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)
When teaching a dog any new tricks or games:
- Positive reinforcement
- Never force a dog to do something
- Start slow
- Work in short bursts- no more than 10 to 15 minutes and always end on a positive note
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
Note: This post contains affiliate links from Etsy and Amazon, meaning if you click on a link above and then make a purchase, Fidose of Reality will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you. You help us keep the site up and running and in exchange, you get to shop for items you love. Wags!