Whether you’re in bed with the flu, stuck at home because of COVID-19, or the weather outside is frightful, sometimes there just isn’t the time nor the means to give our canine companions the exercise they need. If your hyper dog is bouncing off the walls and you don’t know what to do about it, don’t despair! There are creative ways to exercise dogs indoors. Put these stimulating tips to use to help keep your dog in good health and bring both you and your hyperactive dog some peace.
Creative Ways to Exercise Dogs Indoors
1. Stuffed Bones and Kongs
The Kong – a rubber toy fashioned with a small hole and easy stuff-ability – is an age-old favourite of dog owners. Especially those with dogs who appear to be endless bundles of energy and do well with an hour of chewing and dissecting that is a natural instinct of all dogs. Not only will this fun activity exercise your dog, it will be a mentally stimulating activity to help your dog release some energy. It will also keep him out of trouble, which is especially useful with young puppies who are still in training and might otherwise tear the house down while you are occupied.
The easiest and quickest way to stuff a Kong toy (you can also use dog safe marrow bones that have already been emptied – avoid chew hooves as these splinters easily and are not safe) is to use the tried and true mix of kibble and peanut butter. All-natural peanut butter is best due to low salt and sugar content, but any kind will do the trick.
How to fill the bone or Kong
Fill a small bowl with enough kibble to stuff the Kong or bone. It’s a good idea to throw in a few special treats – dog kibble, a baby carrot, liver treats – to keep your dog’s most intense interest level. Think of it as setting up the wins in a slot machine. Dip a piece of kibble in the peanut butter and toss it in the Kong – repeat. Remember to use just enough peanut butter to make it all stick, or you might have a sick puppy on your hands. Once you’ve stuffed the Kong, seal the top with an extra dab of peanut butter and freeze for at least two hours. Closer to four hours is ideal in my experience – this way, the peanut butter is solid and will take your pup longer to get through.
Kongs are much healthier and safer than heavily processed and potentially life-threatening rawhide bones. Sometimes dogs will swallow large pieces of rawhide – often the knots in the bone-shaped rawhide – which then cause an obstruction and merit an emergency vet visit.
Time-saving tip: keep a few stuffed Kongs ready for battle in the freezer for when you’re on the run.
2. Indoor Fetch To Exercise Dogs Indoors
If you have a small dog, then exercising him indoors is an easy feat – as long as he plays fetch. For a small dog, find the longest hallway or open space and simply play fetch for as long as you both can stand. It’s easy enough to tire a small dog out this way, provided you have the patience. Remember that it’s better to take your pup on a walk or run – don’t rely on indoor exercise, or you will be severely limiting your dog’s joy of life.
With medium and larger dogs, try tossing a ball down the stairs, as running back up and down them will tire them out much quicker than running on an even surface. Be wary if your dog has hip problems or is a larger breed that is prone to them. In such a case, I would recommend using one of the other indoor stimulation activities in this article, at least until you have discussed the issue with your vet.
3. Tracking To Exercise Dogs Indoors
A fun activity to exercise dogs indoors is tracking. Tracking is a low impact, intensely stimulating, and very engaging activity that most dogs love to do. To first teach your dog this fun activity, choose 5-10 small treats that are especially smelly (such as small cubes of cheddar cheese). With your dog in a down-stay or in the other room, lay them out in an open area in a line. For smaller dogs, try placing the treats just a few inches apart; place them about a foot apart for larger dogs. Play around with the positioning to find whatever your dog responds best to initially. Offer your dog a small piece of the same treat you laid out (making sure he smells it first) then say “find it” as you use your finger to lead him to the general area of the first treat.
Your dog’s nose should take over from here. Make sure you don’t jump in too quickly and start showing him the treats. Only offer further assistance if he loses interest. Don’t worry, once your dog understands the game, he’ll be zooming all over the house in search of his hidden treasures.
Slowly raise the stakes, each time only moving forward when your dog easily completes the current “stage.” A good next step from laying treats out in the open is to lay them along walls. This will help your dog to follow the trail by leading him along a physical barrier and is great practice for more difficult future trials. Eventually, you can hide treats under towels, in small boxes, or under desks – just don’t use anything you don’t want your dog sticking his face in.
Transition to a meal
If your dog is a food fanatic or just loves his kibble, you can transition to using his regular meals for tracking and phase out the special treats. Of course, it’s still a good idea to intermix just a few into each session to keep the excitement strong.
4. Tricks are Tiring
Tricks are definitely tiring and another creative way to exercise your dog indoors. If your dog could use a nice walk to burn off energy, but you only have 15 minutes, use the time to do some obedience training or teach him a new trick. Some simple ideas include: give paw, high five, speak, sit up, and jump.
Clicker training is the most effective route to go by and will keep your dog happy and engaged in the training. There are countless excellent resources on clicker training obedience and tricks on the internet. To find detailed instructions for tricks, or just to learn more about positive dog training, see Clicker Training by the brilliant Karen Pryor, one of the founders and proponents of clicker training.
Hoping you liked our tips on creative ways to exercise dogs indoors! A combination of all of the above indoor exercise methods for dogs will get you the peace you need on an odd day that you just simply can’t get outside. Putting these into play on a regular basis will also serve to enrich your dog’s life as well as inevitably lead to a better-behaved dog.