Adequate exercise is the cornerstone of a well-behaved dog, we all know that. For many owners, however, this is easier said than done. Here are five fun ways that you can give your dog a good workout when you’re short on time.
1. Play the Recall Game – This game can be played with only person or the whole family. In addition to getting your dog running around, it also has the hidden benefit of perfecting your dog’s recall. For one person + dog – put Scooby in a sit/stay and walk away. Keep him there for as long as you wish, and when you are ready, call him with Great Enthusiasm. This is not the time to be reserved or stoic. If you want to exercise your pup, you’ve got to get him running, and the way to do that is to have fun. When Scooby gets to you, make a big deal with lots of praise and a yummy (small!) treat. Remember, the more enthusiastic you are, the more excited your dog will be to come when called and the faster he will run to get there. If played with more than one person, take turns calling the dog to you. Everyone except the person calling the dog ignores the dog completely. When the dog gets to you, throw a little party with praise and a treat, and then ignore the dog when the next person calls him over.
2. Play Hide-And-Go-Seek – This game is a total blast for human and dog alike. Put Scooby in a sit/stay and go hide. When you’re ready, give a release command such as “Scooby, come!” or “Scooby, come find me!”. Most dogs will take off running at full speed to come find you (make sure there are no breakables along his path!). When he finds you, make a big deal about it and shower him with lots of praise. This is not only a great way to get your dog moving, but also a great way to work on his stay and recall. The prerequisite for this game is that your dog can hold a stay when you move out of his line of vision. You can play another version of this game with more than one person – and it makes for a great way to exercise your dog inside on a rainy day. Every one hides in different rooms and takes turns calling the dog to them. Just remember those big, enthusiastic rewards when the dog finds you to keep him motivated to play.
3. Use a Flirt Pole – If you want to give your dog an amazing workout while you barely move a muscle… this is for you! Think of the flirt pole like a big cat toy – for dogs! These are especially great for dogs with a high prey drive that like to chase and catch things. I would recommend using this in an open area outside, rather than your living room, as it can easily inspire a dog into lots of jumping around in a ‘hunting’ frenzy.
4. Agility Courses – If you have even a small amount of outside space, you have room for a mini agility course. This can be as simple as a couple cones and a jump bar. The mental challenge of working an agility course is a great workout, in and of itself. There are many ways that you can use an agility course, but one of my favorite things to do is weaving in and around cones or other obstacles. This gives the dog an excellent mental and physical workout, and if your dog is following you on lead, it also serves as a great way to help improve your dog’s leash skills. For those with no outdoor space – no problem. Put your dog on lead and use the furniture and layout of your home to create a ready-made obstacle course. A total win-win!
5. Biking – Biking your dog is great because it allows you to drain a ton of energy in a short amount of time – without a lot of effort! A quick 10-15 minute bike ride with your dog will make a huge impact on his energy level, and a 30 minute ride will have most dogs totally wiped. Biking is certainly not for all dogs, however – there are some prerequisites. Your dog needs to be in good enough health to be able to run for a sustained period of time. Your dog should be old enough that running will not damage his growing bones (this is not for puppies). And your dog should have at least decent leash manners – a reactive or unruly dog could be dangerous in this situation. A great tool for safe biking is an awesome little contraption called The Dogger Jogger. I use this on a regular basis with dogs of all sizes and it works very well.