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How to Give Your Dog Indoor Exercise

How to Give Your Dog Indoor Exercise

Bored and frustrated dogs can be a nuisance. But what do you do when you can’t exercise them outside? Read on for several ways to give your dog indoor exercise. 

Long walks and dog park activities are excellent ways to keep your dog exercised and healthy. But sometimes, it’s not possible to engage your pup in outdoor activities because of extreme heat, rain, or cold. Even when it’s possible to take your dog outside, indoor exercises are great additional workouts.  

Indoor exercises provide an outlet for pent-up energy by providing mental and physical stimulation. Even the “lazy” dog breeds like the Bulldog need physical activity to maintain proper health. Let’s explore how to give your dog indoor exercises to keep your dog engaged from the comfort of your home. 

How to Exercise Your Dog Indoors: 7 Ways to do It

Indoor exercises for your dog include tug-of-war, hide & seek, puzzles, obstacle courses, in-house fetch, and snuffle mat dog feeder. All that these games require is some space in your house. Exercising your dog indoors allows you to spend quality time with them while the dog burns extra calories and energy. 

A lack of physical and mental exercise is a precursor to nasty habits like excessive chewing and barking. These unwanted behaviors occur because your dog is bored and needs to expel some energy. In the way that humans can experience anxiety when mentally unoccupied, dogs react negatively to inactivity. 

Quarantine has shown us that having to stay home due to unavoidable circumstances is entirely possible. There may be an unexpected blizzard or unfriendly temperatures, yet your dog needs their daily dose of exercise. Situations like these call for indoor physical activity to keep your dog entertained. 

Indoor exercises are great, but they should not be substitutes for long walks and being outdoors.  Long walks and playing outdoors burn many calories, reducing the risk of obesity in dogs. Never taking your dog outside interferes with their mental and physical well-being. So don’t give the outdoors up altogether even as you reap the benefits of indoor games. 

We have compiled a list of 7 fun indoor activities that will keep your dog on their toes, even while at home. These activities mentally and physically engage your dog and are also excellent bonding opportunities for you and your dog. 

  1. Tug-of-war

    tug of war

    The good old game of tug-of-way never fails to give dogs a good time. This classic game releases the excess energy bottled up in your dog without having to go outside. It’s essential to monitor this game and play it correctly with your dog to avoid the development of aggression in your dog. 

    Tug-of-war can make a dog overly competitive or dominant. Remember to divert your dog’s attention with treats when he gets stimulated and too invested in the game. Pulling your dog’s neck upwards can injure your dog, so it’s best to shake the rope horizontally. 

    Tug-of-war may not be the best for dogs with resource-guarding tendencies and for puppies with developing jaws. Ensure your dog has a strong “leave it” or “give” command just in case you need to stop the game midway. 

  2. Find the treats

    Treats are one of the highlights of your dog’s day, and you can use them to exercise them mentally. Some treat puzzle toys make your dog work for his treats, providing exercise and a reward treat. Snuffle mats are oversized mats with designs that allow you to hide treats and dry food for your dog to find.
    Snuffle mats make use of dogs’ smelling senses, making eating treats even more joyful for your pup. The PawSafe foraging snuffle mat is a fun way to keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated. With this snuffle mat, your dogs get to look for their food like they would have in the wild.

    Food puzzles require dogs to use their cognitive abilities to access their treats. These puzzles also slow your dog’s treat consumption giving them the name work-to-eat toys. Don’t forget to track your dog’s treat intake, which shouldn’t exceed 10% of the total caloric requirements. 

  3. Hide & seek

    Hide & Seek is a classic game that burns your dog’s calories and uses energy.  To play this game, take your dog to a room and tell them to sit. After hiding, call out their name and let your dog find you. A few rounds of hiding will tire out your dog, and the mission to exercise will be a success. 

    You can also play hide & seek with treats. Hold a treat in one hand, then make both your hands into a fist. Let your dog smell both fists and reward them with a treat when they sniff out the correct hand, and try again if they fail. Similarly, you can shuffle around 3 cups with one containing a treat. If your pup chooses the right cup, reward them with the treat in it. 

  4. Indoor obstacle course for your dog

    indoor obstacle course for your dog

    You can easily set up an obstacle game for your dog at home with items you already have. You can use chairs, tables, and old boxes in a space in your house and set them up as obstacles. Your dog does over the small items, on top of others, and around them.

    What matters in this game is to get your dog to move around. By the time your dog is done with the obstacles, they’ll be more than willing to take a nap. Ensure the objects you use to set up the obstacle course are unlikely to fall apart to avoid injuring your dog and are stable if your dog climbs on them.

  5. Brain games and puzzles

    dog brain game min

    Brain games keep your dog mentally stimulated. Dogs are intelligent creatures, so their brains need to solve challenges to remain healthy and active. You can find various puzzles online or in pet shops, which vary in difficulty. Most puzzles require dogs to use their brains to figure out how to get treats. 

    Learning how to keep your dog entertained while you’re at work is essential, and puzzles do this wonderfully. Treat-dispensing puzzles keep dogs busy for hours, and they simultaneously give their brains a workout. Toy stuffing makes treat time more engaging, and you stuff toys with treats like peanut butter. Your pup will be engrossed trying to lick all the peanut butter off the toy. 

  6. Teaching your pup essential commands

    man training his two dogs outdoors min

    Dogs have a high drive to please, so a training session will grab and work their attention. Your dog has to concentrate during training to piece together the various commands. Additionally, the treats following successfully performing a trick motivate your dog to continue with the training sessions.

    Keep the training sessions short to prevent overstretching your dog’s concentration span. Dogs can get frustrated when the training sessions go on and on. Some excellent commands to burn energy include “spin” and “roll over,” but don’t overdo them to prevent your dog from getting dizzy. 

  7. Keep away and fetch

    Keep away involves two people and your pooch. This game needs some space, and you throw a toy or another item at each other and let the dog try to get it. You can occasionally allow your dog to catch the ball to keep them interested in the game, then go on with the regular keep away game. 

    You can play fetch with your pup to exhaust that extra energy if you’re with your dog alone. Throw your pup’s favorite toy to a reachable place in the house and let your dog retrieve it. A couple of repetitions will knock your dog right out due to exhaustion, and your dog receives a necessary dose of physical activity. 

    You can play fetch in a flight of stairs if you want to make the game more intense. Incorporating stairs to fetch will tire your dog even more. Consult your vet during one of the visits to ensure that running on stairs is safe for your dog’s joints, depending on the age and breed. Don’t overdo staircase workouts because we don’t want to overwork those dog joints. 

Final Thoughts

Indoor workouts are great for mental and physical exercise and promote your dog’s well-being. Playing tug-of-war, fetch, obstacle courses, puzzles, and hide & seek are suitable ways to exercise your dog indoors. Snuffle mats allow dogs to smell their treats to find and eat them and are a form of mental stimulation. 

Indoor exercises help owners bond with their canine friends when they spend quality time together. A bored, understimulated dog engages in destructive chewing and excessive barking due to excess energy. Indoor exercises aren’t substitutes for long walks and outdoor activities but stave off lousy behavior resulting from boredom. 


Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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