Daily Dog Exercise Needs | PLUS 13 Outdoor & Indoor Exercise Ideas That Will Transform Your Dog
As of 2016 over 50% of dogs in the US are overweight (more on this below).
This means that the importance of exercise for dogs cannot be overstated. Like humans, obesity is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes such as:
- Liver disease
- Compromised immunity
- Increased cancer risk
- Damage to joints and bones
- Increased risk of injury
- Digestive disorders
- Decreased quality of life
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, pet obesity is on the rise. Their 2016 clinical survey showed that 53.9% of dogs are overweight by veterinary standards. Unfortunately, this means that as many as 41.9 million dogs in the United States alone are suffering from a lack of exercise and healthy diets.
Your furry friend does not have to be an athlete in order to be in a healthy condition. However, letting things get out of hand is a recipe for expensive trips to the vet and a life of pain for your companion. Work with your veterinarian to identify a healthy diet for your dog and help them stay active.
According to the American Kennel Club, playing outside and walking together constitute 73% of canine exercise in the United States. It is our hope that this article will help you expand your repertoire for engaging your dog’s physical needs, translating to better health for your little buddy (and maybe even you!).
We all have busy lives and sometimes it can be difficult to make the time for fitness. That is why we made this list of 13 great ideas for indoor and outdoor activities that will get your pup’s blood pumping!
Remember, like children, our pets cannot always make decisions in their own best interest. Just because your dog does not seem to want to get moving, does not mean that is what is best for them. Our list has a focus on fun so that you are sure to find some ideas that will help your buddy get engaged in physical activity with a sense of adventure and excitement.
Signs Your Dog Is Not Getting Enough Exercise
- Your vet has raised concerns about their weight or condition.
- They are not able to focus and seem anxious or nervous.
- They are destructive when left alone.
- They are breaking or bending house rules that they would normally obey.
- Excessive barking.
How Much Exercise Does A Dog Need Everyday?
There is no single formula that works for all dogs. Different breeds and life stages require different amounts of movement and stimulation. However, making an effort to ensure your furry friend gets daily physical activity that challenges them at their own level is a great fitness goal.
Experts suggest that 30 minutes to 2 hours a day is an appropriate range for doggy workouts. Younger pups and certain breeds (herding or working groups in particular) need more activity.
Keep in mind that your fitness levels may not be enough to challenge your companion. That is why our list of dog exercise ideas includes lots of ways to get a great canine workout in without wearing yourself out.
Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of research to clarify the specifics of ideal types and amounts of exercise for puppies. As a result, there is some degree of disagreement among vets and other dog professionals.
The primary concern with puppies is that prior to about 12, musculoskeletal development is still underway, and there is some concern that the body is not quite ready to fully support too much vigorous exercise, particularly when it is high impact or overly solicited (called “forced exercise”).
There is some (very limited) research suggesting, for instance, that conditions such as elbow dysplasia and Osteochondritis Dissecans may be at higher risk in dogs who were over exercised before fully mature.
The fact is that most regular dog owners are not likely in danger of over exercising their puppy, however, young dogs in training for athletic sports like agility or lure coursing may be at risk. As a result, most experienced dog trainers in those sports recommend a lower impact training regimen for pups under one year of age.
Because different breeds are prone to different congenital problems, it is best to consult with your veterinarian to make sure you are in the ideal zone of type, intensity and duration of exercise for your young canine.
It is worth repeating that different breeds and individual dogs will have different exercise requirements to suit their physical needs as well as keeping their temperament in balance. Dogs from the working, herding or sporting groups are likely to need more exercise than other breeds as a general rule.
One issue to be aware of is that, just like with people, canines that are mostly inactive that are subjected to sudden and infrequent bursts of strenuous exercise, are more prone to injury. This is because muscles in general good condition are much better at supporting joints and tendons. If your adult dog is in poor shape, make sure to help them get into better shape gradually before offering more high impact activity.
There are a host of reasons why your senior pup is moving less than they used to. Old injuries, arthritis, decreased heart and lung capacity, and plain old wear and tear on the joints are among the top reasons that getting more active may be meeting some resistance from your furry friend.
All the same, seniors have a higher quality of life in most cases when regular low impact movement is incorporated into their routine. Consult your veterinarian for ideas if you are concerned about any health issues involved with getting your older dog more active again. In addition, note that many of the activity ideas we have suggested can be scaled down to meet the needs of our less agile aging pets.
