8 Ways to Keep Dogs Active Indoors

Rainy days, wintery days, snowy days, or plain ole indoor days: These are the nemesis of the dog who wants and needs exercise. Trying to keep dogs active indoors requires a bit of ingenuity, space, and a willing spirit. Patience and love are key: You want your dog to like doing these activities while engaging his or her muscles in a way that will keep them active

The following activities are designed for dogs who are overall healthy. If your dog is immobile or has movement or joint issues, then you should modify or avoid some of these. Use your own best judgment in how much your dog can do and be sure to have fun. These games to keep dogs active indoors are also designed to enhance the human-animal bond. (Plus if you travel, many of these activities can be done in a hotel room, too)

8 Ways to Keep Dogs Active Indoors

When teaching a dog any new tricks or games: 

  1. Positive reinforcement
  2. Never force a dog to do something
  3. Start slow
  4. Work in short bursts- no more than 10 to 15 minutes and always end on a positive note
  5. Don’t get frustrated or mad at the dog: Patience is key

If you think you have a lazy dog, please read this: How to Exercise a Lazy Dog

Body Pillow Bounce

After a recent purchase of an oh-so-snuggly Body Pillow , this dog mom realizes it doubles as an indoor jump obstacle. Set your dog up on a sit/stay and then work with him to jump the pillow. Heck, to keep myself active, I jump the body pillow with my dog. Just make sure the neighbors below aren’t sleeping when you try this activity.

Note: You need to encourage your dog to do this exercise with some sort of incentive (a treat, his favorite ball, praise). For my dog, he is happy with a squeaky ball and lots of verbal praise. I sound like a cheerleader when I workout with my dog because praise is key. I want my dog to feel like he just won Westminster Best in Show.

Dog playing ball indoors

Spin That Doggy

Spinning is a trick we worked up to when our Dexter was a pup. It is fun, engaging, and I recommend associating tricks with verbal and nonverbal cues. Tell your dog to sit (and by the way, I am always happy when I talk to my dog). I associate sit with a hand signal for sit. While holding a treat in your hand, hold it above the dog’s nose, move the treat in a large circle over his head. The dog is supposed to follow your hand. The dog is allowed to break sit. Don’t associate “spin” with stay. Your dog won’t get this instantly and training sessions should be short, sweet, and end on a positive note.

Indoor Ball Play

Okay, so Marcia Brady might have heeded the warning to “not play ball in the house,” but indoor ball play is a fun and athletic way to engage your dog. We love to play with squeaky balls.

dog indoor games

Tug o’ War

Most dogs will enjoy this game, as long as it doesn’t get out of control. Some dogs like a soft toy while others, like mine, will play this game with a squeaky deflated ball. Some caveats: Dogs should know “drop it” or “release” or whatever command you use to indicate the toy is to be let go. There is to be no tugging of the human or human clothing involved. End the game otherwise. Again, make any game time something happy for the dog. One of our dog’s favorite toys is that which is a stuffed animal that makes noise: Multipet’s Look Who’s Talking Plush Chick 5-Inch Dog Toy.

Dog stuffed animal toy

Be Like Rocky

Exercise those leg muscles and get the heart pumping with steps. Seriously, I sometimes toss my dog’s ball down the steps during play time so he can work his legs. Don’t overwork a dog and ensure the steps are secure. Our steps are carpeted, so a few reps of this activity are a great workout for dog and dog parent.

Hide and Seek

Hide and go seek is a perfect year-round game for dogs of all ages. Not only does this game work perfectly on rainy days, but it heightens a dog’s sense of smell in a fun and rewarding manner. Start out with a few of your pooch’s favorite treats. This game will require two people initially. One person stays with Fido in a room while the other hides. When ready to be sought, the hidee lets out a “come, Fido” or “whoo hoo” sound to initiate the game. As Fido scours room to room, occasionally let out a verbal signal. Once found, praise him like he just won an Olympic medal and reward with a treat. Repeat. One caveat: Be sure the favorite Limoges vase or grandma’s heirloom plates are removed first.

Dog beg trick

Beg

A friend of mine taught this cute little exercise to my dog, Dexter. The dog is put in a sit/stay and then you place a favorite treat in your hand. Make a fist and move your arm forward and tell the dog to “beg.” Your dog will attempt to paw at the treat or will be confused perhaps. Instinctively, he will try to sit up. Allow this and let him wrap his paws on your arm, as seen in the video.

Sit-Down-Stay-Up

This will help work the different muscle groups and is a repetition of sit, down, stay, and then tell the dog to get up. You want to reward for each set. I use small and low-calorie treats like Einstein Pets- TURKEY TIME – One Calorie Treats.

Dexter playing a dog board game
Opening drawers in the Dog Casino game, Dexter loves this!

Work the Brain

Mental exercise is as important as physical exercise, so keep a dog’s brain active and his instincts keen with a variety of activities. The above game is one of our dog’s favorites: It is called Casino by Nina Ottosson.

Here are a few links for further reading and to engage a group of dogs, too!

Sweat the Small Stuff with Dog Exercises

Group Games for Dogs

Dognition Mental Stimulation for Dogs

Video Bonus: Watch the Tricks in Action

Advanced Bonus Tricks

Want to teach your dog some tricks that are fun and engaging for the advanced level?

Teaching Your Dog to Move (Excuse Me)

Teach Your Dog Roll Over (this is an advanced trick)

Your Turn: What’s your favorite dog exercise for indoors? Tell us in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. These are great tips! I was laughing at the “spinning” one because there seems to be something with Shelties…..when they see something that excites them they ALWAYS spin!!!!!! Dakota gets a Greenies bone every night at 6pm, he knows the time and waits. When he sees the box open he immediately starts to spin. He does this numerous times during the day. I have never seen other dogs do that and was wondering if it is a “Sheltie thang???”

  2. I really like these indoor exercises. I’m always at a loss after hide and seek. These games should help with the boredom during inclement weather.

  3. First off I have to say I LOVE your video! When he found you behind the curtain, that was hysterical! Adorable, you & Dex did an amazing job. These are all great ideas, I love the body pillow jumping exercise. I am going to find a way to add jumping indoors to my repertoire. I love to play find the treat with Icy & Phoebe, we have so much fun! I should video us playing that game and post it, it’s a riot.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them.

  4. You have mentioned some really good ideas to keep dogs occupied. It is so important that your dog is stimulated both mentally and physically. I find that Kong dog toys keep our dogs entertained for some time.
    Great video, thanks for sharing.

  5. Wonderful post! There are several things I would like to try with my pup from the list and of course, I’m a huge hide and seek fan! I’ve been wanting to train him to pick up his toys, but haven’t taken the time to work on that yet.
    Thank you so much for the article!

  6. I currently play hide and seek with my dog, which I think we both love. I really like to pillow jump idea, I will try that – Great exercise and sounds fun. I wish I had stairs in my house – I could use the exercise too. Thank you for the great post!

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