While nothing can replace a nice walk or hike in the fresh air, it’s good to know your dog can still get a great workout indoors.
From walking your dog around a big box pet supply store, to setting up an obstacle course in your living room, these are just two ideas to ensure your senior dog gets the exercise he needs every day.
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Why Exercise a Dog Indoors?
- Your senior dog has mobility issues and the pavement/park is too uneven to walk safely
- Bad weather (your dog refuses to walk in the rain or it’s too cold for your dog to go out)
- You’re experiencing health issues that limit your ability to get outside
- High temperatures prevent you from walking during the day
- Your dog is recovering from surgery or illness and needs to take it easy
- Anxiety due to vision or hearing loss may make it too scary to go out as often as he used to
18 Suggestions for an Indoor Exercise Routine
Note: I know this is obvious but still important to mention. Not every activity will be suitable for every dog, and will depend on age and physical ability.
Visit a pet supply or other big box store
Not only are these great places to exercise your dog, they present many opportunities for socialization as well. If your pup hasn’t been getting out as often as you would like, he’ll be able to meet other dogs, interact with new people, and experience different sights and sounds.
Set up an obstacle/agility course
- Throw a couple of pillows on the floor for your dog to walk between, or buy orange cones in the dollar store.
- Rest each end of a broom on a couple of bricks or bowls turned upside down, then let him step over it.
- Make a tunnel using blankets, or take a cardboard box and cut the ends off.
- Hold a hula hoop and have your dog walk or jump through it. How high off the ground will depend on his or her mobility.
A fun game of tug
There has been debate in the dog community as to whether or not tug of war causes aggression. If you already have an aggressive dog, it’s not the best game to play. If you adopted an older dog that needs some training, it’s a great way to teach “wait” and “drop it” for example. You may have to use a long enough rope so he doesn’t get fingers!
Read this: “Is Tug-of-War Bad for Dogs?”
Exercise on the stairs
Depending on your dog’s mobility level, he may be able to run or at least walk up all or a few stairs. Stand on the step he’s able to reach, throw his favorite toy to the bottom and have your dog bring it back up. After a few rounds he’ll be ready for a nap.
Go for a swim
A great form of exercise for dogs of all mobility levels, a dog friendly beach or river is fun in the hot weather. When it’s too cold for outdoor swimming, how about an indoor doggie pool or hydrotherapy pool in your area?
Organise a play date
At your place or theirs, getting together for a doggie play date is so fun for the pups, and their people!! Whenever one of my dog’s friends comes over they run around like lunatics, then have to rest because they’re so tired out.
Make a ball pit
Have you ever seen a ball pit at an indoor kids’ play area? Well, why not make the same thing for your dog! Get yourself a small plastic wading pool and fill it with plastic balls and you’re done.
If your dog is a chewer, please make sure the balls are safe, and don’t leave him or her unsupervised to avoid any choking incidents.
The mental stimulation a dog gets from figuring out a puzzle toy helps release pent up energy, that’s why it’s a perfect addition to a dog’s exercise routine. A quick search will bring up a good selection, but depending on your budget, can get costly. Alternatively, make your own for little or no money, Pinterest is a great resource for that.
Buy puzzle toys here!
Fetch is a fantastic way for your dog to burn off excess energy, and can be tailored to your dog’s ability. Even rolling a ball along the floor will make a difference.
Flyball, agility, scent work or just fun and games, find some local classes and give them a try. You’re bound to find something your dog will love.
Put your dog on the treadmill
A treadmill is a great way to get your dog moving. Using one built for humans is not the safest option, it’s best to buy one created specifically for dogs. They can be pricey but if you live in a climate that keeps your dog indoors a significant amount of time, the benefits to his overall health may be worth the investment.
That’s right! It means yoga for dogs and it’s not only a different form of exercise, it’s a great bonding experience for the two of you! If you can’t find a class in your area, here’s a video to get you started.
Teach your dog a new trick or two
Training is not only fun and an opportunity to bond, it also provides your dog with mental stimulation which helps work off energy and stave off boredom.
Of course he’s already well trained, but there’s always something new he could learn. How about teaching him the names of some of his toys, then getting him to bring them to you!!
Get your dog to help around the house
I just mentioned teaching names of toys, but what about human items? For example: teach him what a sock is, then get him to pick them up and bring them to you. Ask him to put the toys he knows the names of in the toy basket.
Buy or make a snuffle mat
To put it simply, you hide various treats or parts of your dog’s meal in the mat, then he forages for them. This fun brain game relieves boredom and pent up energy. Amazon has lots of styles to choose from, or make your own if you’re feeling crafty.
Play hide and seek
Have someone hide and let your dog seek, or hide a bunch of yummy treats around the house he has to find, it will keep him busy, exercise his brain and even tire him out.
Visit an indoor dog park
Indoor dog parks are such a great idea, bringing the fun of the outdoors inside!
Not every park will offer the same services and amenities but they typically offer things like –
- Artificial grass
- Park benches
- Tons of equipment for dogs to play on
- Ball pits
- Separate areas for dogs of different sizes
- Fresh drinking water
- Some even cater to dogs that need training or have behavior issues
- Refreshments for dogs and their people
Buy your dog new toys
I know we never need an excuse for this one, but if it’s been a while and he’s stuck indoors, now is the time to buy him something new to spark his interest. Whether it’s a chew toy, a bone or a stuffed toy he can really sink his teeth into, it’s a fun way to burn calories and keep your dog busy. Just like the puzzle toys above, there are plenty of low or no cost ways to make some, a quick search or visit to Pinterest will give you great ideas.
As you’ve seen, there are so many options for exercising your dog indoors, weather, health challenges or circumstances beyond our control no longer have to prevent them from getting the exercise they need and love.
How do you exercise and stimulate your dog when you can’t go outside? Sharing helps others so please leave a comment below.
I am a dog trainer and pet bereavement counselor, offering a senior dog care support service. I help with everything from health and wellness advice and training tips, to preparing to say goodbye and grief counseling. All sessions are conducted via Zoom, at a time convenient for you.
Get in touch today to book your FREE 15 minute, no obligation call. It will give you the chance to let me know what’s going on, and we’ll talk about how I can help. I can be reached via my FB page or contact form on my website.