A young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kitten
Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

7 Easy Ways to Exercise with Your Dog

By: Sam Chambers

A pet owner running with their dog for exercise.

Whether your dog is an Energizer bunny or a couch potato, exercise is vital for their mental and physical well-being.

Not only can regular activity prevent your pup from driving you crazy with endless zoomies and mischief, but it can also keep your dog healthy from puppyhood all the way to their senior years. Obesity can shorten your dog’s lifespan by about 2 years, and we all know that a tired dog is a well-behaved dog.

Maybe you want to mix up your dog’s tried-and-true exercise routine, or maybe it’s too cold (or too hot) to go running with your dog through the neighborhood. Either way, read on for fun ways to exercise with your dog that you’ll both enjoy!

How much exercise does a dog need every day?

All dogs are different in temperament and agility, which means they also have different exercise needs. One pup might only need a 30 minute walk once a day, while a high-energy breed like a border collie might need several hours of high-intensity cardio. Thankfully, your dog’s breed is a great indicator of their exercise needs.

Working breeds, for example, were bred for jobs like herding and hunting that require endurance and stamina. These types of dogs need to be given a “job” or activities to tire them out, otherwise they may find their own methods—and you might not appreciate the tasks they choose!

You can also observe your dog’s behavior, as many common behavioral problems stem from boredom and lack of exercise. If your dog keeps getting into the trash or escaping the yard, that might be a sign that they need more exercise! Your veterinarian is also a great resource if you’re unsure how much exercise your dog needs.

7 Ways to Exercise with Your Dog

1. Go for a walk (but don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!)

Exercise activities for dogs don’t always need to be physically demanding. Going for a walk is an easy and obvious way to exercise with your dog, but did you know that 15 minutes of sniffing is equal to 30 minutes of physical exercise? Next time you take your dog for a walk, give them the freedom to stop and sniff every bush, tree, lawn gnome, and fire hydrant they please. Just like humans, dogs need both mental and physical stimulation. Smell is a dog’s most prominent sense, so they “see” and understand the world through their nose.

For extra enrichment, use a long line leash so your pup can explore even more places. Just make sure you can still maintain control of your dog, and don’t ever use a retractable leash – the thin cord can cause injuries to both pets and humans! And on days when the weather is less than ideal, hide treats in a sniff matt or around the house for your dog to find.

2. Create your own indoor agility jump

Don’t worry, you don’t need any special equipment or training for this one, and it can be done entirely indoors. All you need is yourself (or a willing volunteer), a narrow hallway, and some yummy treats or your dog’s favorite toy.

Start by sitting down on the floor of a hallway with your back against the wall. Next, create a human hurdle by placing your feet up against the wall across from you. Throw treats or a toy down the hallway to make your dog jump back and forth over your legs, and make sure to follow the motto “low and slow” before challenging your dog to jump higher.

If you’ve got stairs, you can follow a similar tactic and toss treats or a toy up and down the stairs to really tire out your pooch. They’ll be panting and exhausted in no time! You can also set up an entire DIY dog agility course using things you already have at home.

3. Challenge your dog to tug of war

This game of strength is one of the best ways to mentally and physically exercise your dog. Pick a toy that’s durable, flexible, and specifically designed for tugging – one with a handle will give you a competitive advantage over your dog!

Not only is tug of war fun, but it’s also a great bonding activity. Collaborative play will strengthen your relationship and help build trust between you and your four-legged friend. And if you’re worried that tug of war promotes aggressive behavior, dog behaviorists and scientific studies have overwhelmingly debunked this common misconception.

Be warned: this activity may tire out both participants! But no matter who wins, tug of war is a great way to bond with your dog while helping them release some of their pent-up energy. Just keep in mind that tug of war may not be appropriate for all dogs, so it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian prior to playing.

4. Give your dog’s tongue a workout

Licking helps dogs release endorphins, and this repetitive action can ease anxiety and create a calming effect. This self-soothing activity is great for bored, anxious or lonely pets. If your pup suffers from separation anxiety, licking can keep them calm and provide an entertaining distraction while you’re away.

All you need to do is fill a Kong-style toy or lick mat with some wet food such as peanut butter, canned dog food, pumpkin puree or yogurt – the possibilities are truly endless! And if your dog is too smart for their own good, try throwing the lick mat or toy into the freezer overnight for an extra challenge.

5. Play a game of fetch

Pet parents with a retriever or terrier in the family are likely already an expert at playing fetch with their pup. Fetch is an easy game for dogs that’ll make your pal sweat, and you can literally play it with anything, anywhere. Use a Frisbee, ball, your dog’s favorite toy or even a stick to provide your pooch with some serious cardio.

Your dog might need some training if they haven’t mastered the game of fetch yet, but it’ll pay off in the long run and provide your best friends with hours of physical exercise.

6. Go on a socialization field trip

On those days when it’s -5 or 105 degrees outside, tire out your pup through an indoor socialization outing. Many warehouse-type stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and Petco are pet-friendly, but be sure to double-check or call your local store ahead of time.

When you take your dog somewhere new with all kinds of new sights and smells, you provide crucial mental stimulation for your pup, which is almost twice as tiring as physical exercise. Socialization is also a very effective confidence building exercise for dogs. And if you walk up and down every aisle, you’ll be surprised by how many steps you can rack up!

A visit to the dog park is also an easy option for well-socialized pets who prefer to exercise with a furry friend.

7. Get your namaste on

Dog yoga, also known as “Doga,” uses poses (or asanas) that are both dog and human-friendly. If your dog is out of shape, overweight, older, or recovering from an injury, Doga is a great exercise option for pets who need a low-impact activity. Doga can help improve muscle mass and joint health for dogs with orthopedic issues, such as ACL injuries or hip dysplasia.

While Doga can provide physical health benefits for you and your dog, it’s also a great bonding activity that’ll relieve anxiety for the both of you. Give downward dog with your pooch a try, and check out dog yoga on YouTube if you need help getting started!

A young woman and her dog do yoga for pet owner exercise.

Stay safe while exercising with your dog

No matter how you choose to exercise with your dog, always follow your dog’s lead when it comes to exercise and don’t push them beyond their physical limit. If you’re unsure as to whether a certain exercise activity is right for your dog, consult your veterinarian. It’s also a smart idea to get pet insurance for your dog before embarking on a new exercise activity.

A dog and cat snuggle

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We’re the official blog of Trupanion—chosen by veterinarians as the #1 pet insurance in America. Here you’ll find useful dog and cat care tips, interesting veterinary insights, and fun pet topics galore.

While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.

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