It is not enough for your pup to be physically stimulated. Like children, dogs need to be mentally challenged as well. This kind of stimulation is critical for all social, learning animals. Chronic boredom can lead to depression, leading to even less motivation to run, play and engage with the world in physically stimulating ways.
Combining physical activity with training is one way to make sure you have both bases covered. Our list takes this important principle into account. Whether you are looking to make the most of the great outdoors, or need ideas for an indoor winter day, we have ideas that will stimulate your companion’s body and mind.
We all have busy lives and sometimes it can be difficult to make the time for fitness. That is why we made this list of 13 great ideas for indoor and outdoor activities that will get your pup’s blood pumping!
13 Alternative Outdoor Exercise Ideas That Will Transform Your Dog
Teaching your pup to play fetch is one of the easiest ways to be able to wear them out in a hurry on demand. Some canines seem to find the game intrinsically rewarding. Others may need to be coaxed with food or another motivator like a quick game of tug for every successful retrieve.
If you do not have much of an arm for throwing, be sure to check out this throwing aid by Chuck-It. Not only will it easily quadruple your tossing distance, you also won’t have to touch nasty spit soaked tennis balls with your hands – a major bonus for Labrador lovers!
Most canines love to swim if properly introduced to this excellent low-impact form of play. If you don’t leave near any natural bodies of water, check with your local public pools which sometimes offer dog-friendly days during the summer.
Make sure to get your companion started in shallow water where they can find their footing easily so they will get over any initial fear of water right away. Once they have the lay of the land, try tossing in a floating toy or stick to lure them to swim. Keep it super fun and exciting!
Some breeds, such as Pugs and Staffordshire Terriers can have some trouble swimming because they are muscle dense. Other dogs are so interested in swimming that they don’t know when to quit. In those cases, consider a doggy life jacket to keep the play safe and enjoyable.
Although it operates on the same retrieving principle as fetch, playing with a frisbee can add a whole new dimension of physical activity to your canine’s outdoor time. If you have two people in your pack, try a fun game of monkey-in-the-middle. Or, just have some fun with some low and steady throws so your K9 athlete can enjoy catching up with the flying disk for a mid-air catch!
Frisbees can be a little hard on your buddy’s mouth, and they can be fun (and dangerous) to chew. We recommend this Zogoflex Zisk made with chewers in mind.
Is your dog crazy for the frisbee? Maybe it is time to up your game with some fancy tricks. Check out these Frisbee Freestyle moves:
Many working and herding dogs just don’t get enough exercise from walking, no matter how long the route. Such canines can really benefit from jogging alongside a bicycle. If your town is bike friendly, you probably have a number of well-maintained bike trails to choose from.
The only safe way to enjoy a bike ride with your companion is to use a specially designed bike leash. Another thing to be wary of are your dog’s limits. Make sure they are well hydrated and physically capable of your planned journey. Avoid the hottest part of the day and opt for evening or morning runs.
5. Dog Park
If your canine companion is well socialized and plays well with others, then the local dog park is a great way to burn off some calories and improve fitness. Most towns and cities have lots of options to choose from these days.
Note that not all professional dog trainers are on board with dog parks for the simple reason that you cannot always protect your dog from other pups. Still, dog parks have been gaining in popularity in recent years, and the opportunity for socialization is worth the risks to many dog owners.
If you decide to visit, be sure to follow these basic guidelines of good dog park etiquette:
- Clean up after your dog.
- Intact canines tend to attract other dogs which can lead to aggressive situations. Be mindful of this and consider a more controlled socialization environment if your pal is not neutered.
- If your pup has a fear of other dogs or has fear aggression issues, the dog park is not an appropriate place for rehabilitation. Instead, find a professional trainer that specializes in aggression to help you design a reconditioning program in controlled environments.
- Keep an eye on your pal and be ready to redirect them away from trouble at a moment’s notice.
- Trust your instincts. If you sense impending trouble, it is much better to leave early than risk trouble.
- If your dog seems to really enjoy the company of another dog, consider talking with their owner to organize some one-on-one play.
6. Puppy, Adolescent, Adult Training Classes
Many doggy daycare facilities and pet-shops offer training classes for dogs of all ages and skill levels. If you have a puppy, hopefully you have enrolled them in a puppy class…if for no other reason than the healthy socialization opportunity.
