Dogs need regular exercise just like us, and developing a daily exercise routine is key when it comes to keeping our dogs physically and mentally fit. And although we’ve heard it before I think it’s fair to say it’s a problem many of us struggle with considering nearly 50% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight.
The good news is when it comes to our dogs there are plenty of quick ways to add more exercise to their daily routine. And since many of these activities are interactive it means you’ll be burning off a few extra calories as well. Here’s 10 easy ways to exercise your dog.
1. Playing Frisbee
When it comes to exercising your dog one of the easiest methods is playing a game of frisbee. I like to think of it like a game of fetch on steroids. Since I can toss a frisbee way further than a ball my dog ends up running a lot more between tosses, and all extra running means she’s burning off a lot more energy.
If you’ve never played frisbee with your dog I recommend starting with a soft disc or rubber frisbee (I’m personally a fan of the Kong Flyer). They’re easier to pick up, and since they’re lighter and softer they’re a lot less likely to cause any injuries.
When teaching your dog to play frisbee start by introducing them to the new toy and getting them excited about it. Toss it a short distance or roll it along the ground, and encourage your dog when they chase it. Once your dog is excited about chasing it you can start adding in a little more distance and encouraging them to catch it. If your dog doesn’t know how to catch here’s a few quick tips to get started.
2. Playing Tug of War
Minute for minute playing tug of war with your dog is one of the most physically & mentally challenging games you can play. Playing tug with your dog is fun, easy, and a great way to give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise. And since it’s a game that relies on manners it’s a great way to work on your dog’s impulse control i.e. the game stops if your teeth touch my hand.
Tug is great exercise for dogs, but I would add in a word of caution when working with puppies — if your dog hasn’t mastered basic bite inhibition they will probably struggle to play by the rules. If you want to save your hands from those sharp teeth remember to work on teaching your puppy not to bite before attempting a game of tug.
If you don’t have a tug toy you can make your own with some fleece or old t-shirts. Just remember to put up your tug toy when it’s not in use. Many tug toys are made with rope or other materials that can pose a potential choking hazard for your dog.
3. Using a Flirt Pole
Flirt poles are one of the quickest ways to exercise your dog. A flirt pole (also called a flirt stick) is a long pole with a lure attached by rope to the end. As you hold onto the pole and move it around the lure follows along the ground, enticing your dog to chase. Using a flirt pole will provide your dog with a lot of physical exercise and mental stimulation.
Here’s a video of one being used to give you a better idea. A couple minutes of using a flirt pole will be extremely tiring for your dog. Just remember to keep the sessions short when starting out to avoid injury since this is such a high impact activity.
When it comes to using a flirt pole you have a couple of options; you can make one of your own or you can buy one online.
4. Walk, Hike or Jog With Your Dog
When it comes to exercising your dog don’t forget about the daily dog walk. It’s great for both physical and mental exercise. Have you ever wondered why our dogs get so excited when it’s time for a walk? It’s because our dogs don’t get choose when it’s time to go out and explore, they depend on us. For many dogs the walk is the highlight of their day.
If your walks get a little mundane switch it up by exploring a new location or changing your pace. Once or twice a week I try to find a new place to go walking. It might be the beach, a local park, or it might just be a new neighborhood. And if you’re looking for something more physically demanding you can start a jogging or hiking routine with your dog.
5. Nose Work Games
One of my favorite ways to keep my dog active and entertained is to play some nose work games. They’re fun, they’re versatile, and they’re mentally stimulating for dogs.
And when it comes to nose work my favorite game is called “go find it.” I chop up a few carrots into small bits and hide them throughout the house. If your dog hasn’t played the game before you might want to start out with smelly treats until they get the hang of it.
To play start by have your dog sit in a stay position while you hide some of those treats around the house. If you’ve never done any nose work games before start with some easy spots that are easy to find.
After you’ve hidden the treats release your dog and tell them to “go find it.” Keep it fun and encouraging for your dog by praising them every time they find a treat. After they start to get the hang of the game you can start hiding the treats in harder to find spots such as under rugs or on window sills. That will teach your dog to start relying on their natural sniffing abilities to find the treats, rather than just relying on visuals.
6. A Game of Fetch
Playing fetch with your dog is a fun and interactive way to exercise your dog. And if you have a little extra room and a lightweight toy you can even play it indoors. Hallways, stairways, and big living rooms are popular choices.
Some dogs are naturals when it comes to fetch, but some will need a bit of practice. If your dog isn’t interested in fetching toys, or if you’re having problems getting them to bring it back I recommend this article that covers the basics of teaching your dog to fetch.
7. Play Hide & Seek With Your Dog
My dog loves playing hide and seek, even though I’m predictable and have a tendency to use the same 4 hiding spots over and over. Hide and seek is a fun game that lets your dog use some of their natural scent tracking abilities in a mentally stimulating way.
To play hide and seek with your dog have them stay while you go find a hiding spot. Once you’re situated call your dog and praise them when they find you. If your dog doesn’t have a reliable “stay” command down enlist the help of a friend to distract your dog while you hide.
8. Take Your Dog Swimming
Swimming is a great way to exercise your dog. And because it’s low impact it’s great for dogs with mobility issues such as arthritis. Swimming is a non-weight bearing exercise that can help increase your dogs range of motion and build up muscle mass.
If you don’t have a regular place to go swimming check to see if there are any canine friendly hydrotherapy centers, pools, public beaches, or dog parks with a water feature available in your area. And if your dog is new to swimming remember to take it slow; not all dogs are naturals in the water. Here’s some swimming safety tips for dogs to help get you started.
9. Kong Stuffing & Food Dispensing Toys
Kong stuffing & using food dispensing toys are some great ways to keep your dog active and engaged. Stuffing a Kong is my personal favorite because it keeps Laika busy for 30+ minutes. I stuff it with a mixture of healthy treats and broth, and then I freeze it over night.
Food dispensing toys such as the Bob-A-Lot are great for giving your dog some more mental stimulation during meal time. You fill it up and they have to knock it around to get the food out. If your dog has never used a food dispensing toy you may have to practice a bit before they get the hang of it. After filling it up encourage them to play with it so they can see that “oh look food comes out when I move it around.”
10. Teach Your Dog to Chase Bubbles
One of the easiest ways to exercise your dog is to teach them to chase bubbles. I’m not going to lie — I had my doubts when it came to bubbles. I figured there was no way something that simple would be that fun, but boy was I wrong. She absolutely loves it.
When it comes to teaching your dog how to chase bubbles start by blowing a couple at a time. Point them out to your dog and encourage them to chase. If they’re a bit apprehensive catch some yourself to show you dog that there’s nothing to worry about, and that the whole point of the game is to get them before they touch the ground.
I use bubbles made for kids (they also make flavored bubbles for dogs). They’re non toxic, but can upset their stomach if your dog ingests too much. And be sure to wipe off your dog’s eyes afterwards to avoid any irritation.