Have you ever heard the phrase: “A tired dog is a happy dog”? It’s true! Exercise is necessary for canine health, preventing age-related diseases, and even curbing their anxiety. Dogs need daily exercise and it’s up to us to ensure they get it.
While we humans can decide to pick up some free weights or head to the gym, our dogs rely on us to make sure they receive adequate exercise. If the weather is nice and you have a fenced yard, that’s a piece of cake. But, what if you live in an apartment or condo? Or what if it’s the dead of winter and the last thing you want to do is take your dog outside for a long walk?
Of course, the old stand-bys work well indoors:
- Agility – Turn your house into an agility course and run your dog through it! Ask them to crawl under the coffee table or jump onto your bed. Line up several objects in a row and pretend they’re cones for your dog to weave through.
- Chase – Some dogs love to chase or be chased! Run around the house with them to give them some simple but effective way to exercise your dog. The bonus is that you get a workout too!
- Fetch – Throw your dog’s favorite toy or ball and ask them to bring it back. I’m a fan of the Chuckit! Flying Squirrel toy and these Kong SqueakAir balls.
- Keepaway – Find a friend and sit on opposite sides of the room. Toss a toy back and forth and invite your dog to try their best to intercept it.
- Tug – Grab a rope toy or other favorite. You hold one end, your dog holds the other. (We recommend you pull or shake the toy from side to side rather than back and forth. It’s safer for your dog’s neck.)
Note: Choose a safe area of your home for these activities. Avoid spaces with slippery hardwood floors, for example.
Exercising your dog doesn’t always have to be physical. Exercising their brain can tire out your dog just as effectively as physical exercise. If you’ve ever taken your dog to a training class or had company over for several hours, you’ve probably noticed they plop down for a long rest once the chaos ends!
Here are some mental exercises you can do at home with your dog:
- Attention games – Getting your dog’s attention is a foundational skill. Practice it at home by turning it into a game! With treats in hand, toss one on the floor and tell your dog to get it. As soon as they do, but before they turn back around to look at you, say their name. If they look back at you, reward them with another tossed treat, and repeat.
- Chewing and licking – Believe it or not, chewing and licking can provide stimulation for your dog, as well as calm them if they’re anxious. Put a delicious snack or meal into a Kong, freeze it for a few hours, and give it to your dog. Or, buy them a bone or toy meant for chewing, like a Nylabone. (Make sure they don’t chew up or swallow anything that isn’t safe.)
- Food puzzles – Make mealtime fun by asking your dog to earn their food. Pet stores sell all kinds of puzzle toys—like this one from TRIXIE—that engage your dog’s brain and reward them with food or treats. Or, you can DIY it by hiding food in an old towel or blanket, cardboard boxes, or even toilet paper rolls. Get crafty! Your dog will thank you.
- Hide and seek – Ask your dog to wait out of sight while you stash treats for them to sniff out. You can also hide a favorite toy, or even yourself.
- Teaching tricks – Training is a fantastic way to give your dog mental stimulation. Choose a trick or command you want to teach them, grab some treats, and school is in session! For training tips—or for recommendations for trainers in Westminster or Broomfield, Colorado—send me an email and I can help.
If you need to go out of town, let your dog sitter know about your dog’s favorite physical and mental exercises. A good pet sitter will love having that information, so they can keep your dog entertained and exercised while you’re away!