lazy dog exercises

How To Exercise a Lazy Dog

lazy dog exercises

My dog hates to exercise. I have a lazy dog who doesn’t want to move or go for walks. Why won’t my dog play with me anymore?

If you’ve said (or thought) any of the above, this information is for you. Sometimes dogs aren’t lazy: It’s us pet parents who aren’t engaging our dogs and motivating them to do things, have fun, and enjoy their time on earth. Here’s how to exercise a lazy dog:

First Things First

Rule out medical problems. If a dog doesn’t engage, suddenly loses interest in activities, or just is not acting like himself, seek veterinary attention. Before starting any new program, exercise regime, or movement program, it’s a good idea to see a vet first.

Some reasons dogs might show a lack of interest or decreased activity include:

  • Thyroid issue
  • Lyme disease
  • Arthritis
  • Anemia
  • Boredom

“I always consider hypothyroidism in cases of overweight dogs, especially if the owner is feeding a reasonable amount of food,” says veterinarian, Dr. Laurie Coger.” Diseases such as Lyme or other tick borne diseases can cause decreased energy. And of course arthritis or other causes of musculoskeletal pain can lead to unwillingness to exercise.”

swimming dog

Getting Started

Exercise and engagement of a dog should be modified according to a dog’s:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Health condition
  • Size

Like people who suddenly start exercising after being sedentary for a lengthy period of time, start slow and increase according to dog’s responsive and interest. An elderly basset hound isn’t geared to start jogging any more than a Great Dane would like riding around the neighborhood in a doggy stroller.

I’ve heard pet parents say, “I can’t play with my dog any longer, he has arthritis” or “I want to play with my dog, but he’s old and can’t last long.” My advice? Make do with what you have! Ease a dog into swimming, do slow walks around the neighborhood, join a dog lovers group where fellow seniors can mingle. Whatever the case, growing old is a mindset. Yes, we should always take precautions when a dog is older but never should we simply “give up” or “stop playing.” Modify the methods but keep the dog moving in some way, shape, or do-able form. A bored dog will get used to a boring lifestyle, after all.

dog beach

 “My Dog Hates Walks”

Problem: My dog won’t move. She hates talking walks and even sits down on walks when I try.

Solution: Don’t force a dog. The experience needs to be pleasurable and engaging for your dog. If you make a dog go for a half hour walk knowing he or she will hate it, you set yourself up for failure. Start with a 5-minute walk down the street/neighborhood and back. Short, sweet, fun, and rewarding for the dog are all goals. If you pull a dog or say things like “let’s go” and yank at the leash, this is not very pleasurable for the dog. You have to make the walk feel like the dog is going to Disneyland: Celebrate and reward!

One of the biggest complaints I hear about dogs on walks is “they take forever and they want to stop and smell everything.” A dog’s walk and all the scents and sniffs he or she takes it is the equivalent of reading a newspaper. Each sniff is a different section! Let dogs take in the sniffs. If someone badgers you about moving and won’t let you stop to take in the sniffs and sights of the stroll, would you be happy about a walk? Probably not. So let dogs sniff and enjoy the walk. Put your phone away and be at one with your dog during these times.

ball dog

“My Dog Isn’t Interested in Games or Toys”

Problem: Lack of or dwindling interest in activity.

Solution: Dr. Coger says in terms of not liking to exercise, despite being medically OK — for me, this is a training and behavior challenge. Sometimes it’s mental — maybe the dog is scared to walk down the street, where there are loud noises, other scary dogs, blowing leaves, etc. Other times it’s a case of the dog valuing some other behavior more than the exercise. For example, the dog who only wants to smell the ground and eat grass as opposed to retrieving the toy. The dog trainer in me says he has not been taught how much fun it is to play the retrieve game, in fact even more fun than sniffing (which is on any dog’s top 3 list of things that are great). So, as you said, it is because of the human, but perhaps not always the way you were thinking. Some dogs are really tough, and getting them to engage in activity and love it when there are competing naturally reinforcing options is really tough.

Training example — my trainer friend’s Border Collie. Brilliant dog, learns at the speed of light. Loves toys and tugging as a reward for training. Would not accept food as a reward. Spit out commercial treats, cheese, meat, liver, etc. (What dog doesn’t want liver? What dog doesn’t leap up when the leash is picked up? They are out there…) So my friend had to teach her to eat the food, by, you guessed it, rewarding her with tugging for eating the food! And of course she now accepts food as a reinforcer, but her first choice is always a toy.

