Creating an Endurance Training Progression for a Dog

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Dogs are natural endurance athletes.  Their bodies contain significant proportions of slow twitch muscle fibers and thus, they are able to engage in long duration physical activities.  However, like with humans, dogs need to gradually build up their endurance training so that they can safely and effectively build endurance capability over time.


The most basic methods to progress a dog’s endurance training program is to gradually increase either the duration (or distance), or the intensity of the endurance exercises.


Add duration and distance gradually.  Because dogs appear to have boundless energy and are willing to do whatever you ask, it is tempting to assume that they can handle large amounts of exercise without proper training.  However, dogs need to build up their endurance over time just like humans.


Begin a dog’s training by starting out with 5-10 minutes of low intensity exercise a day and add no more than 20% more total exercise time each week. For example, if for the first week a dog is exercised for 10 minutes a day, 3 times per week, then the second week would allow for an extra 5-6 minutes of exercise, or 12 minutes per day, three times for the week.  Continue to add duration each week until you reach an appropriate amount of endurance training.


For those that measure distance instead of duration, stick with the 20% rule.  Add no more than 20% additional total weekly distance each week during the endurance build up.

Here’s an older video of Jack & Maggie running with me. Maggie, you can see keeps her own pace. We built up slowly to the point where she was able to run with us.


Add intensity gradually.  Like with duration or distance, increases in intensity should also be introduced gradually.  Some examples of how to increase endurance intensity include moving faster (i.e. running more and walking less) or by adding resistance via a weighted vest.


For beginners, one way to add intensity is to introduce run/walk intervals into the walk.  Start with 2/3 walk and 1/3 run intervals.  This means, for example, that you walk your dog for 40 seconds and run for 20 seconds, and then repeat for the duration of the exercise session.  Each week, add 10 seconds to the running interval and subtract 10 seconds from the walking interval.  In a few weeks, the dog will be able to handle the entire distance at a run.  Hopefully, you will as well.

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  1. I will start to run again this year. I will follow your 1/3 -2/3 advice, that sounds good…. hope I can make it, it’s not easy to re-start and to stick with the plan :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog FREAKY FRIDAYMy Profile

  2. Great advice. So many people think dogs are machines and can just do anything whenever, but as with humans, we need to work up to things. Happy New Year!
    Emma recently posted…Winter Fitness Tips For DogsMy Profile

  3. That’s for this post, hopefully a lot of the hunters will read it and do it. So many start throwing a bumper a week before hunting season and then take their dogs out hunting and think it doesn’t hurt them at all. Have a great new years.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Sand Spring Blog Review 2015My Profile

  4. We are trying to add more walking into our days. Bentley’s Whistle activity monitor has been a great help in motivating us to move more. Being a Basset Hound, he does his “Forrest Gump” walking impression. When he decides he has gone far enough, he just stops. LOL! Happy 2016 ☺
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Resolve Not to Make New Year’s ResolutionsMy Profile

  5. Great post! Building endurance is so important!
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…FitDog Friday–Happy New Year!My Profile

  6. Running with Cocoa is one of my very favorite things to do!!
    Julie recently posted…Christmas week!!My Profile

  7. Ha ha, I’m pretty sure Luke would get to that point before I would! LOL I tried to work my way up to 5K last fall, but didn’t quite make it. I plan to try again this spring though, and since I’ll be doing it differently I hope Luke will do it with me this time too (after clearing it with the vet).
    Jan K recently posted…New Year of Fitness FunMy Profile

  8. Mountain biking with Shyla is awesome. I hope you inspire some peeps to try endurance exercise with their dogs.

    My neighbor recently got an 8 wk old Lab puppy. He asked me for advice about how much he could walk with his puppy. I had no idea (we always play it by ear, except that we never let them run continuously with us until they are a year old). Do you know a good guideline for my neighbor?
    KB recently posted…The Darkness and the LightMy Profile

    • Young puppies should not be exercised in ways that test or build their endurance. Their bones are not adequately developed to handle this. For most dogs, this means somewhere between the ages of 12-18 months. (Ask your vet to help you make that determination).

      In the meantime, short walks (30 minutes or less), gentle tug of war, short games of chase, etc. are all normally safe for puppies.

      As the puppy advances to 6 months of age, more exercise activities can be introduced. Strength exercises- high five, roll over, tugs, crawling, and balance drills- are all usually acceptable. Even some hill running (short duration/distances) can be started at around 6 months.

      One the growth plates close (about 12-18 months), a real endurance program can begin, which means starting with 15-20 minute jogs 2-3 times per week.

      In any case, talk with your vet about an appropriate level for your Lab.

      We have written many articles describing different strength exercises as well. You can search using tag = fitness:

      or simply search using strength:
      steve recently posted…Wellness Pet Food: Marketing vs. Food IngredientsMy Profile

  9. I love the video footage of your pups!
    We ran home several times this week because we got surprised but the dang rain. Or should I say torrential downpour. We did really well 😉
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…The Key to Polite Off-Leash Walking: A Valuable Lesson Learned!My Profile

  10. Working with the bike everyday now, Jax loves it, he runs with the Woof Cycle arm right now – he keeps up with me too!

  11. I insist my bipeds take a brisk walk whatever the weather – it’s the only way to keep them fit enough for long hikes in the good weather.
    Clowie recently posted…Happy New Year 2016My Profile

  12. Sam and I are all over this exercise thing which probably has contributed to his (knock on wood) good health as he approaches 11 years (yikes). Wish it’d have as good effect on me as it has for him. 😉

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