Just like us humans, dogs need to mix up their exercise routine every now and then.
dog playing with frisbee
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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!)

two french bulldogs on a walk with their owners on a sidewalk covered in purple flower petals
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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!

Joggers and Golden Retriever Running on a Paved Trail
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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.

woman hiking through shallow stream with her dog
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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.

Blonde dog swims under water in pool
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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.

dog playing with frisbee
Credit: Jason Donnelly

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.

two dogs racing jumping over hurdles in flyball
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6. Sign Up for Sports

From flyball to skijoring, there are several sporting options for your furry athlete. Do a search to see what your local area has to offer that might fit your dog's interests and abilities.

young dog running through a colorful agility tunnel outside on an agility course
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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!

teach a dog to lay down
Credit: Jason Donnelly

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.

close up of a dog scent training in a park
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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.