9 Fun Ways to Exercise Your Dog (and Spend Some Quality Time Together)
While every dog is unique, Kim Krug, DVM, veterinary behavior resident at Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Ore. says there are some needs that are relatively universal. "All dogs need to be able to sniff, to explore and engage with nature, and to make decisions about how they move their bodies and interact with their environment," she explains. "Going on a walk with a human controlling your every move is not exercise or enrichment."
Instead, Krug recommends thinking about what your dog would choose to do if the leash wasn't there. "We're likely best served if we can come up with outlets for them to engage in that type of exercise," she says.
Take a look at our list of fun exercise ideas to mix it up and get your dog moving more. (Bonus: you'll have more fun together, too!)
1. Go for a Walk, But Make Time to Explore
Leash walking can still be excellent for your pet, but let your dog make decisions about where he'd like to go and give him time to sniff and explore things that interest him. Don't forget to bring a roll of poop bags!
2. Run Together
Start running with your dog for shorter distances and then slowly increase your mileage, carefully watching your dog for signs of exhaustion. Keep in mind that running isn't recommended for dogs that are too young or who easily overheat.
3. Take a Hike
Hiking with your dog can offer a welcome escape from your usual sights, sounds, and smells, but there's one routine you shouldn't ditch, even when miles away from civilization: the leash. This is the best way to protect other dogs and hikers and to protect your pup from getting into a dangerous situation.
4. Go Swimming
If your dog is new to swimming, don't literally and figuratively throw him in the deep end. Don a suit of your own and lead him into water he can stand in to start. Once you see that he's both comfortable with and interested in swimming, you can let him swim on his own and even incorporate games like fetch.
5. Play a Game
Speaking of fetch, it works great on land, too! And assuming you have a little room to play in your abode, it can be a good option for indoor exercise. Tug of war and puzzle toys are great picks for rainy days, as is a game of hide-n-seek in which you hide small treats or pieces of kibble around the house for your pup to sniff out and snarf.
7. Create an Agility Course
If you have two buckets, a broomstick, a large cardboard box, a blanket, and some garden stakes, you have all you need to set up an agility course in your own backyard. Your dog will be jumping, weaving, and crawling in no time!
8. Teach Your Pup New Tricks
Brain exercise is still exercise. Whether you want to teach your dog a new trick like sit, stay, or roll over, clicker training can help you achieve your goals while keeping your dog happy, active, and motivated.
9. Try Scent Training
Scent training is super fun for a dog's brain, and gives them an opportunity to do one of the things our pups love most: using their nose. Getting started with this enrichment activity is pretty easy, especially with games like box search, shell game, or a muffin tin puzzle.