Here is a worthwhile New Year’s resolution for both you and your dog – pledge to increase your pooch’s exercise, both physical AND mental. Mental exercise is just as important and tires out your canine. It’s always a good time to improve your best friend’s health and, as we all know, a tired dog is a good dog!
12 Easy Ways to Increase Your Dog’s Exercise
Many of these activities provide both physical and mental exercise at the same time. Try a new one each month!
- Play Search
Search gets your dog using her nose to find treats you’ve hidden around the house. Click for details.
- Make Mealtime a Puzzle: Feed from Food Toys
There are so many of these on the market these days, but popular ones are the Kong Wobbler, the Kibble Nibble, and Nina Ottosson’s Dog Tornado, Dog Maze and Miracle. When you put your dog’s meal in a puzzle toy she has to work to get the food out. This type of problem solving provides a mental workout for your dog.
- Take a Tricks Class
Tricks training is fun and a mental workout for your dog. In fact, all training classes provide mental exercise for your dog. Click here to see the training class calendar.
- Make a Busy Bomb
Your dog must figure out how to get the prize inside a package. She uses her nose and problem solving skills to get it out. It’s the bomb for your dog!
- Play Fetch Up a Flight of Stairs
Get your dog running up a flight of stairs after the ball to maximize her workout. Repeat as needed!
- Create a Dig Box
Churn up the earth in a corner of your yard and bury some toys or a bone in there. Bring your dog over and let her dig up her prizes. It might get a little messy, but it will be tons of fun!
- Host a Backyard Playdate
Romping with a friend is great exercise. When inviting another dog over, remember to pick up toys or bones that might be lying around. Your dog may not want to share these things with her friend. Limit play dates to 20-30 minutes the first few times. You want to end the play time in a good place and before the dogs get too tired and become grumpy. If the dogs are getting along well, you can start to extend the time of your play dates up to an hour.
- Splash in a Swimming Pool
You’ll have to wait for warmer weather for this one! This summer, get a kiddie pool for under $10 and watch your dog go wild. You may find she has just as much fun playing with the hose while you fill it as she does playing in it. Toss some cut up hot dog pieces in the water and get her bobbing for hot dogs.
- Walk Somewhere New
We are creatures of habit, but novelty is important for the dogs. Walking a new route will be filled with new sights and smells. The novel environment will be more engaging for your dog. Need to work on leash walking? We’ve got tips!
- Have Fun with a Flirt Pole
A flirt pole is a toy that allows your dog to run and chase the toy while you stand relatively still. Great for those days when you need a rest! Click for instructions.
- Play Tug of War
A game of tug of war is a great energy burner, just make sure you are playing by the rules!
- Jump Through a Hoop
Buy a hula hoop at the dollar store and teach your dog to jump through it. This is a great way to burn off excess energy indoors. Start with the hoop low to the ground and toss a treat through it. If your dog runs around it, place it up against a wall and try again. Still can’t get it to work? We teach this one in Tricks class!
By Valerie Balwanz, PMCT, CPDT