How To Exercise Your Dog – 24 Ways!
May 23rd, 2019. Last Updated August 8th, 2020
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Our dogs are active animals that love going outdoors. But you didn’t need me to tell you that. Perhaps Fido is already on your case about taking him outside!
Dogs were just not built to stay idle all day. Lack of exercise often manifests itself in destructive behaviors, and many dog owners have experienced this firsthand.
Thus, it’s important to get up and get active with your dog.
This article will introduce you to 24 ways to exercise your dog, conventional and unconventional, suitable for high-energy and low-energy dogs and humans alike.
If you’re bored of taking the same routine walk every single day, read on and try something new from this list. For most of you out there, I guarantee you there are at least a couple you haven’t done or even heard of before!
Some of them are easy to incorporate into your everyday schedule, while others are incredibly niche and more suited for the adventurous.
Whatever you choose, make it fun for both you and your dog. The point of this article is to show that exercising your dog doesn’t have to necessarily be thought of as a chore.
As the list shows, you have more options at your disposal than you may think! We’ll get into each one now.
How To Exercise Your Dog Outdoors
We’ll start out with some of the more conventional outdoor options. It’s always good to get out of the house for some fresh air, and having a dog gives you the perfect excuse to do so.
This is the most basic, and should really be done everyday.
There are different types of walks. You have the short potty breaks–perhaps 5 to 10 minutes in length where you just take a quick lap around the block.
Then you have the longer walks designed for actual exercise.
Walking is often thought of as mundane. But there are many ways to spice up even the most basic of activities. You may choose to head to the local park, dog-friendly beach, or off-leash dog park to socialize with others.
Bottom line is, change up your walking locations! Think of walking your dog as an invitation for you to explore a new area of your neighborhood.
Bonus: Making The Most Of The Walk
Improving your dog’s fundamentals will help make walking more fun and enjoyable. This means improving leash walking, recall, fundamental obedience, and proper socialization with other dogs.
You should also make it enjoyable for your dog as well. Did you know that there are various little things us humans do that actually ruin the experience for them? We can literally call them pet peeves!
One of these is not allowing sufficient time for them to sniff around and choose their toilets. Where a dog uses the bathroom is a big deal! Always balance between allowing exploration and moving on with the walk.
If your dog is healthy and able, try a dog-friendly hike. It’s truly one of the best activities for active dogs!
Before getting all excited about bringing your dog on a hike, check to see if your dog is up for the task.
Certain health issues or breed characteristics can make hiking impractical. For example, brachycephalic breeds (short-muzzled dogs) such as pugs are at higher risk of heat stroke than longer-snout dogs.
In addition, very young puppies or very senior dogs have weaker immune systems, and or may not have the stamina to complete a hike.
Consult a vet if you’re on the fence about this. Best to know early before you’re up in the mountains.
Also, make sure you’re knowledgeable about all the “Petiquette” guidelines on the trails!
Making Sure The Trail Works For Both Of You
If you’re just getting into introducing hiking to your dog, don’t expect them to just magically be able to handle advanced hikes just because you think you’ve got an active dog!
Always start slow. Set up a trail-training regimen if you’re looking to get serious about it. Allow your dog to build up stamina over time so you can one day conquer those tough trails.
Choosing a suitable trail is very important. Nowadays, many people leave reviews about various hiking trails online on sites like AllTrails. Read up on them to check conditions during the current time of year–they can change drastically season to season.
Be sure the difficulty of the trail suits both of you.
And finally, don’t forget to double check that it really is a dog-friendly trail! There’s nothing like arriving at the trailhead only to find that you can’t bring Fido along (you should never leave your dog in a car, so you’ll just have to head home sadly).
3. Running or Jogging
Running or jogging is another good option for keeping you both exercised. If you are a frequent jogger already, that’s great! It only makes sense for you to incorporate your dog into that routine.
As with hiking, you must check if your dog is fit for jogging. Breed, age, health, weather etc. are all determining factors.
Secondly, do not assume that if your dog can handle a hike that they can handle a prolonged running session. The two activities are quite different in terms of intensity.
This is especially important because you should never drag your dog along in a collar on a run if they are fatigued. This is extremely unsafe and potentially deadly for some dogs.
