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11 Fun Ways To Exercise Your Dog Indoors

Ways to exercise your dog indoors. A dog laying around his toys is staring at ball
Ways to exercise your dog indoors. A dog laying around his toys is staring at ball

Living in the desert allows Shelby — a 7-year-old PBGV mix — to take long walks throughout the winter. But, as I write this, it’s 105 degrees outside, and the extreme heat will continue for months. 

Since most of us don’t live in perfect weather year-round, coming up with fun ways to exercise your dog indoors is essential.

With an astonishing 56% of dogs in the United States suffering from obesity, skipping exercise is not an option. Luckily, many fun games and activities are excellent ways for your dog to get exercise indoors.

How much exercise do dogs need?

Daily exercise is vital for all dogs. Regardless of age and size, dogs need at least 30-minutes of exercise each day, with more active dog breeds requiring an hour or more. As a general rule,

  • Puppies need 5 minutes of exercise twice daily for each month of age. Playtime and short, structured walks should be part of the daily routine.
  • Adult dogs need a minimum of one hour of exercise each day. It would be best if you exercised at least twice a day. More playtime in between will make your pup even happier.
  • Senior dogs still need 30 minutes of exercise each day—unless instructed otherwise by a veterinarian.

To help during extreme weather, here are eleven Shelby-approved ways to exercise your dog indoors.

11 Fun Ways To Exercise Your Dog Indoors.

When dogs don’t receive enough activity throughout the day, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and bad behavior. 

Playing these games throughout the day can help your dog escape boredom while providing the exercise and mental stimulation they need to stay healthy.

  1. Hide-and-seek
  2. Tug-of-war
  3. Chase/Tag
  4. Keep away
  5. Fetch
  6. Obedience training
  7. Bobbing for toys
  8. Treat dispensing toys
  9. Choose a hand or cup
  10. Hide a snack
  11. Obstacle course

1. Hide-and-seek

Especially great for dogs in the hound group who love to follow scent trails, hide-and-seek is a fun way to get your dog to think, run, and play.

To start a game of hide-and-seek with your dog, duck for cover behind a kitchen island, sofa, or dining table and call their name or squeak a favorite toy. As you hear them running towards you, sneak out of sight.

Be sure to let your dog find you after a short while, so they don’t lose interest. Shelby loves to be surprised and chased after.

Ways to exercise your dog indoors. A 7-year-old Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen playing tug of war indoors with a rope donut toy
Tug-of-war helps strengthen pulling muscles and raises their heart rate. Shelby with her favorite tug-of-war toy.

2. Tug-of-war

Playing tug-of-war with your dog allows them an opportunity to use all their pulling strength and muscles.

When playing tug-of-war, be cautious of your dog’s teeth when pulling. Focus on being supportive — holding the toy in place — instead of attempting to yank the toy from their mouth. 

Senior dogs and puppies need even more care due to softer gums and a higher risk of tooth loss.

3. Chase/Tag

In our household, tug-of-war leads to chase or tag. By allowing Shelby to win, the pursuit is on.

Some trainers believe allowing your dog to play chase promotes poor behavior, including learning how to evade you if they ever escaped. If your dog is an escape artist, grab their favorite toy and let them chase you.

4. Keep Away

If your dog tends to give up playing tug-of-war or doesn’t care to be chased, have them chase you. Let your dog run around the house in pursuit of their favorite squeaky toy or treat.

5. Fetch

Especially great with long hallways and ample space, fetch is a classic most dogs love. Using a tennis ball or other ball with a bounce can add a new challenge of tracking and guessing where it goes next.

6. Obedience training

Working your dog’s brain is an essential exercise too. Teaching or reinforcing how to high-five, sit, or lay down is a low-stress, fun way to work their thinking skills.

Ways to exercise your dog indoors. Bobbing for toys. A female PBGV has her head in a basket of toys searching for her favorite.
Shelby bobbing for her favorite toy — the Grinch.

7. Bobbing for toys (the water is a basket of toys)

If you’re like us, we keep a basket full of toys. Hide your dog’s favorite toy at the bottom of the basket while they watch so they can dig around and retrieve it. 

Often leading to pulling all the toys out and playing in between, your dog can have fun and use their problem-solving skills bobbing for toys.

8. Treat dispensing toys

Excellent for entertaining your dog on busy days, treat-dispensing toys can keep your dog physically and mentally stimulated.

11 Fun Ways To Exercise Your Dog Indoors. Three white cups sit upside down infront of a thinking large dog.

9. Choose a hand or cup

Grab one low-calorie snack or kibble and show your dog the snack. If playing choose a hand, don’t let them see what hand the kibble is in and let them sniff and choose.

For the three-cup method — best known as three-card monte — let your dog see what cup the kibble is in, then slide the cups around to mix them up.

The adorable surprise on your dog’s face finding an empty hand or cup is as fun for you as it is for them.

10. Hide a snack

An excellent game for scent hounds, choose a strong-smelling snack for this game. Depending on your dog’s patience and obedience level, it might be best to have your spouse or partner hold them back while you sneak off and hide it.

Hiding a snack lets your dog use their problem-solving and scent tracking skills with cardiovascular exercise as they hunt for the hidden snack.

11. Obstacle course

Amazon has many inexpensive dog agility sets available. But, if your dog is cautious of new and weird things — yes, that’s my pup — household items, like chairs and tables, work perfectly.

Try rearranging a few chairs for your dog to run around or through. You can use pillows and blankets to block off areas so they have to weave around. 

Once they receive a healthy snack reward at the end, your dog will be happy to run the course repeatedly.

Bonus ideas

  • Swimming
  • Visit a dog-friendly restaurant
  • Stop by a local pet store
  • Take a car ride

Final thoughts

Hopefully, you have some great new ideas and ways to exercise your dog indoors. Just remember, there is no substitution for walks.

Daily dog walks promote cardiovascular health by sustaining an increased heart rate over a longer duration than playing. Walks also build stronger muscles and lower blood pressure. 

Additionally, the sights, smells, and interactions with dogs and people can reduce stress and destructive behaviors at home. Take advantage of the early mornings before extreme heat or a break in the rain to sneak out for a fast-paced walk.

An obese dog is 2.6x more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. Hypothyroidism and arthritis are 2-3x times more likely in obese dogs.

If you’re walking or playing, daily exercise helps fight off obesity and obesity-causing diseases

Tag. You’re it!

What’s your favorite game to play indoors? Share this post and let us know!

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