Exercise is incredibly important for dogs of every size and breed. Not only is it necessary to provide your dog with physical exercise on a daily basis, it is also very healthy to regularly offer mental stimulation.
Every day, we aim to take Mojo on 2 long walks or bike rides and play fetch or frisbee in between. Mojo always seems so content when we return home and she can pleasantly relax without showing signs of boredom.
It is not always possible to offer your pet with enough outdoor exercise, so today we would like to share a number of indoor exercise ideas. These easy tips will help you entertain your dog in your home, even if you live in an apartment.
Is there anything that you do to keep your dog entertained, which we did not mention in this blog post? Feel free to share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
Keep in mind: Indoor exercise does not replace time spent outdoors. Dogs love to sniff, explore and run, so make sure to go outside regularly and incorporate as much time outdoors as you possibly can. Running in particular is something your dog will appreciate.
These ideas are just a way to help you entertain your dog when you simply want to do more, or when there is a reason not to go outside as much as you’d normally do on a given day.
Reasons for exercising indoors
Although we try to exercise Mojo outdoors as much as we can, there is a reason why we haven’t been able to do so over the past few weeks. Mojo suffered a knee injury and had been on bed rest for three weeks.
We slowly started getting back into taking her on longer walks this last week. Since the injury occurred, we have used various ways to entertain Mojo without putting stress on her joints.
But there are other reasons why someone would prefer to entertain their dog indoors instead of heading outside.
Here’s a list of possible reasons:
- Rain: Some dogs, especially those without an undercoat, prefer to stay indoors in heavy rainfall;
- Heat: Warm temperatures can easily lead to overheating, especially in short-nosed breeds, and paw pads can burn on pavement;
- Cold: Dogs without an undercoat easily lose body warmth during harsh winter conditions;
- Health issues of dog: After suffering an injury, dogs will often have to spend time on bed rest and don’t have the ability to do fun activities outdoors;
- Health issues of owner: After a surgery, dog owners also need time to recover and might not be able to exercise their dog outdoors.
Physical and mental entertainment
There are numerous ways to entertain your dog indoors. Depending on your situation, you can choose a number of the options that we explain below.
Some of the tips still require for you and/or your dog to move around a fair bit, and might not be suitable if either of you are injured.
Other options are mostly focused on mental stimulation and entertainment and can be used in most situations.
Tug of war
The first tip that we’d like to share is the most interactive activity. Tug of war is a great way for both you and your dog to burn some energy.
Although some dogs can entertain themselves with a toy for an extended period of time. One year ago we cared for a staffordshire bull terrier named Zelda, and she loved to hang on our spring pole (toy attached to a spring and rope) until we’d tell her it was time to stop! Other dogs like those that have a personality similar to Mojo, prefer interactive play.
It can be incredibly fun to play tug of war with your dog, and we like to get really involved. We don’t mean that we actually hold that tug toy in our mouths ourselves, haha! But we do growl along with Mojo to increase her enthusiasm.
We also include some obedience in this activity, by asking for a ‘drop it’ every now and then. Mojo knows her commands well and immediately drops her toy when we ask her to do so.
This is a great way to keep her focused on us, rather than getting too involved. With certain individuals it can actually be dangerous if they don’t have a good command to drop their toy, due to their strength and size.
Sticking with the topic of obedience, you can still work on your dog’s manners if you don’t have the option to go outside.
We actually like to practice Mojo’s leash manners indoors, as it provides an environment without distractions.
For example, we train a leashed and off-leash heel indoors before moving to a distraction-free environment outdoors. Training step by step and slowly increasing the difficulty makes the task easy and stress-free for both you and your dog!
Other obedience subjects that we work on are simple commands like ‘stay’ and ‘sit’. It can be incredibly convenient to teach your dogs these commands, as they can come in handy in many situations. We hence try to work on prolonged performance of these tricks.
Aside from training useful obedience like we mentioned, it can also be fun for both you and your dog to work on other tricks. Although they might not be as useful when you’re out and about, anything you teach your dog provides mental stimulation.
Mojo already knows many basic tricks, and since she loves working for treats she is always up to learn more!