Training classes can give you the skills to communicate better with your dog, returning great rewards over the life of your relationship. In addition, they are physically and mentally stimulating for your pal. Examples of great classes include:
- Clicker training basics
- Basic dog manners
- Obedience training
- Leash and off-leash work
Make sure to do your research on so that you choose an organisation with a great reputation and reviews!
For many canine enthusiasts, agility is considered the top tier sport for showcasing athletic ability and a tight working bond between a dog and their handler. Because of this, agility training classes are usually easy to find in most localities.
Even if you decide that you do not want to compete, the classes themselves offer an excellent opportunity to practice training techniques while your dog has fun learning how to navigate the various agility obstacles. Most of the equipment is relatively easy to build, and inexpensive kits are also available for the backyard agility enthusiast.
8. Professional Dog Walkers
If you are finding that your work schedule is too hectic to fit in enough activity to keep your pet in good health, consider finding a professional dog walker to help. You might be surprised at how reasonably priced such services can be.
In addition to getting your pal out for a daily walk, you and your dog will be building a relationship with a trained professional who can also come pet sit when you have to leave home without your four-legged friend, giving you peace of mind when away.
9. Herding Trials
If you have a pet with some bloodlines from the herding group, a great way for them to get some exercise while making use of their instincts are herding trials. Although the AKC and other organizations offer titles and awards for the top dogs (usually Border Collies and Australian Shepherds), you can also find less competitive events and clubs with more of a social emphasis, particularly in suburban and rural areas.
Herding is an addictive activity for both you and your furry friend. You will have to work together, building skills of communication and tactics over time. What a great way to bond while getting outside to enjoy nice weather and fresh air!
10. Dock Jumping
All you need for this game is a floating toy your pal loves to fetch and a peer to jump off. If your buddy is new to the water, try tossing the toy near the shore where getting in and out of the water is less intimidating.
Is your dog a natural? Maybe they should go pro! Check out the North American Diving Dogs for more information on upcoming competitions and clubs near you. Dock diving is easy to learn and a great way for your companion to get exercise and socialization with other dogs.
Hap a lap dog? No reason they can’t join in the fun! There is a special class just for canines under 16”. Dock Diving is a low stress sport perfect for K9s of all breeds, sizes and ages.
11. Lure Coursing
If you have a sighthound such as an Afghan or Greyhound, consider the outdoor sport lure coursing. Considered a much more humane form of dog racing, this grand chase uses a mechanical wench and fake quarry to lure dogs around a course to see who is the fastest and most agile.
While competitive AKC Lure Coursing is limited to certain breeds, you may be able to find a nearby club that offers off-breed amateur lure coursing for fun.
12. Earthdog Trials
Do you have a Dachshund, Jack Russel, or other small working dog? Many of these breeds were selectively bred for their ability to track and hunt vermin as well as a strong drive to chase their quarry through underground burrows.
Historically such trials were used to identify the best breeding stock for these important contributors to rural pest control. However, the modern version is a much safer and humane sport for these little hunters (and their targets!).
Tunnels are now built with a variety of obstacles for your little dog to work through, challenging both mind and body. The AKC runs an Earthdog program that is non-competitive and focused on fun. Or, you can construct your own tunnel obstacle course if you have a knack for building.
13. Dog Parkour
Yes, it’s a thing! This fun activity involves teaching your K9 novel ways to engage their physical environment. Tic Tacs, 4 Feet On, and Gap Jumps are just a few of the moves you and your canine companion will learn in this engaging sport designed to focus on safe fun as well as accessibility.
One of the most interesting things about Dog Parkour is that disabled dogs are encouraged to participate. It is truly one of the only organized dog sports that makes room for special need canines to join in the fun. Titles are decided by video submission so you can play no matter where you live.
Grab your treat bag and camera and get ready for some adventure. Check out the Dog Parkour Association to learn the rules and find classes near you!
Need some motivation? Here you go:
13 Alternative Indoor Exercise Ideas That Will Transform Your Dog
1. Hide and Seek
Does your dog come reliably when called? Professional trainers call this having a good “recall” and it can be a vital skill for your pup to have in an emergency situation.
A great way to make recall training fun while also encouraging physical activity indoors is to play hide and seek in the house. This game works best with at least two people and it is a great game to get the kids involved.
