Here’s How To Exercise Your Dog Indoors, According To a Professional Trainer

updated Mar 27, 2020
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Many of us have been under self-quarantine for days now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of all this, our dogs are probably wondering: Why don’t we go on walks anymore? Am I a bad dog?

No, buddy, you’re not a bad dog. Never! But, you could be a bummed out dog if you don’t get any exercise. 

According to Robert Haussmann, canine behavior consultant and co-founder of dog training service Dogboy NYC, our furry pals need three things to be calm, confident companions: Physical exercise, mental stimulation, and environmental enrichment.

“Unfortunately, we are currently in a challenging time where both humans and dogs are staying indoors more than ever,” he told Apartment Therapy. “Dogs thrive on social engagement and exploring smells, sights, and sounds. They are used to getting those needs met outside, so we have to up our game and provide extra stimulation indoors with scent games, fetch, tug, etc.”

While the CDC says it’s still safe to walk your dog as long as you’re practicing social distancing, here are some indoor activities Haussmann recommends you can do with your dog the rest of the time.

Make your dog work for its treats

“One easy way to provide mental stimulation and enrichment is to have your dog work for her food. This can be accomplished by purchasing toys like a Kong or a treat-dispensing ball where food falls out one piece at a time,” said Haussmann, adding that you can also freeze the stuffed Kong to make it more challenging.

He warns, though, that you should not go overboard with the treats. “Try not to add extra calories if your dog will not be getting exercise. Using their daily meals for these exercises should be sufficient if you are splitting them up throughout the day.”

Play fetch or set up an obstacle course

As you might already know, a cramped apartment can never hold any dog back from having fun. The same should apply to you when arranging workouts for your canine.

“A game of hallway or stairwell fetch can come in handy. It does not need to be a long hallway. The goal is to keep it fun and exciting,” said Haussmann, also recommending you move your furniture to create a small obstacle course. “Teaching your dog to jump over a chair or go under a table can be an exciting change of pace. It promotes positive, healthy leadership all while getting her heart rate up.”

Invite everyone to play hide-and-seek

If you live with multiple people, and those multiple people happen to already be bored with self-quarantine, a game of hide-and-go-seek might stimulate both humans and doggos.

“This is especially fun for kids who are cooped up and getting antsy. It’s also an effective way to begin training a dog to ‘come’ when called.”

Use scents as toys

Stash your dog’s favorite treat around your home and watch them track it down. You’ll not only get them to be more active, but you’ll also get to see their powerful sense of smell in action. According to Haussmann, this kind of activity is both engaging and “great for small spaces too!”

Make some puzzles

Another highly-engaging activity is to do some problem solving. No puzzles at home? No problem. Haussmann says that you can use everyday household items. 

“Try an empty box filled with kibble and sealed shut with small holes poked in it. The holes should be just big enough for the kibble to slip through a little at a time. When your pooch knocks it around the kibble falls out little by little. Don’t be discouraged if she just rips it to shreds, this is enriching in its own way!

“Another easy and creative hack is to take a metal muffin pan, put a few pieces of kibble in each space, then put a tennis ball in each space covering the treat. Your dog will have fun moving the balls out of the way to get at the food.”

And if your dog makes a mess? Haussmann says that it still counts as enrichment!