Although the tried and true form of exercise for pet dogs are walks, sometimes walks are not an option. Whether it’s the weather, your dog’s state of mobility, or other factors, there are a number of circumstances that can keep us from walking our dog. However, even if you are unable to walk your dog for whatever reason, it is still super important that your dog gets enough exercise every day. No matter the reason, keep reading for exercise alternatives to walking your dog.
Why Exercise is Important
Exercise is imperative to the day-to-day life of a dog. Not only does it help with their physical health, it is also good for their mental health and behavior. Being overweight can lead to a variety of health issues such as heart and joint problems. Exercise and proper diet can help ensure that your pup has a good heart and mobile joints! Further, getting more exercise has been associated with a calmer, more well behaved dog. It can even help reduce anxiety in anxiety-prone pups.
While exercise is typically thought of as something like playing fetch until your dog gets tired, mental exercise is equally important. Just like us, dogs like and need to use their minds. When was the last time you taught your dog a new trick? If it wasn’t recently, consider giving their brain a workout, too! Even just 15 minutes of mental stimulation can do the trick. Also, both mental and physical exercise can bring dog and owner together and make your bond even stronger!
Alternatives to Walking
Mental enrichment games
As mentioned above, it is equally important to make sure your dog gets mental as well as physical exercise. There are many different ways to do this. One is playing hide-and-seek with your dog. To do this you can either hide and prompt your dog to come find you, or you can hide a treat in a room and prompt your dog to “find it!” This game stimulates dog’s natural hunting and finding instincts and is a great way to make them think! You can also build your dog an enrichment box by putting recycled toilet paper or paper towel rolls, egg cartons, cereal boxes, etc. in a bigger box and scatter treats about. This will get your dog to sort through the material, and move things around to get to the treats! Finally, this can also include teaching your pup a new trick. Learning a new trick is a great way to get their brain to think in new ways. It is also a good way to practice listening and obedience. Just be sure that your dog doesn’t eat any of the objects!
Play or training in the water can be a great way for dogs of all ages and abilities to get exercise. If your dog is a good swimmer, letting them jump in the pool or the ocean while you watch them is a great way for them to expend some energy. If your dog is older, heavier, or has joint issues, hydrotherapy can be very beneficial. Hydrotherapy usually consists of supervised swim or walking on a moving surface in the water. The water is soft on joins but requires your dog to build strength and cardio abilities.
Walking on the treadmill can be a good alternative if the weather is bad. If you want to try this, make sure you acquaint your dog to the treadmill slowly and safely. Allow them to simply stand on it first, giving them positive reinforcement, and then increase the treadmill speed very very slowly. If you notice this makes your dog nervous or they are not getting the hang of it, don’t force it. Also, remember that treadmill walking should not replace outdoor walks.
Playing with a friend
Have friends or neighbors with playful pups? Set up a playdate for your dogs to run around in the backyard together. Playful, friendly dogs will naturally tire each other out without you needing to do any of the work! Just make sure your dogs are playing safely together and it doesn’t get too aggressive.
Flyball is a game for the whole family! You play with your dog against other dogs and owners. This game requires teamwork between you and your dog as your dog completes a training course with hurdles and balls.
Agility or obstacle course training is great for your dog’s mind and body. It teaches them to follow certain rules and commands. This is something you can even set up at home using items you already have at home by Googling DIY instructions. Sometimes dog parks have set up obstacle courses or even a nature walk can provide a natural one with fallen logs and rocks.
Scent work is a great way to stimulate your dog’s mind. Again, this kind of training plays into your dog’s natural instincts of sniffing, hunting, and finding. To do this, hide or simply organize various boxes around the house. One should have a treat or essential oil in it. You can even hide just one box and have your dog go find it. But if you choose to use many boxes or containers, make sure that the essence or treat is always the same and is always in the same box, otherwise it may get too confusing.
Treat puzzle toys
There are many dog toys designed to make your dog work for their treats. Lickimats and Kongs are two examples. You can make these games even harder by putting peanut butter or another safe substance in the toy and freezing it. This will teach your dog how to unfreeze their food and it will take them longer to figure out!
You can “walk” your dog indoors. If they have trouble listening or being obedient on walks, then practice this training on shorter walks across your living room. Another thing you can do inside is run up and down the stairs with your dog (if you have stairs!). Finally, you can practice off-leash training in instances when your dog is moving short distances, like from the front door to the car. You can train your dog not to run off or get distracted, but to go straight to the car. These activities will work both their mind and body.
Tug-o-war and Fetch
These two games are classics. Some dogs really love tug-o-war. When you’re playing with them, just make sure you allow them to “win” every now and then as a reward and so that they will want to continue to play. For dogs who love fetch, they will usually play for hours. If you really want your dog to get some exercise while playing fetch, it could be a good idea to invest in a Chuckit so that you can throw the ball further!
Walk somewhere new!
At the end of the day, it’s hard to beat a walk. If the trouble you’re having with walks is related to interactions with other dogs, or just the mundane route, try bringing your dog on a nature walk or a walk in a different neighborhood. New places will stimulate your dog’s mind while working their body!