When you think about how to exercise your dog, you may have a variety of reactions. It could spark fond memories of a past camping trip where you caught that brilliant sunset sitting quietly next to your pup after a rewarding hike to the summit. You may feel a pang of guilt because you know you should do a better job providing puppy exercises to keep them engaged. Your silly side may take over when a mental image of a dog in a sweatband and shorts doing doggy aerobics pops into your head.
Regardless of your reaction when thinking about dog exercises, we all know deep down that exercise is a crucial, necessary activity when trying to raise a happy and healthy puppy.
You may be wondering about all the great ways to exercise your dog. Try out our list of 18 best dog exercises to strengthen your bond and fit your lifestyle while having some active fun in the process.
The Importance of Exercising Your Dog
Creating a routine is key to both consistency for your dog and forms a habit that benefits you, too. However, exercising your dog is more than just a daily routine. It can provide important health benefits both to you and your dog.
Exercise is obviously the main way to keep your dog physically healthy, as rigorous activity helps them to stay fit and maintain their ideal weight. Moving beyond the number on the scale, dogs benefit from exercise by experiencing reduced joint issues, improving cardiovascular functions, and even prolonging their life span.
Many people assume they are giving their dogs enough exercise, but statistics say otherwise. According to the latest survey from the Association for Pet Obesity, 39% of dog owners think their dog is overweight or obese. However, numerous reports indicate that just over 50% of dogs in the US are overweight or have obesity.
Exercising your dog doesn’t just have physical benefits. Mental stimulation for dogs keeps dogs happy, healthy, and out of trouble. When your dog’s brain is engaged, whether it’s through solving problems, interacting with a new environment, or learning a new skill, they are less likely to show signs of anxiety, boredom, or aggression.
A tired puppy is a happy puppy. Regular exercise for dogs helps prevent unwanted behaviors such as excessive barking, chewing, or licking, puppy separation anxiety, psychological problems, feelings of neglect or insecurity, and destructive behaviors.
Mental & physical health benefits of exercising for humans
The benefits of exercising your dog aren’t limited to just your pooch. Dog owners experience several physical and mental health benefits from exercising their dogs as well! People who exercise their canine companions on a regular basis are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than people without a dog, achieving the ideal goal of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week. Exercising your dog can also help reduce cardiovascular issues, control diseases like Type 2 diabetes, and prevent osteoarthritis, among other positive outcomes.
People who take time to have fun with their 4-legged friends also experience a mental health boost. Getting active with your dog can help humans improve their self-esteem and cognitive function while reducing negative thoughts, stress, and anxiety. It's also a great way to meet fellow dog owners in your area and build social connections through your shared love of spending time with your dogs.
The more time you spend with your dog, the stronger the bonds will be that form between you. Spending quality time while having fun is a way to express gratitude to your dog and show your dog you love them.
Get enough dog exercises for your breed’s energy level
You may be ready to get started with exploring ways to exercise your dog but wonder, “How much exercise does my dog need?” The best exercises for dogs are the ones that meet your breed’s energy level and need for activity. Just like you wouldn’t want to underexercise a high-energy dog, you also don’t want to overexert a dog that doesn’t require hours of exercise a day.
To determine when and how to exercise your puppy, pay attention to when they are the most active and their preferred, natural way of movement. Do they get the zoomies after eating or relieving themselves? Are they busy when they wake up from a nap? Do they want to play with their toys right after you get home? The key is to capitalize on times they are naturally active and use that as a guideline for effective ways to exercise your dog.
Exercise Your Dog in These 18 Fun Ways
The best way to exercise your dog is to pick a fun activity (or a few) that you know you will enjoy and stick to over time. Here are some ideas you might not have thought about for engaging ways to exercise your dog.
1. Traditional walk, jog, or run
An easy way to start exercising with your dog is to walk them around the block. Sounds simple, right? Sometimes we experience obstacles, and we’re not talking about the agility course. It’s important to keep in mind factors that allow you to maximize your dog walking experience. Selecting the right leash for your dog, the correct dog harness for your puppy, and understanding your dog’s needs will help you get the most out of your walk.
2. Scent walk
Did you know that dogs’ noses have about 300 million olfactory receptors compared to humans’ 6 million? Another fun fact is their noses can detect a particular scent at one part per trillion, equivalent to one drop in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools!
One way to fulfill your pup’s innate desire to sniff is to take them on a scent walk with a longer leash, allowing them to meander at their own pace while checking out the “messages” left by other dogs.
3. Hide-and-seek games
Another great way to allow your dog to use his sense of smell in a fun way is to play hide-and-seek using his favorite toy, treat, or even a human as the surprise reward. Playing a few rounds and changing hiding places and objects are great ways to keep the game fresh and interesting for your puppy.
4. Interactive movement toys
What’s more fun than a toy that acts alive and is activated by your dog’s movements? Interactive toys that wobble, make noises, dispense treats, and vibrate are all wildly fun and unpredictable for your pet. There are even remote-controlled interactive dog toys that allow you to control the toy. Whether it’s a flopping toy fish or an automatic ball launcher, you’ll be providing hours of enriching playtime while sneaking in some exercise.
5. Doggy Daycare
It’s almost a guarantee that your dog will come home happy and utterly exhausted from a fun doggy daycare visit. In addition to meeting new doggy friends and processing that information, dogs will have fun exploring all the new activities and objects they might not have seen before. It’s a stream of constant mental and physical stimulation that will definitely wear them out and make them excited to go again.