But all things considered, many dogs are eager for a run alongside you. Most city dogs don’t get the luxury of running around, so this will definitely make your dog excited about going outside.
The perfect summer activity with your dog! What better way to spend a hot summer day than out on the beach, lake, or dog park with a big body of water for your dog to chill out in.
Swimming is something many dogs were naturally trained to do. Certain breeds are natural swimmers, while others may be unwilling to even dip a paw in water.
Moreover, it’s just a joy to watch a dog smiling as he doggy paddles effortlessly along. Could your dog be any happier?
Obviously, swimming is an activity suited for dogs that naturally love swimming. But even if your fur kid’s an aquaphobe, with careful guidance and patience, they could potentially learn to love the water too.
Post-Swim Must Knows
Let’s face it, a lot of the water that dogs swim in may not be entirely clean. If you’re at a dog-friendly beach and your dog goes for a swim, many other hounds have shared that ocean!
It’s well-known that after each swim, no matter what the quality of the water, you should clean and dry your dog thoroughly, especially inside the ears.
You can do this with the EcoEars ear cleaning solution.
The first time Yuna went on a swim I overlooked this fact and she was punished with a yeast infection… not fun. I learned this lesson painfully–now that you know you should avoid it!
5. Playing Fetch
Another classic. Pay attention to this one if you are not particularly eager about exercise yourself (hint hint).
Fetch is probably the greatest way to tire your dog out with minimal effort on your part.
Other huge positives include building trust between you and your dog. It also makes exercising fun and purposeful: just about any dog can get really excited about a game of fetch.
Some dogs don’t have the fetch instinct, but investing the time into meticulously teaching them a proper fetch will do wonders for your bond and for their health and activity.
Want to take your game of fetch to the next level? Try frisbee!
Frisbee is truly a leg up from fetch because of how hard it is for your dog to get used to its weird movement patterns.
You can’t really blame them. Even humans have a tough time catching frisbees consistently!
Make sure your dog has a solid fetch down–then practice tossing the frisbee short distances. Slowly work your way up to longer distances.
You may want to start with Chuckit’s Paraflight Flyer, which has a soft rubber edge. It’ll be easier on your dog’s teeth, and a better experience overall for a dog just getting into frisbees.
Agility is not for the faint of heart! It’s perfect for dogs that just love being active, and love a good challenge.
In addition, many argue that agility is the best way to build that super strong bond with your dog. Agility is extremely interactive–you’re constantly guiding your dog through an obstacle course and success will depend on the strength of your cooperation.
Though many are hesitant to begin agility with their dogs, those who are lucky to have backyards can actually set up a basic course pretty easily. For the rest of us, the good news is that there are agility classes all over the world.
The idea of agility is to lead your dog through a set of obstacles. The most common ones are tunnels, hurdles, weaves, seesaws, and more.
Think your dog may be good at agility? There are tons of hacks and DIY solutions out there for home agility courses like this one.
If your dog shows promise at home, then you might consider starting an agility training class with them to further develop their skills.
8. Flirt Pole
A flirt pole is kind of like a fishing pole, but with a dog toy attached at the end. You use it to lure your dog into chasing the toy around.
Using a flirt pole allows you to increase the intensity of the chase while still retaining full control of the toy’s movement, unlike a regular game of tug or fetch.
In addition to exercise, many recommend using a flirt pole for training “leave it,” especially for dogs with high prey drive.
READ: Why Do Dogs Chase Squirrels?
It’s also a great tool for luring your dog through an agility course! For starters, check out Outward Hound’s ZipZoom “Tail Teaser Wand”.
How To Exercise Your Dog Indoors
Maybe it’s a chilly winter day, or a hot and humid summer day. Either way, conditions aren’t ideal for exercising your dog.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a few exercise techniques up your sleeve that you can carry out at home? The following ideas are perfect for exactly this!
9. Tug of War
Pretty much every dog will require a solid chewing every now and then.
Tug of war is a very simple game that many dogs will just get. It’s very natural for dogs to use their mouths to interact with things and pull on them. And it’s very simple for you as well!
All you really need to do is find a suitable toy.
