Running with your Labradoodle: A Complete Guide

We know that all dogs run, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all breeds make equally suitable running partners; just because a dog can run, doesn’t automatically mean that they should.

Both Labradors and Standard Poodles were originally bred for their water retrieving capabilities, assisting both fishermen and hunters alike, so it stands to reason that Labradoodles would inherit their innate athletic ability, and eagerness to please.

If you’re looking for an intelligent and energetic companion, then look no further. Labradoodles thrive when given an appropriate amount of exercise, and a job to do; neglect either aspect of their personality and be prepared for a whirlwind of destruction in the home, a bored and physically unchallenged dog is one that will make their dissatisfaction known!

When to Start Running with a Puppy

All breeds of dog mature at different rates; smaller breeds finish growing at a much faster rate than larger breed types. It is important to not over-exercise your puppy whilst they are still in the growth stage, their bones need to fully develop before undertaking any serious exercise that involves both speed and distance, otherwise, there is an increased risk of damaging your dog’s legs and joints, leading to long term mobility problems, unnecessary pain, and mounting veterinary bills.

Smaller examples of the breed reach physical maturity at approximately a year old but are not suited to long-distance running.

A standard Labradoodle reaches physical maturity at between eighteen months to two years, so it is suggested not to start any serious distance training until this stage, but there are lots of things you can do with your puppy until they reach maturity.

Training your Puppy to Run with You

The most important thing you can do when it comes to training your puppy is to be consistent and socialize them at every opportunity. Much like children, puppies are little sponges that will soak up every experience they’re introduced to, and every occasion is a learning opportunity.

Teach sit, stay/wait, heel, and recall commands and reinforce them often; as soon as your puppy is fully vaccinated they need to be going out and about and be introduced to a variety of situations, crowds, traffic, children, and other animals, including other dogs.

Enrolling in a puppy training class is a great way of introducing a lot of key concepts whilst socializing your puppy in a fun, safe, and supportive environment. Remember that learning doesn’t stop when the classes do, be prepared to repeat and reinforce commands daily, and be patient and positive, even when it feels like your puppy has forgotten everything, or is being deliberately disobedient, persistence pays off in the end, the effort will be worth it!

Pick the side that you will walk (and eventually run) your dog on, and stick to it. This is particularly important if you will not be the only person involved with the exercising of your dog. If you intend to always keep your dog to your left side, make sure the whole family knows; there’s nothing worse than a dog that weaves from one side to the other in front of you, because Mom walks them on the left, but Dad walks them on the right, and your children just let them go wherever; getting tangled in a leash whilst walking or running isn’t ideal for the dog or owner!

First Steps

Once your puppy has stopped growing, and you’re confident they have consistently cemented all of the relevant training commands, it’s time to switch things up a gear. First and foremost, it is important to get them a thorough health check before embarking on a significant change in any exercise program.

Book an appointment with your veterinarian, they will check your dog’s weight and development, and be able to advise of any potential health issues, and should check for any signs of hip or elbow dysplasia, dislocated knees, heart and lung problems, or anything else which may prohibit extended periods of exercise.

Once your dog has been given the all clear, you’re good to go!

What Equipment Will I Need to Run with my Dog?

  • A running leash – this attaches around the owner’s waist, so is an excellent hands-free option; with a bungee style, shock-absorbing leash element, which can help protect against injury if you need to stop suddenly. This one on Amazon is a great example.
  • A collapsible water bowl – smaller is better, it’s important to not let your dog guzzle water when exercising, little and often is key
  • Poop bags
  • Water bottle – large enough for both you and your dog’s hydration
  • Reflective harness/vest – especially important if running at night. Here is our choice from Amazon.
  • First aid kit – this should contain:

Styptic powder to stop bleeding

Tweezers to remove thorns/other objects from paws if safe to do so

Gauze to wrap and protect an injury until veterinary care can be accessed, or to muzzle the injured animal

Adhesive tape to secure bandage

Tick remover

This First Aid kit from Amazon comes highly recommended.

Start off Small

Just as you wouldn’t attempt to run a marathon without any previous training, the same applies to your dog. Labradoodles are people pleasers and will try and keep up, even if that’s not in their best interests, so be mindful of the need to build up their exercise regime slowly and steadily so as not to cause them any injury; the breed can be predisposed to cruciate ligament damage if not treated with due care and consideration, so less is definitely more when starting out and developing a running regime.

If you’re increasing your Doodle’s exercise, you might also need to think about increasing their calorie intake, especially once you’ve established a routine that covers a decent distance, Labradoodles can run 10K when trained appropriately and will need the fuel to do so. Always consult your veterinarian for advice on your dog’s individual nutritional needs.

Where, and When to Run with your Dog

Where you intend to run can depend on a lot of factors, particularly if you intend to run off-leash, you should always check local laws to see if your intended location permits it. The same applies to the coast, whether on a leash or off, check out this resource for dog-friendly beaches to visit.

If you live in an urban area, it’s wise to consider the terrain, running exclusively on tarmac can prove problematic on your dog’s joints and is inadvisable altogether in hot weather when the temperature of the asphalt can burn your dog’s paw pads. Similarly, you should also be aware of extremely cold weather, and areas where the space may have been treated with rock salt, which could also be really damaging to delicate paws.

Wherever you run, decide whether you’re happy to deal with the consequences of the location when it comes to additional grooming, a mud-caked or sand-drenched Doodle is going to mean more work.