6. Agility & flyball competitions
Agility courses and flyball are fun ways for dogs to get in some exercise while working on their problem-solving skills. They’re also fun for humans, too!
An agility obstacle course allows dogs to figure out how to overcome each obstacle while burning up their high energy levels. Because they look to their humans for instruction, the bond between you and your dog will grow leaps and bounds (see what we did there?).
Flyball is a faced-paced, exciting activity where a team of dogs competes to see which team completes a course error-free first. Dogs get to socialize with their canine teammates and work together as a pack all in the name of exercise.
When your dog participates in fieldwork, they’re being trained to perform hunting-like tasks, either using live targets or just practicing related skills. Certain breeds were bred to be hunting dogs – finding, flushing out, pointing to, and retrieving game for humans.
Many modern companion dogs don’t get the opportunity to fully tap into these instincts, so any opportunity they have for fieldwork satisfies their natural abilities while also working on training commands.
8. Go on a hike & explore outside
Turn a regular walking routine into an exciting adventure by going on a hike! Get prepared and take off for a new trail. The best hiking dogs will appreciate all the new sights and scents a novel outdoor space provides. Be sure to follow leash laws and work on recall commands if your dog is allowed off-leash.
9. Training sessions
Conducting short, frequent training sessions can be a fulfilling exercise for dogs while also gaining useful skills. If you have a puppy or younger dog, you can work on basic puppy obedience commands to help them be productive members of society. If you have an older dog, it’s actually not too late to teach them some novelty dog tricks to impress your friends.
Regardless of your dog’s age, always have some tasty dog treats on hand for positive reinforcement and lavish praise on your dog for performing the commands correctly.
10. Dog park
Both private and publicly owned dog parks (and designated beaches, too) allow dogs to run and zoom around in a safe, enclosed place to their heart’s content. They get to meet (and sniff) other dogs, play games, try out other toys they don’t have, and meet new people. Dog parks can encourage you to form friendships with other dog lovers that may live locally – at least 2 things you already have in common right there.
Whether visiting a dog park for the first time or if you’re a seasoned veteran, make sure you understand the dos and don’ts of dog park etiquette to make it a great experience for everyone involved that you will want to repeat.
11. Play fetch
A game of fetch can be as simple or high-tech as you want. You can use a free stick you find on the ground, chuck it, and watch your dog go get it. You can even sit back with a beverage and watch the automatic ball launcher shoot balls a long distance while your dog bolts after it. Some dogs could play fetch for hours, while some fail to retrieve and forget to bring it back (yes, even if “retriever” is in their name). Either way, your puppy will have an excellent time tapping into their natural instincts to chase and retrieve.
12. Play tug-of-war
Tug of war is one of the easiest ways to provide your pup with plenty of exercise. If you’re wondering if tug of war encourages aggression, rest assured that playing tug of war with your dog does not cause aggression and in fact has the opposite effect. This game can even help dogs channel their energy through a stimulating activity that rewards them for their enthusiasm and good behavior. Tugging is also a great way to build your pup's physical strength and mental focus. Playing tug of war with your pup not only helps her build strong muscles and a strong bond with you—but it’s also lots of fun!
13. Toss a frisbee
If you’re looking for an inexpensive yet fun way to exercise your dog, tossing a frisbee is the activity for you (and your dog)! Anticipating when to jump keeps your dog both physically and mentally engaged. In addition to being a great way for your dog to get some sprinting exercise, frisbee can also help to improve communication between you and your best furry friend.
Most dogs absolutely love to swim! Doggy paddling is an instinctive reaction to being placed in water, even if your dog has never swum before. Find a safe, great area where your dog can explore water, whether you go on a creek or river expedition, visit a doggy pool with zero entry, jump into a lake, or brave the ocean waves.
15. Dock diving
For some dogs, splashing around in a creek, lake, or river isn’t enough – they want to enter a body of water in style. Dock diving (or dock jumping as it’s sometimes called) is where a dog follows an object thrown into the water by chasing after it and leaping off a dock.
Dogs can compete in a long jump, a high jump, and a speed jump to see how quickly they can retrieve an object and bring it back to a set location. Dogs can even participate in all 3 events when they enter a triathlon-like Iron Dog competition.
16. Backyard water fun
Is it simply too hot outside to go on a long walk? That’s okay – time to bust out the water fun! Dogs absolutely love playing with the hose, splashing in a baby pool, or running through the sprinkler trying to catch the streaming water. You can even get in touch with your inner child and run through the sprinkler with them!
17. Blow bubbles
We know that dogs are up there on the list of most intelligent animals, but when you see them in action chasing bubbles, you have to wonder! Dogs love to chase bubbles and will perform amazing leaps in the air to catch that round, floating goodness.
Kids will love to blow bubbles for your puppy and squeal with delight when your puppy jumps and dances. You can even find flavored bubbles dogs find tasty, such as bacon and peanut butter-flavored bubbles!
18. Run up and down the stairs
Active dogs love romping around on the stairs! For a safe time, make sure there's enough grip on the stairs, they're free from clutter or other tripping hazards, and no people are trying to go up and down to prevent your puppy from knocking them over. You'll also want to make sure your dog is in good health to prevent making any mobility issues worse.
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