Figure out what kind of toys your dog likes, and buy one that’s high quality: durable and flexible. This is important if you’re set on putting it through many tug of war sessions.
Choosing a good toy is essential for this exercise as it must ideally be durable and flexible.
While you’re playing tug of war, mix it up with some indoor fetch or keep away! After all, we want to get our dog moving as much as possible during the process.
10. Hide And Seek
How about a game that will exercise your dog both physically and mentally?
You may argue that a prerequisite for this activity is a house large enough to make the game interesting for your dog.
Indeed, if you live in an apartment, this option may not be as viable, but get creative! It’d still be fun to hide somewhere unexpected and test your dog’s intelligence and nose work!
Simply tuck yourself away in an unseeming corner of the house, call your dog’s name, and wait for them to find you! Be sure to have a yummy treat ready.
11. Scavenger Hunt
Want to take your game of hide and seek one step further? Try some “nose work” or scent games such as scavenger hunting.
In general, giving your dog something like this to do has numerous positive effects outside of just improving their intelligence!
You’ve got many ways to carry this out. Perhaps instead of serving your dog’s dinner in a bowl like every other time, scatter food pieces around the house and have your dog sniff them out.
Perhaps you could have your dog start at one corner of the house, and follow a kibble trail toward the bowl that contains the rest of dinner.
Or, you could scatter them randomly around the house or even in the yard.
The ultimate goal is to turn meal time into an opportunity to get your dog moving and thinking.
The great thing about adopting habits like this is that you could later transition to sniffing out toys rather than food. All you need is for your dog to understand the concept of the game, and you’ll be able to play anytime it gets too uncomfortable to exercise outdoors.
12. Indoor Obstacle Courses
This is like the indoor version of agility, but without the need to get extra equipment, and without the need for your dog to get super riled up.
Because of the limited running area indoors, indoor obstacle courses are designed more as a mental game for your dog. But depending on how you choose to set it up, it can get physically demanding for your dog as well.
The beautiful thing is that just about any household object can become part of the obstacle course.
Some TikTokers scattered bottles all over the floor to see if their dogs could navigate through them without knocking anything over.
Others, like @pino.the.corgi showcases here, set up mazes with Gatorade bottles for their dogs to solve!
You can combine obstacle courses with another activity such as a nose work game.
Utilize the furniture around the house to make it interesting! Hide treats under tables, or turn chairs into obstacles for your dog to navigate around.
A dog dancing is just the cutest thing ever. It also stimulates your dog both physically and mentally and again serves to strengthen your bond.
There are a couple types of dog dancing, believe it or not!
First off, there’s heelwork. This is where you dog must stay glued to your side the entire duration of the dance. As you can probably tell, this is a very obedience-intensive form of dog dancing.
If instead you think your dog would be great at expressing themselves without your guidance, consider the other type–freestyle!
Realize that dancing is really just a collection of smaller tricks. For example, you might train your dog how to stand on their hind legs for an extended period of time.
The possibilities are endless. Weaving through your legs. Spinning around in circles. Backtracking. Handstanding. Take each one as a separate trick using separate cues. You won’t get very far just saying “dance”!
Interested in bringing the walk indoors? Dog treadmills do exist!
A treadmill is great for getting in that classic walk under non-ideal weather conditions.
However, it will definitely take your dog some time to get used to. You’ll need to train your dog to use the treadmill properly and supervise them the entire time. Dogs should never be left alone on the treadmill–they could get hurt!
To get started with this, make sure your dog is on leash, and hold it yourself. Do not tie them to the treadmill!
Use the leash to guide your dog and to make him feel more used walking as if it were a regular outdoor walk.
Encourage your dog to take steps when the treadmill starts moving slowly. A good suggestion would be to hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose such that they’d have to take a step or two to reach it.
Generously praise any initial success on the treadmill! You really want to encourage your dog to enjoy the process and not get freaked out by it.
Don’t get discouraged if they jump off and are not interested. Try again later, and continue setting them up for success.
Once your dog becomes a treadmill star, don’t forget to warm them up to faster speeds and gradually slow them down, just as we humans would do.