Once you’ve decided on your route, it’s important to consider the time of day you will be running; whilst the temperature might feel perfectly pleasant to you, dogs have difficulty regulating theirs, so don’t run at the extremes. You might also want to think about what distractions there are at different times of the day; Labradoodles are particularly enthusiastic, greet-everyone-with-joyful -exuberance types, which is fine if you’re going for a leisurely stroll, but not so great if you want to enjoy a focussed run.

Beware of Bloat

Certain breeds, including Labradoodles, can be predisposed to a rare, but potentially life-threatening condition called Bloat.

Bloat occurs when there is a harmful build-up of gas in your dog’s stomach, to the point where it becomes so distended it starts to twist. When the stomach twists, the tissue begins to die; this is an incredibly painful condition and one where the minutes really matter. Bloat is a medical emergency, if you suspect your dog has bloat, you should visit your vet for immediate treatment.

What are the signs to look for?

  • Retching, but unable to vomit
  • Hard, swollen stomach that is painful when touched
  • Drooling
  • Excessive panting and restlessness

Whilst the exact cause of bloat is unknown, there are things you can do to reduce the risks, which are particularly important when exercising your dog:

  • Don’t exercise your dog on a full stomach, leave at least an hour after feeding before any rigorous activity, and don’t feed for at least an hour after training
  • Don’t let your dog guzzle lots of water in one sitting, but particularly before, during, or after exercise
  • If your dog is a fast eater, then chances are they are taking in lots of air at the same time, consider feeding smaller-sized meals, spread more frequently throughout the day, and/or purchasing a slow feeder. This slow feeder from Amazon will work a treat.
  • Keep your dog’s weight in check, overweight and underweight dogs are much more susceptible to bloat

Next Steps

You have your equipment, you’ve decided on a route, so what’s next?

Just like their humans, dogs need to warm up their muscles and stretch out before exercising in order to avoid injury. If your dog can play bow on demand, this is a great way of stretching them out and preparing for exercise, you can also encourage your dog to jump up with their paws resting on your chest/shoulders, for another good stretch.

Once you’re all warmed up, it’s best to walk before you run, this will help to settle your dog from the initial excitement of “Hey! We’re outside! We’re going walkies!” into a more focussed and less distractible state of mind. This walking time also gives your dog the opportunity to do that all-important doggy stuff, like sniffing-all-the-things and going potty.

Next, you can try intermittent jogging/running interspersed with walking in between. Ten to fifteen minutes total running time is ample in the beginning, and you should aim to increase this by no more than ten percent per week. It might sound obvious, but remember it’s a return journey; don’t stray too far until you’ve built up your training over an extended period, so if your dog can run for fifteen minutes total, that’s seven and a half minutes out, and seven and a half minutes back.

Always be aware of your dog’s body language throughout your run, Labradoodles aim to please and they may push themselves beyond their limits to keep up, watch out for excessive panting or exhaustion, or any signs of heatstroke in warmer weather.

Just as important as warming up is a cooling down period; after running, slow your pace to a walk and repeat the stretching exercises at the end of your journey.

Remember that even after training your dog over a prolonged period of time, certain factors will always affect the speed and distance they can run on any given day; a dog that’s used to flat terrain may not be able to perform the same way on hills, you should also be mindful of the weather conditions, and adjust your running distance accordingly.

Try to be consistent when running with your dog, it’s much better to run a shorter distance every day than it is to attempt a 10k just on weekends, with a little exercise in between, this will help prevent over-exertion and possible injury.

When to Slow Down or Stop

Providing that your dog has the right nutrition, and is consistently exercised within their limits, your Labradoodle can be a great running companion well into their senior years. An active dog is likely to be at a desirable weight, which may decrease the risk of mobility problems associated with advancing age. As with every life stage, it’s important to get your dog regular health checks, your vet may advise you to adjust your dog’s nutrition and recommend joint supplements as they get older.

If your dog has sustained any injuries over the years, which can happen even with the greatest amount of diligence, you may have to adjust their exercise regime accordingly, so old injuries don’t flare up or get progressively worse. Labradoodles can get arthritis, so it’s important that they stay mobile, but aren’t exercised as rigorously, there’s a fine line between maintaining mobility and increasing pressure on aging joints.

Another thing to consider is that every dog’s eyesight deteriorates with age, it may not be appropriate to keep running with your dog once their sight is significantly impaired, for both your own and the dog’s safety.

Knowing when to slow down or stop running entirely is an individual decision that will be based on your dog’s individual circumstances and medical history; it’s important to not push your dog to continue if it’s doing them more harm than good. Always consult your veterinarian for advice if you’re unsure.

Most Importantly of All

Have fun!

Having a canine running companion is a great motivator; even when you’re not feeling like peeling yourself off the sofa, your Doodle still needs exercising, and once you’re both out there, you’re likely to get those endorphins pumping and be glad you made the effort.

Getting regular exercise is a fantastic way to keep fit, healthy, and keep your weight in check, for both you and your dog, it’s a win/win!

Your Labradoodle will love the special time they get to spend with you doing something you both enjoy, it’s a brilliant bonding experience.

A Doodle that’s exercised properly is much more likely to be well adjusted, better behaved, and less destructive in the home; and a happy dog ultimately leads to a happy owner.

So, what are you waiting for?