So, that’s kind of the long way around it, but training with an enlightened trainer may be a key part to getting these “lazy” dogs motivated (as well as the humans).


“My Dog Needs Something New to Do”

Problem: Indoor boredom

Solution: Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? Hide-and-seek is a perfect year-round game for dogs of all ages. Not only does this game work perfectly on rainy and snowy days, but it heightens a dog’s sense of smell in a fun and rewarding manner. This game requires two people initially. One person stays with the dog in a room while the other hides. When ready to be sought, the “hidee” lets out a sound to initiate the game. As your pooch 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 to remove any glass or breakables out of the way: this game stirs up a dog’s inner puppy!

playing dogs
Image courtesy

“My Dog Plays if Other Dogs Are Around: Help”

Problem: Single dog household but dog acts differently and spry around other dogs

Solution: Plan something you and your dog will absolutely do together at least once a week. If you have a dog, you owe it to him or her to set aside some bonding time. Daily walks and play time aside, you and your dog will bond further (and he will be happier for it) if you set time aside. Our pooch looks forward to Friday nights because that is “mommy and me” time: Park, pet-welcoming businesses, treats, and extra play time. Get your calendar out and mark those days off now: Even if you have to do it a week at a time.

Here are some ideas for pet-friendly things to do:

  • Indoor or outdoor picnic
  • Pet-friendly business hop: Even if you window shop, go have fun!
  • Check out a new park that allows dogs and get your sniff on
  • Play dates with neighborhood friends

dog meetup

Dog lovers, unite. We can’t stop the hands of time from ticking forward, but we can play some magic tricks on the motion they take. Abracadabra–these techniques do work. It’s up to us to tap the magic wand and set the stage for a lifetime of canine happiness.

 Like this article? You’ll love these related articles:

Spring Fling Activities for Dogs

Exercising With Your Dog

Dognition Indoor Games for Dogs

What do you do to keep your dog active despite his or her age?


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  1. With some dogs, it is tricky to figure out what engages them. I’ve known a few people who say that their dogs don’t like to play or walk and when I observe them with their dogs, they are really low-key, not animated or use a monotone or quiet tone of voice when interacting with them. It makes me wonder if their dogs would respond better if they were more fun or used a different tone of voice.

    1. You are SO spot on – different styles for different dogs. It really depends on the dog. What works for one may not work for another. We are all positive reinforcement based, so thanks for your comment. 😉

  2. Well, you know us…we’re all about the exercise. Luckily both Jack and Maggie LOVE to exercise, so this isn’t a problem. Great suggestions here though – thanks for the post!

    1. While authoring this, I thought about SlimDoggy and your crusade to keep dogs healthy. I am forever referring folks to your awesome resources and thank YOU for all you do in the name of healthy dogs!

  3. I had this problem with my dog Max. He doesn’t want to get up for our daily exercise. So I had him checked by his vet and it turned out that he was just bored. Good thing it was not any disease.

  4. Henry LOVES to exercise — walks, runs, games, and more. I try to take him for frequent runs, which is great for both of us, but it can sometimes be hard. We get playtime in while in the apartment, though!

  5. Great article and one thing I do is when Layla and I are out, if its just walking or dog park I make sure my phone is off and ignore it totally so my focus is on her only and it makes a big difference.

    1. I admit that’s something I’m guilty of. I’m going to take your advice Ruth. Thanks.

  6. I love this post! I can’t say Miley is lazy when it comes to walking but she will only go on walks if her daddy comes along too! Having three dogs, they all like their own type of exercise, whether it’s walking, fetching or playing hide n’ seek games. Great tips, thanks for sharing!

  7. It’s kinda the same with cats…’cept we really don’t go for walks. But engaging us in indoor play with wand toys and the infamous red dot is great exercise for us.

  8. Many of these tips work for cats too. We have a family of indoor cats and to ensure they don’t become ‘couch potatos’ I get them playing and exercising. Besides toys, we takes walks in the garden on a harness and leash, and I recently set up an agility course inside for Max so he can show-off his athletic ability. Of course, the exercise is paying off for me too.

  9. I have the queen of lazy dogs! Sheba my cattle dog is very lazy and I am always trying to find new ways to motivate her to play or be energetic when on walks or hikes. I have found she is obsessed with squirrels and she loves hiking!

  10. Great article!! My dog Pippa isn’t that into toys, she loves walks and outdoor activities, but just has no interest in toys! When we went to dog class, she had to retrieve something. Boy, was I wrong. I threw the toy, and she just looked up at me “Woman, no!”
    My other dogs just LOVE to retrieve anything they can find!