Make sure each person has a bag of treats or kibbles that your pup is excited about and have everyone take up a hiding spot in different rooms of the house. Then, alternate calling them and rewarding when they successfully find the caller. Celebrate with excited pets and praise before the next person takes a turn.
One of the best indoor games to play with your dog is to teach them to find objects by scent. This fun game is one that you should start easy, progressively making it harder. There really are no limits to how challenging you can make finding a toy with the right scent because you can always increase the difficulty by adding distractor toys, food, and hiding the target in a more secret place.
The formal competitive version of this game is called “Nosework” but you don’t need to join a club to join in the fun. Scent training is easy and there are plenty of resources online to get started with this fun game. Here is a quick video to help you get started right at home.
It is a myth that playing tug with a K9 causes them to be more aggressive. In fact, most professional dog trainers these days will encourage owners to play tug with their pets. It is a great opportunity to get the juices flowing in a small indoor space. In addition, tug can be used as a reward for training purposes.
Make sure you follow some basic rules when playing tug with your fuzzy pal:
- Put “Tug” on command. If your furry buddy tries to start a game of tug unsolicited, don’t take the bait. Instead, drop the toy and walk away while ignoring them. It won’t take long for your dog to realize it is counterproductive to try to tug before asked.
- “Game Over” if your friend gets a little over excited and accidentally touches any part of your body with teeth or paws.
- “Drop it” should also be on command and practiced often. Tug is a game you allow, not one they get to demand or insist upon.
- Let them win sometimes! Another common myth is that if you let them win a game of tug they will suddenly see themselves as dominant and ruin your life. Nonsense. No one wants to play a game they always lose.
- Keep it as intense as you are comfortable with. You get to set the tone of tug games. The more exciting the game the more interested your pal will likely be, however, your comfort zone comes first.
- Choose a good tug toy. Not all tug toys are created equal…get something sturdy that won’t shred or break off into pieces that could become a choke hazard. We love this one manufactured by KONG.
4. Find It!
Your buddy’s favorite toy is all you need for this fun game which will provide your dog inside mental and physical stimulation on a rainy day. Have your dog sit and stay out of sight and tuck the toy into a new spot. Release them from the stay when you are ready with an excited “Find It!.”
The trick to making this game fun and intense is to start simple until your furry friend is on a roll with finding the toy and bringing it to you for a tug or a treat. Make a big deal about how smart they are, and progressively make the game more challenging.
If you are having trouble getting your pal interested in this game, you can also play it by hiding some small pieces of their favorite soft treats or even pieces of kibble for the highly food motivated pup.
5. Target Practice
Teaching your pup to nose or paw at a target on command is a valuable building block for more advanced tricks. It is also a great way to get your dog running in the house while you sit on the couch with a bag of treats.
A great target to use is a sticky note. They stick to things without leaving any messy glue or residue which gives you a lot of versatility.
Start by holding the sticky note out for your pup to investigate, and click/treat every time they put their nose to the sticky note. Notice that you do not create a verbal command at the early stage of training something new.
Once your dog “gets it” and is reliably nosing the sticky note, try attaching it to a nearby surface, keeping your hand near at first to encourage them to go for it. Over time you will move the target further away. Once your dog is going away from you to the target reliably, you can add the command “Target” when you are sure they are heading in the right direction.
Once your furry friend has mastered this game, you can put the target as far away in the house as you want, setting the stage for a great aerobic workout!
6. Obstacle Course
If your canine companion already has “Fetch” down, then you can make a great indoor obstacle course to tucker them out. Hallways are a great place to add jumps and tunnels for mental and physical stimulation.
Create jumps with boxes or totes. Use chairs or small tables for some low crawl fun. Make a curtain with a sheet for your buddy to push through. The sky is the limit with this game which will get your creative juices flowing!
Keep it fun and exciting for best results. Pro tip: Always quit the game before your dog does. This will keep them interested in playing. Several short sessions are better than “wearing out” the fun by over doing it.
Whether you have a little shorty lap dog or a large mixed breed, one of the most welcoming indoor dog sports around is Flyball.
Although the highest levels of the sport are dominated by Border Collies, there are plenty of local clubs focused on good clean fun for dogs of all shapes and sizes. Regional competitions include mixed breed dogs of every shape and size with several classes of competitors so everyone gets a turn to push it to their limit.
