Exercising Your Dog Inside
If the first thought that runs through your head when you check the forecast is, “Oh great, how am I going to keep *insert your dogs’ name here* entertained today if it’s soaking wet outside” then you and I are in the same boat. With two hyper Australian Shepherds, rain can add an additional challenge to an already demanding breed.
For anyone with a high-energy dog, exercise and mental stimulation is key to having a happy pup and some much-needed down-time for their owners. On average, I spend about 1-2 hours a day entertaining, exercising, and training my dogs. Granted, this is higher right now with cooler weather and a new puppy, but it is still demanding nonetheless.
Finding suitable activities for your dog to engage in inside of your home will help you reduce the chances of unwanted chewing, whining, barking, and overall rambunctious behavior. Below, I will go over some of the most common and easy options to keep your dog worn out, even without a good run in the backyard.
Possibly my favorite and most successful indoor exercise option is to play a good game of catch with the flirt pole. A flirt pole is basically a small rope or tug attached to a long pole by a bungee or flexible cord. If you’ve ever seen a feather cat toy, think of a flirt pole as the dog equivalent.
To get your dog interested, begin wiggling or moving the “lure” or object at the bottom of the pole to get their attention on something that is moving. If they grab it, reward them by tugging the toy. You can wave the pole around to get them to chase the lure or create a training game out of the exercise (definitely the best way to tire them out)
You can use the flirt pole for training by:
- Teaching “Take It” – Have your dog grab the lure, then reward them by tugging. Say “Take It!” when they grab the lure and “Leave it” when they let go. This is great take it/leave it training as the goal is for them to both have fun and listen to what is being asked at the same time.
- Ask for a command they already know, such as sit, and then release with “Okay” and have the lure be the reward. This game of chase is fun for your dog and makes them have to think about what they should do next to get to chase the toy.
Perhaps one of the more simple games you can play with your dog is one that requires them to use their nose. Have your dog hold a sit or down while you hide a piece of food or a treat (preferably a smelly one) somewhere nearby. Tell them to “Go Find It!” and lure them towards where the treat is.
You can increase this game’s difficulty as you go once your dog understands what you want them to do. Increase distance and even try putting them in a separate room while you hid the treats. You can hide them under boxes, in a cabinet, under a rug, or any area you are comfortable with them accessing. This is a great way to work on impulse control, and your dog has to wait to find the reward. Play around with nose work games, and you will be surprised at just how much your dog will like it.
If you’re looking to sit down to relax or get some work done, it is invaluable to have something your dog can focus on besides you or chewing up the furniture. Enrichment toys give your dog something to wear them out mentally, which can provide even more energy burn than a game of fetch. Getting your dog to really think something through can be just as exhausting and rewarding as traditional outdoor exercise.
With so many enrichment toys available, it can be hard to pick just a few. I’ve started making my own snuffle balls and snuffle mats these past couple of years as I found the ones listed on Amazon and Chewy to just not hold up the way they should. By interweaving fabric in a pattern with a solid base, these snuffle toys can hold up to any dog and will provide a ton of mental stimulation. Check them out here.
Other enrichment toys beyond snuffles can range from stuffed Kongs, lick mats, puzzle toys, and just about anything else you can think of to get your dog’s brain working. You can even hide kibble in a box full of toys or toilet paper rolls. Your main goal is simply to put your dog’s mind to good use.
Beyond enrichment activities, nothing beats a good training session to really get your dog concentrated and worn out! Here I’ve linked some really easy tricks you can start teaching without any training foundation if you are just getting started with your pup. Remember to mix it up and try a variety of exercises to see which one you and your dog can both enjoy.