  11. Ruby is pretty good natured and just wants to be with us. If we are feeling lazy, she’s happy to be lazy with us. If we are active, she likes to tag along. Our previous dog, Pip, was lazy with a capital L. He was also stubborn and getting him to go for walks was a serious challenge and often a battle of wills. He was a Yorkie and assumed he should be carried or pushed in a stroller instead of having to expend any energy walking himself.

  12. I had two of those problems. One was the “my dog takes so freakin’ long because of sniffing everything.” I finally realized that it’s her walk, not mine. Once I relaxed about it, the walks were so much more pleasureable for both of us. The other problem was when my dog didn’t want to go anymore. She would just sit and wouldn’t budge. Turned out she had bone cancer. Such a sad discovery. Thanks for your article. It’s very good.

  13. Pet ownership is all about skiils, and learning to take a dog for a walk is an important one. I love your suggestions of walking and learning to do it in stages – not dragging a poor dog out for a long oooong walk it hates every minute of!

  14. Two of my dogs love to go for walks, but the third one really doesn’t enjoy herself. She stresses a lot about leaving the house (even though we always come home.) So she just gets short walks. She loves to run around the yard, but she could use a bit more exercise. I’ll have to give some of these ideas a try.

  15. Great ideas, Carol! While I have Siberian Huskies, and they love to be active, my FiveSibes also love their chill time! A few love their toys, especially our Bandit. She is all about the toys! When it’s hot or raining, they each love different forms of activity and entertainment. A good game of indoor tug or Fetch is our Harley’s favorite! And they all love the mental stimulation (where’s the treats?!) of puzzle games! If it’s a hot day, quick excursions out to the back deck and their kiddie pool is a fun way to get in a a little exercise while cooling off. I toss in a ball or some water toys and they will chase them or tried to “fetch” them while splashing around.

  16. At eleven years young, Reese slows down during our pack walks. Seriously thinking of making a pet sling so she can still join – and enjoy. We don’t worry about her fitness. As soon as we get home she will play unlimited laps of fetch!

  17. Great ideas! You have to be creative with lazy kitties too. It takes some exercises in empathy – what is this like from your pet’s point of view. I love the suggestion of compromising with your dog on walks! It is good forr us humans to slow down and enjoy life a little too.

  18. Great advice. Keira is getting older and doesn’t walk as long as she used to. I try to make sure we get some good quality play in addition to make up for her lack of distance.

  19. We have had to adapt to no big fenced garden, a single dog, and a different breed. Our previous dogs were lab mixes and loved running at least an hour a day and playing in the park or garden. Even when they were really old, they enjoyed getting out. Kilo the Pug likes frequent short walks near the house, lots of sniffing, and playing games/zoomies inside the house in the morning and late afternoon. He is reactive to most other dogs, terrified of the park and is glued to me.

  20. What a great post! I love the newspaper/sniffing analogy, that is so true! Sometimes it can be slow going, but the walk is for them not us so I let my dogs do their thing, Checking pee-mail every few steps & leaving their own “messages” in return, LOL! All great ideas here, thanks!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  21. I have just rescued my cavalier king Charles dog after it was kept for breeding for 6 yrs and never seen the likes of the outside world. She has got so attached to me as she is a very nervous dog, I a anxious for her not to get overweight. It she will not run she just keeps by my side whining because she doesn’t like being out of home. How can I excercise her well to keep the wait off.

  22. My teckel dog, Merguez, had bad surgery last year for an herniated disk ( he was paralysed ). After some physio both at home and the vet, 1 week after his surgery he started walking again. it took a few weeks until he could walk ”Normally”. His back limbs are not as strong anymore he has a hard time getting let’s say from the street to the sidewalk.. it’s a little high for him. He can walk normally but seems to have lost interest in everything since his surgery. If I walk him, he wants to come back home (seems to find his way lol), at home all he wants is sleep, i have an other teckel and Merguez has zero interest into playing with her. We use to play throwing the ball… now when i throw the ball he just looks at it go by him and doesn’t go get it. I am very happy that the suregery saved him and that he can walk again, I love him so much! I just wish he wasn’t so sedentary or depressed. He used to lovvvvvvvve chewing on bones. Now i give him a bone, he takes it and puts it down. Help!

  23. My dog is a english yellow lab that gets really bored in the house. He likes walks and also loves swimming. But unfortunately he is not aloud to go into the pool because my mom said he cant. He cant even walk around the house and can only stay in the kitchen. I feel so bad for my dog, Max. What else can I do for my dog? All he wants is food, food and more food.

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