A dog treadmill may be a hefty investment upfront, but it’ll save you loads of trouble in extreme weather conditions where it’s unsafe to take your dog outside. This foldable dog treadmill by dogPACER can support any dog up to 180 pounds, and is more lightweight compared to other brands.
15. Utilize a Play Center, Indoor Dog Park, or Play Date
Being indoors doesn’t mean just being indoors at your house.
The previous tips were focused on getting one-on-one quality time with your dog while incorporating different forms of exercise. This one encourages canine socialization!
Perhaps there’s an indoor play center or dog park in your area. They may contain other dogs looking for playmates as well as obstacles and toys your dog can interact with under a roof.
Whenever you choose to use a public facility, make sure it’s safe. For example, there are many ways you can evaluate whether a doggy daycare facility is worthy of looking after your pup, from staff qualifications, to general cleanliness and policies regarding vaccinations and behavioral checks.
Sometimes, it’s not the facilities but other dogs that are the problem. There should always be a way for you to monitor your dog as they play, and the facility should intervene if a fight is about to break out.
And hey, if you’re not satisfied with any nearby dog play centers, you could organize a playdate with another doggy friend. Chances are your house is already dog-proof, so what’s inviting one more for some play time together?
Special Activities For Adventurous Dogs And Their Humans
Now that we’ve covered a lot of the classic outdoor and indoor exercise ideas, we’ll turn to some more niche forms of exercise that fewer people have ventured into.
As we move toward the end of the list, there may be some options here you’ve never heard of but would love to try out. Embrace being adventurous and bring your pooch along for the ride!
Kayaking with your dog is an amazing experience. Of course, you’ll definitely have to do all the work with the actual kayaking, but this is super fun to do with your dog nevertheless.
Your dog doesn’t necessarily have to just sit still in the kayak as you paddle. If they’ve got good recall, they can hop in the water and swim alongside you so that you both get a decent workout!
Even if they aren’t the swimming type or they simply hate water, most dogs will enjoy being with you and taking in all of the sights and smells the water has to offer.
Since we live right next to the beautiful Lake Union in Seattle, kayaking was one luxury I was able to do with Yuna shortly after adopting her.
Yuna was probably still getting used to her new life at the time, and she was reluctant and scared to get into the kayak at first. This may be true for your dog as well. Give them some time to get used to it.
And before setting out, ensure the water is still!
Just in case your dog does end up swimming, make sure they’ve got a life jacket on regardless of how pro of a swimmer they are.
And again, ensure they’ve got rock solid recall so you don’t spend your entire kayaking journey chasing after your dog.
17. Letting Your Dog Walk You
Yes, it’s bad to allow your dog to lead you on walks. You should always be the clear leader, but what if you just allow one exception to the rule?
Perhaps you’d be surprised where your dog’s whims take you!
The idea of allowing your dog to walk you seems to have picked up in popularity recently, in no part thanks to big media giants like Buzzfeed.
It’s bound to be a great eye-opening experience for you as well. The amount of things owners learn about their dogs from this activity is priceless.
Maybe you learn that your dog really does know the way home. Or maybe you find out that they actually have no idea where to go unless you’re leading them.
I am not a cycling guy myself, but an overwhelming amount of sources out there suggest cycling with your dog as an excellent exercise activity.
And for good reason too! If your dog seems to handle jogging with you a bit too well, cycling is probably an even more stimulating option.
Your dog will have to have exceptional behavior outside and follow your lead at all costs. It will be all the more difficult to guide them with both your hands steering the bike.
It’s all the more important to make sure your dog is fit for this activity. Small dogs (under 30lbs) or unhealthy dogs could get severely injured if you’re not careful.
It might be a good idea to find someplace you know to be relatively car and human-free to begin teaching your dog to follow you on a bike. A garage, or quiet suburb neighborhood is a good start before you hit the streets and trails.
19. Stand Up Paddleboarding
Stand up paddleboarding, or SUP, is yet another great adventure for all the water lovers.
As with kayaking, your dog may be anxious or confused at first. Before you even go, start by familiarizing your dog with the paddleboard in the days leading up to the trip.
This means laying out the paddleboard out in the house, for your dog to sniff and explore. Have them sit or lay on it. By the time you get out on the lake, it will have been a familiar scent. This is a great general tip for introducing any foreign objects to your dog.
