorite of all strong dogs. Make them crouch and pull back to use extra energy. Ensure that this is a controlled game and they release when you want them to. Also, a great way to build muscle and strength.
Play with other dogs
Provide the opportunity for your Golden Retriever to play with other dogs. This is not only great to burn energy and stimulate their mind, but teaches them important social skills.
Golden Retrievers love the company of people and other dogs and in general, are very social and friendly.
There are many dog sports that your Golden Retriever would enjoy including agility or fly ball. Consider enrolling your Golden Retriever in a local club. You can enter as a serious competitor or simply for fun.
Mental stimulation for Golden Retrievers
All dogs need an outlet for their minds. If they are not provided the opportunity to challenge their minds they will come up with their own ways to achieve this. This usually manifests itself in bad behavior such as excessive barking, digging, escaping and other destructive behaviors. Read “Mental stimulation and mind enrichment for dogs” to learn about the 6 types or categories of mind stimulation a mental enrichment and some great ideas to provide this.
Some ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment include;
Puzzle toys are ideal for dogs like the Golden Retriever to challenge their minds and test their problem-solving skills. Due to their high intelligence, try to find puzzle toys that are a bit more challenging as they tend to work these out quite quickly. Check out “Top 7 puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.
In addition to puzzle toys, Kongs for dogs are another great way to get your Golden Retriever to solve a problem and challenge the mind. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs“.
Scenting and nose games
Golden Retrievers have a keen nose which enables them to find the prey they are retrieving. Playing scenting and nose games helps to provide mental stimulation. Read “12 Scenting and nose games for dogs” for some ideas.
Provide your Golden Retriever with good strong chew toys. Chewing is a great way to occupy them. In addition, chewing releases endorphins and helps to relax a dog. Many dogs hold stress in the jaw.
For more on the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys click here.
Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.
Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your Golden Retriever to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.
Enrich their environment
Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.
For more activities, you can do with your Golden Retriever, check out 50 Boredom Busters and games for dogs
Golden Retriever puppy exercise limits
The exercise suggestions above relate to a healthy adult Golden Retriever. The exercise needs of a puppy are quite different. There are limits to how much exercise you should give a Golden Retriever puppy. With puppies, their bones, muscle, and joints are still growing and developing.
Overly strenuous walks are not necessary and in fact, could possibly cause harm. An activity that is high impact on the joints should also be avoided.
The best exercise for a young puppy is free play with age-appropriate toys. Socializing with other puppies or friendly adult dogs is a great way to burn some of that puppy energy along with teaching them the social skills they need.
As your Golden Retriever puppy gets older you can take them for short informal walks allowing them to sniff and explore and get used to being on a leash. Puppies under three months probably haven’t had all their vaccinations so shouldn’t be walked in public. Check with your vet when it is alright to venture out to the park or street.
The general rule of thumb for walking a puppy is around 5 minutes for every month of age. So, for example for a 4-month-old puppy, a walk of 15 minutes to 20 minutes is enough. Monitor your Golden Retriever puppy on the walk for signs such as lagging behind, lying down, or panting. End the walk if they seem too tired. These are signs your Golden Retriever puppy is getting too much exercise.
Mental stimulation is important for puppies and can tire them just as much as physical activity. For more on mental stimulation for puppies see here.
For more on exercise for your Golden Retriever puppy read “How to exercise your puppy”
How much exercise does an older Golden Retriever need
As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Read ” Dog exercise for a senior dog” to learn more.
Many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Exercise for them becomes a balancing act. It is important to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. Read “How to exercise an arthritic dog” to learn more.
Golden Retrievers are also a breed that is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia as they age. Read “Exercise for a dog with hip dysplasia” to learn more.
Summary – Golden Retriever exercise requirements
The Golden Retriever is an active dog and has good levels of stamina. They are also very smart and need to have their mind occupied as well. It is crucial to provide adequate physical and mental exercise and activity to release pent-up energy and prevent boredom.
A minimum of 45 to 60 minutes a day of exercise plus purposeful activity including muscle strengthening and activities that provide mental stimulation is recommended. The cost of not doing so can be an unhappy and frustrated dog. This can lead to behavior issues such as barking, digging, escaping and destructive behavior.
Golden Retrievers can also be prone to being overweight. Daily exercise and a healthy diet will help to manage their weight and prevent obesity.
Let us know in the comments how much and what types of exercise your Golden Retriever has daily.