Here’s a list of some of the basic tricks that Mojo knows:
- Paw (both left and right)
- High five
- Roll over
Some of these tricks involve movements that your dog might not be able to perform if he or she is recovering from an injury. Keep in mind that you have to choose the tricks that best fit your situation!
Although it’s simple for us to walk backwards, moving in odd directions does not come naturally for a dog. Dogs have to learn to use their back-end, and to steer it in a desired direction.
Around a year ago, we taught Mojo how to turn around in a circle, clockwise. We named this behaviour ‘twist’. This was fairly simple to teach, and since Mojo performed the trick with such enthusiasm, we thought it would be fun to teach her to turn counter-clockwise. This was much more difficult, but she managed to learn it eventually! Mojo can now perform both behaviours on verbal commands as well as on hand signals.
A few months ago we also taught Mojo to walk backwards. We linked the behaviour of moving backwards to the word ‘back’, and we linked the opposite behaviour to the word ‘forward’. We are currently working on incorporating this behaviour into different positions. Mojo is actually learning to crawl forwards and backwards now!
Besides teaching her how to use her body, and providing her with physical exercise, it actually also makes us feel incredibly proud! Why not try this yourself?
This next tip is a very simple one, and we won’t go into too much detail as we wrote about this subject fairly recently.
Treat toys are an amazing tool that can keep your dog occupied for quite a while!
We have two types of treat toys for Mojo, which were kindly sent to us by our friends at West Paw. One of them can be filled with small treats, minced raw dog food, or even their kibble dinner. The other toy can be used to feed chew treats out of, which is especially convenient for the tough chewers out there!
Another dog toy often used to entertain dogs are the Kong extreme and the Kong wobbler. Both offer great entertainment as treat toys!
Even if you don’t own treat toys, you can still offer your dog a food-related item to keep them occupied. Chew treats such as dehydrated rabbit ears or bully sticks are great teeth cleaners and last much longer than the unhealthy dental chews that are advertised for in TV commercials.
If you want to take it one step further, you can even offer your dog a raw bone to chew on. These are not meant to be eaten in full, but rather nibbled and chewed on and stripped of leftover meat. Although these are not suitable for every dog, beef knuckles, beef and oxtails, and raw beef ears can entertain your dog for a very long time.
It is however important to keep in mind that, when feeding weight bearing bone such as a beef knuckle, your dog must never be able to fit their jaws around the item in question. The item could splinter or get stuck, and will cause harm in both situations.
We would hence recommend to solely feed beef knuckle to smaller dogs suck as Dachshunds or Jack Russell Terriers, and to always supervise your dog whilst they are chewing on any bone or large treat!
Hide and seek
The final two indoor entertainment ideas that we have for you today both involve your dog’s ability to search and to use their nose. This first one is in our opinion definitely one of the most fun ones to do. Remember how you used to play hide and seek with friends at kindergarten? Well, we still play hide and seek with Mojo!
The second to last item on our list today is nosework. Instead of having your dog look for you and rewarding them with cuddles when they find you, you can also have your dog use their nose to find items.
We usually do nosework with treats, but we have also tried it with other objects such as her toys. We actually taught Mojo to find a washcloth, and to bring it to us when she found it. There are so many things that you can do to entertain your dog by letting them use their nose!
Arnold, a staffy friend on instagram, has been searching for treats in the snow every day this winter. His owners do this in order to add something extra to their morning walks, which adds a fun aspect and tires him out just a tad more!
Make fun of dinnertime
The previous tip can also be used during dinnertime! You can have your dog search for its kibble dinner by spreading the kibble around in your kitchen or living room, but you can also hide their bowl of raw food and let them sniff to find it.
This is a self-rewarding activity as the dog will be surprised with whatever they’ll want most around dinnertime: their dinner!
Alternatively, you can also add some obedience- and trick training in to the daily feeding ritual. Aside from patiently having to sit and wait to eat, Mojo is sometimes also asked to perform some tricks before she is allowed to eat.
Now it’s your turn
We hope that you will be able to use some of these ideas in your weekly routine, even if you spend hours outside with your dog every day!
It is incredibly fun for both you and your dog to do these interactive and rewarding activities. We promise that you will both feel content when you incorporate some of them in your daily schedules!