After you slowly work your way through getting your dog on the board and performing basic obedience commands on it, you’re ready to set out on an adventure!
As with many other advanced activities like this, it will take your dog time to get fully comfortable with.
Definitely account for the possibility of your dog jumping off the board into the water. Make sure they’re wearing a life jacket.
20. Dock Jumping
Got a dog that just loves the water way too much? If they’re not afraid to leap into your backyard swimming pool, you could try getting them into dock jumping!
Certain doggy events during the hot summer days will have this activity setup for eager, active dogs to try out.
Dock jumping is essentially the dog version of long jump. A handler throws a toy off of a dock, and the dog will jump as far as he can in an effort to get it–and it’s all swimming pool below. The competition is to see how far off the dock they can leap.
This is the first of many special dog sports suited for those athletic dogs among us.
Just as with the last tip, you’ll notice that we humans like to invent dog versions of our own track-and-field events.
Flyball is the doggy equivalent of a relay race!
Dogs who love balls and who are agile will absolutely adore this sport. As it is quite physically intensive, be sure to consult with a veterinarian if you have doubts on how suitable your dog is for this game.
The race works as follows: dogs must run over four hurdles to hit a “flyball box” at the end of the hurdles. Upon contact with the box, it will eject a ball. The dog must catch it, and return the ball back across the four hurdles to the start line. Then, the next dog goes. There are four dogs total per team.
Flyball is an excellent way to meet other dogs and their owners. It is a collaborative effort between all dogs and all humans on a team.
Dubbed by Bloomberg as Winter’s Wildest Sport! You’ve just got to try out skijoring if you and your dog love going crazy in the snow.
The basic idea is to have your dog pull you while you’re on skis.
You just get yourself on some skis, and your dog into a harness. Attach the two of you together, and you’re set! More specifics on equipment you’ll need here.
There are competitive skijoring races in North America and other areas of the world, but most people just enjoy training their dog to pull them around on skis. It’s a case where pulling on the harness is desired–perhaps a good outlet for dogs who love a good pulling “workout.”
Notably, there are no signaling devices to control your dog during skijoring–they must be motivated by their own desire to run, and respond to your voice for steering and direction.
You don’t need to be an expert skier, although you’d probably want to be at least an intermediate skier to account for your dog’s sudden jerks.
Also, your dog doesn’t have to be a Husky to enjoy this activity. Any medium to large dog (~35 lbs and up by AKC recommendations) can learn skijoring!
(It’s pronounced “Tribe-ball”)
Treibball is kind of like soccer. Your dog “herds” a number of inflatable balls into some nets as quickly as he can.
This sport, like many other dog sports, was invented to play to the natural strengths of certain dog breeds. Like skijoring was invented to allow sled dogs an outlet for their pulling strengths, treibball was designed for all the herders out there.
But that being said, your dog doesn’t have to be a herding breed to excel at this sport!
In fact, if your dog loves balls, or chasing things period, they can learn treibball.
The great news about this sport is that it’s a relatively lower energy sport compared to some of the other sports on this list. The American Treibball association proclaims that “if your dog has a nose or shoulder, he can play treibball”.
To me that sounds like an invitation to get started!
And last, but definitely not least, we have the relatively new phenomenon known as Doga.
Yes, it’s yoga, but with your dog. You don’t have to be a yoga expert to try Doga.
In fact, some sources even recommend Doga more to yoga beginners, because Doga classes tend to be less formal and involve a bit more laughter.
During a typical Doga routine, you’ll make lots of direct contact with your dog. They’ll constantly be receiving pets, and what dog wouldn’t like that?
Whether you’re doing a stretch position together, or supporting your dog’s front paws as they stand on their hind legs, Doga is all about feeling present and connected with them.
Doga is probably more suited for the calmer dogs out there, but that doesn’t mean you should give up entirely if your fur kid is always overly hyper.
Hopefully from this article, you learned that there are a ton of ways to exercise your dog, no matter the activity level of you or your pooch.
Now, you officially have no excuse not to get out there and make sure your dog stays fit and healthy.
Maybe you’ll decide to pick up a new activity after reading this. Do let us know which one you think would be your new favorite!