This sport has been likened to relay racing for dogs. Teams of 4 canines and their humans line up to race over jumps to retrieve a ball, each dog being released when the last dog reaches the finish line. It is easy to learn and one of the more inexpensive organized dog sports with regular regional tournaments.
One of the great bonuses of Flyball is that the jumps for each team’s course are adjusted to accommodate the smallest dog on the team. This novel rule means that each racing team has a “height dog” to keep the jumps low. Your little Jack Russel or Dachshund will be a welcomed and vital member of the team! Find a local Flyball club near you to get started.
8. Bag of Tricks
Clicker training is easy to learn. Once you have some basic skills, you are ready to teach your K9 any number of tricks. Daily practice to run through old tricks is a quick and easy way to work some indoor fitness into your routine.
Once your dog has mastered a command, you can use a method called “chaining” to start weening your dog off of constant rewards. By asking for two or more tricks in a row before click/treating, you will raise the bar on what it takes for your dog to earn a reward. Over time you can expect your companion to be ready to “work” for longer periods of time without a reward.
Looking for some inspiration for some new tricks to train? Check out this video for some ideas:
9. Doggy Play Date
One of the best ways to wear your pup out is vigorous play with another canine. This is a two-birds-with-one-stone solution to the rainy-day blahs. Not only will your buddy get some great play in, they will reap the rewards of socialization. Playing with other dogs is particularly important for young pups, but being able to play well with others is something that needs lifelong practice.
Consider baking up some dog treats for the occasion!
If you already have a treadmill then you have one of the best tools for indoor physical conditioning. Although there are special treadmills designed just for dogs, and they do have some helpful features, you can use a regular treadmill to get the job done.
Rather than forcing your dog to use the treadmill, make sure to use positive training methods. It is unsafe to tie your dog to a treadmill under any circumstances.
Start with rewarding them for getting on the treadmill, then raise the criteria to a few steps, and continue to raise the criteria for a reward to longer periods of time walking. If you associate using the treadmill properly with good things, then you will soon have a dog that eagerly looks forward to a jog!
Always supervise your pal on the treadmill, and be sure to keep the speed and time limit well within their fitness range. Here is a video showing how to train your dog to the treadmill with positive reinforcement techniques and no dangerous leashing:
11. Blanket Monster
This game is perfect for the pup that loves to rough house. Grab an old blanket that you don’t mind getting torn and throw it over your dog and then initiate some fierce play with some well-placed pokes. Turnabout is fair play, so make sure you take a turn under the blanket too!
Another version of this game is to hide your buddy’s favorite toy (works best with a squeaky toy) under the blanket and encourage them to find it. Alternatively mix some treats or kibble into a rolled-up blanket.
As you practice this game, you can make it more challenging by wrapping the blanket around the toy and then watching your little digger get a great work out untangling the blankets for their prize!
12. Dog Dancing
Look, you may not know it yet, but you just may have a canine star on your hands! Although dog dancing may look to complicated at first glance, once you break it down into the individual steps, with basic clicker training skills and some time devoted to training, you can become a dancing duo.
You don’t have to have your sites on the red carpet either. Training your dog some dancing moves inside on a rainy day is just a fun excuse to work on canine fitness. An added bonus is that you will get some aerobic benefits as well! Strap on the treat bag and get moving together!
13. Professional Doggy Daycare
Many towns now have doggy daycare facilities for busy pet owners. In many cases these facilities have trained dog handlers that work with groups of canines in grassy fields or large indoor spaces. They specialize in promoting safe play and keeping the pups active.
If your furry friend loves to spend time with other dogs, this may be a great way to get them active at a pace that is perfect for them. Most such facilities offer special pricing packages for repeat clients so you may find that it is more reasonably priced than you are expecting.
Many owners find that even one day a week at the local doggy daycare is enough to take the edge off, particularly with high energy canines. In addition, the next time you have to leave on a vacation without your buddy, they will feel right at home when you drop them off at the daycare facility!
Conclusion: Let’s Get Moving!
We here at WileyPup.com want to help you make the most of your relationship with your dog. Dog exercise is an important factor in their quality of life. We hope this article motivates you to try something new with your pup, rain or shine.
We welcome hearing about our reader’s ideas for a great doggy workout. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.