You can’t predict the weather, but you don’t have to let it interfere with your dog’s regular activities, either. Rain, snow, or shine, these simple indoor exercises for dogs will prevent unnecessary weight gain, support muscle, and deter bored and destructive behaviours.
It’s hard to ignore our instinct to hibernate during winter. Our dogs feel it too. Harsh winter weather drives us indoors and limits yours and your pet’s usual exercise routines. This can lead to your pet packing on some unwanted weight, not to mention encouraging lazy habits.
For more information about your pet's weight, check out Weight Loss Dog Food for weight management tips and to find the food to help your dog maintain a healthy weight and eating routine.
Top 10 Indoor Exercises for Dogs
To help your dog overcome the winter blues, try out some of our favourite indoor exercises for dogs. They will keep both you and your dog active and entertained.
Using your home’s natural landscape, you can amp up your dog’s cardio routine by using your stairs. Fetch and tag are both great games to play using stairs. Your dog will work up a sweat after a few trips up and down those steps, and you will too.
Check out our huge selection of fun games and toys to keep your dog active indoors.
2. Indoor Obstacle Course
Building a miniature indoor obstacle course is both a fun activity and a fantastic way for your dog to stay in shape. Use whatever you have, and get creative. A footstool is now a hurdle. Your couch cushions can make for a fun maze. Teach your dog to crawl under your coffee table.
The obstacles can be simple and geared for less active dogs, or you can test your high energy dog with a more challenging set up.
For some fun, simple tips, check out DIY Indoor Dog Obstacle Course.
3. Play Dates
There is no better workout buddy for your dog than his friends. Invite a few of your dog’s best pals over for some playtime. Even indoors, the pups will be pooped by the end.
If your dog prefers the company of people, then invite over your friends and tell them to bring their kids. It’s hard to turn down all those free belly rubs. Plus, kids will run circles around your dog, keeping him occupied and moving.
Push-ups aren’t just for people anymore. This fun game isn’t quite the “drop and give me 20” you are probably picturing when we say push-ups, though. Doggie push-ups are a great low-intensity indoor exercise for your dog, so it’s great for dogs of all ages and activity levels.
To get started, your dog only needs to know two basic tricks: sit and lay. Ask your dog to sit, then lay, then sit again. Reward them with treats or praise after each step, then repeat. It’s as simple as that.
Would your dog dance... if you asked him to dance? Your dog may not be the dance partner you’d imagined, but your dog may be able to bust a move better than you think. There are no rules for dog dancing. Just keep your dog moving by getting him to follow you and copy your movements.
If you can, get him to stand on his hind legs, grab his paws and try out a waltz or a two-step. You may just find out that your dog is a better dancer than you, or you could find out he has four left paws. Either way dancing is a great way to keep your dog active, especially in smaller spaces.
6. Flirt Poles
Invoke your dog’s natural prey drive with a flirt pole. A flirt pole is essentially a toy on a string at the end of a stick. You can buy them at your local pet store or try to make one yourself. Try to wiggle the “prey” a little to give it the appearance of being alive.
Once your dog has locked on target, he’ll lunge at the prey. Pull the stick away by turning the other way or lifting it up. Make sure to end your session by letting him catch the prey and rewarding with a tasty treat, allowing you to put the flirt pole away safely.
This one is best done in larger spaces, so slide couches and furniture out of the harm to keep you and your pet safe during this high-intensity activity.
Got a treadmill at home? If it’s anything like mine, it’s currently collecting dust. Make use of your treadmill by training your dog to use it. It should never replace all walks, but it’s a simple replacement for a short walk when the weather is particularly nasty.
Always start nice and slow. Allow him to get comfortable before you get up to their regular walking pace. You can use treats or toys to keep them moving at first. To prevent the risk of injury, never leave them unattended on a treadmill, and keep a moderate steady pace to prevent exerting them.
Who doesn’t love playing with bubbles? Humans and dogs alike love to chase and catch bubbles. Depending on your dog’s activity level and determination, bubble chasing can be quite a vigorous workout. Keep your bubble session short to prevent overworking your dog.
Stick to natural, non-toxic ingredients by making your own bubble solution. Just 1-part unscented, non-toxic dish soap and 3 parts water will do the trick. Stick to easy-to-clean areas in your house or put down a blanket or carpet that can be easily washed.
If bubbles are too messy, you can substitute with small balloons. Just make sure that your dog is not eating the balloons. If one pops, quickly remove any shrapnel. Avoid balloons that are small enough to fit in their mouth to prevent choking or ingestion risks.
9. Balance Board
Teaching your dog balance is a tougher work out than you might think. It engages many muscles and is a great way to practice commands like stay and place. You can even make your own using a circular board and large tennis ball cut in half. Glue each half of the tennis ball to the center of both sides of the board.
Slowly encourage your dog to stand on the edges, rewarding for each progression. Once your dog is entirely on the board, you want to coax them closer to the middle, where their weight will shift the balance of the board. Continuously reward them when they can balance the board, even if just for a second or two.
Your dog may never have perfect balance, but practicing their balance on the board as it shifts under their weight will engage tons of muscles.
10. Hula Hoop
Teach your dog to literally jump through hoops. Dig out your old hula hoop (c’mon we know you had one in the 90’s) or swing by your local dollar store for a cheap one. Use the hula hoop as part of your indoor obstacle course, or just use it on its own.
Start by getting your dog to walk through the hoop while holding it at ground level. Slowly raise the hoop a couple inches at a time until your dog must hop to get through the hoop. Make sure you are offering lots of praise and rewards. With enough time and practice, your dog will be leaping majestically through the hoop like he's part of a circus act.
Mix It Up
These are just a few of the fun indoor exercises for dogs that you can try. Many of these games and activities can be played one-on-one or with a group, so encourage your whole family to join in.
Keep your dog excited about these indoor routines by switching them up, either day-to-day or week-to-week. It will make the exercises more fun and keep the routine fresh. Plus, different exercises will work different muscle groups, giving your dog a full body workout.
Lastly, make sure you keep your dog mentally engaged as well as physically. Offering a variety of puzzle toys and games in between work outs can keep them occupied and prevent lazy behaviours that can stem from boredom. For more information on dog boredom, check out the link below:
What are your dog's favourite indoor exercises? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted by Krystn Janisse
Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channelling some crazy cat lady vibes with her five lovable, but rebellious cats.