Exercise is important for dogs to stay healthy and mentally stimulated but there might come a time when your routine changes, and your regular exercise routine will need consideration. No fear! There are plenty of ways to engage your dog indoors to burn off that excess energy and keep them stimulated. To help you get physical and live active, we’ve put together a couple of suggestions. Some are indoor classics while others take a little more effort but well worth having a happy and content dog at the end of the day.
A staple of every gym but also (with the proper training) a perfect indoor activity for your dog!
It’s important to train your dog and make sure they are comfortable with the machine. Here are six steps to get them started:
- Let your dog get used to the machine. You might be used to seeing a treadmill but to your dog it’s just a noisy, terrifying, metal monster. Let the treadmill run so they can become accustomed to how it looks and how it sounds.
- Once they’re comfortable around the treadmill, help them get comfortable on the treadmill. Make sure the treadmill is off and place your dog on top. Give them a treat if they don’t freak out and run away, you want them to associate the treadmill with enjoyment!
- Stand at the front of the treadmill, in front of your dog, and turn the treadmill on the lowest speed. You can encourage them while they begin to walk, they’re doing so good.
- Keep encouraging them to stay on that treadmill with treats and verbal reinforcement.
- Once they’re used to the treadmill and the speed, you can increase the tempo slightly and slowly put the speed up.
- Slowly adjust the speed to increase the physical challenge. Don’t forget to provide lots of praise!
Some things to remember:
- Don’t push your dog beyond their limits! Always increase difficulty slowly and gradually.
- Don’t force them to do it! If they don’t like it, let them take their own time.
- Never tie your dog to any part of the treadmill, it can be dangerous!
- Always supervise your dog as they exercise on the treadmill.
SNIFF SPORTS/OLFACORY OLYMPICS/ (NOSE WORK)
Nose works is fast becoming a popular dog sports and have clubs dedicated to the sport across the country. It takes advantage of dogs’ natural ability to sniff out scents and track them. Dogs are generally given a scent to follow until they can track down the original object, which could be a smelly rag, food, or just about any object.
Just like detection dogs, you can also use similar methods to hone your dog’s innate sense of smell while providing them lots of entertainment along the way. To teach them to go after a scent, introduce their favourite treat, get them to stay and place the treat somewhere away from them but still in eyesight. Let them go after the treat and slowly increase the difficulty (hiding it out of eyesight, placing the treat further away or in other rooms) until they find it an enjoyable challenge. It’s a great activity to exercise them physically and mentally, just don’t forget where you hid the treats just in case they miss one!
Similar to Nose Work is obedience and training. Training can range from basic commands like ‘sit’ to tricks and stunts performed at shows.
One common misconception is that only puppies can be trained but any dog can be trained with enough time and patience, a perfect opportunity for an indoor activity.
We recommend positive reinforcement through lots of treats verbal rewards. If you are using food based treats be sure to add this into their daily calorie consumption! Start with the basics and move onto more complex tricks/commands to continue challenging your dog. Good training is a long-term investment and will improve your bond with your dog and your communication skills with each other.
We’re not talking about jigsaws or sudoku! There are a lot of toys and puzzles that are designed to keep your dog occupied and provide mental stimulation. Food dispensers which are designed as puzzles are a great way to keep your dog engaged and make them work for their food. Maze bowls are also good ways to help slow your dog’s eating while keeping them entertained. Variety is key here so make sure you rotate the puzzles so they don’t get too easy.
HIDE & TREAT
Another oldie but goodie, it’s a little bit like Nose Work but instead of hiding the treat you hide yourself and treat them when they find you. If you’re able to replace yourself in the game with kids you can wear them both out at the same time. Get your dog to stay while you go hide yourself, then yell out “come” or get someone else to encourage them to find you. Hopefully, they like you enough to go find you. If they don’t, a treat should do the trick.
This is one activity where the sky is the limit. You can use pillows to make tunnels, pull blankets over couches to crawl under, weave through furniture or make jumps out of boxes. Really, it’s just up to you! It’s an enormous amount of fun for your dog and helps maintain muscle tone and a mental challenge.
All you need are things lying around the house, just remember to remove anything that could fall on your dog or cause injuries. A bonus idea once the dog gets tired, get the kids to have a go.
A real classic.
Pick up an object, throw it away and get your dog to retrieve. Just be careful of mum’s favourite vase. It’s also a good opportunity to teach your dog to drop or give an object back to you on command. Useful for when they’ve found your undies and are running around the house in front of the visitors.
Working dogs don’t need to have all the fun. With the unemployment rate for dogs fairly high, why not give your dog a job! Combine different commands with names of simple household objects to help your dog become the perfect assistant.
If your dog knows how to fetch, teach them the names of different household objects they can help retrieve. Newspapers (if they’re still a thing), clothes and blankets are great things they can help you with.
Your dog can also help you to clear the floor. Teaching them to pack up toys or clothes left around and putting them in a basket can seem like a game to them but be a great help to you.
Nose work and your lost slipper are also a perfect match. If they know the ‘find’ command and the names of your most commonly lost items, the only limitation is your forgetfulness.
Not feeling too inspired? Why not check out your local or online pet store!
New toys are a great way to keep them entertained while you’re busy with other tasks.
There are always new toys on the market, some with special designs like the puzzle bowls, to keep your dog entertained for long periods of time. Toys that also move by themselves are great ways to keep your dog engaged with minimal effort on your part.
There isn’t really any perfect toy but make sure they are high quality, won’t break off or tear into pieces and become choking hazards and don’t use any materials that could be harmful for your dog.
If your dog is stuck inside for long periods of each day, it’s important that they are getting quality nutrition at the right amounts. Make sure they get quality protein and ingredients that will support their immune system while providing health benefits.
Weight management can also be tricky if you can’t go outdoors a lot. If your dogs have gone from higher activity to decreased levels it is important to adjust their feeding ratio and daily calorie content. You can find these on the back of your dog food packaging.
Diets with L-Carnitine help stimulate their metabolism to burn more calories and a great ingredient to keep them in the healthy weight range.
We hope you enjoyed our indoor guide and that your dog will benefit physically and mentally from some of the activities!