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
“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.”
Exercise and engagement of a dog should be modified according to a dog’s:
- Health condition
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.
“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.
“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!
“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 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:
What do you do to keep your dog active despite his or her age?