Winter means saying goodbye to long hikes and playing fetch on the beach. The temperature is plummeting, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop! Nor should it—dogs need exercise year-round, even when they’re cooped up indoors. Otherwise, your restless pooch may resort to destructive behaviors like tearing up the couch to blow off some steam.
Here are the best indoor exercises to burn pent-up energy and keep dogs mentally stimulated.
#1: Tug-of-war with obedience training
Grab a rope toy and engage your pup in a rousing game of tug! After a minute of tugging back and forth, stop the game while still holding onto the rope. Command your dog to drop it and sit calmly, then go back to playing tug-of-war and repeat the process all over again.
The best exercises work your dog physically as well as mentally. Tug-of-war is a great indoor activity because it requires little space and allows your dog to expend short, intense bursts of energy. Alternating between tug-of-war and the “drop it” command will solidify their obedience in future high-energy situations.
#2: Sit, lay down and stand repetitions
By now, your pup has mastered sit, lay down and stand. Now it’s time to take those basic commands to the next level! Start by commanding your pup to switch between sitting and laying down. Then, throw “stand” into the mix. Create different combinations with all the commands your dog knows and increase the number of reps they have to complete before receiving a treat.
Basic commands in rapid succession increase your dog’s heart rate while reinforcing a sense of discipline. Training sessions can get boring after a while, so this variation on basic commands gives energetic pups the challenge they crave.
#3: Play fetch on the stairs
Pet parents who have a staircase in the home can use it to play a game of fetch. Stand at the top of the stairs with a chew toy in your hand. Throw it to the bottom of the stairs and command Fido to bring it back to you. Owners can run their dogs through as many reps as they want, although you’ll find this activity wears out dogs pretty quickly!
Playing fetch on the stairs has many benefits. Stairs give you the necessary space to throw long distances and let your dog run laps in the house. Plus, the steep incline makes fetch a lot more challenging compared to running on flat ground. A staircase allows your dog to work different muscle groups and joints they wouldn’t normally use during a walk or run. Just make sure your dog doesn’t run too fast or slip—carpeted stairs work best for this exercise!
#4: Hide and seek with treats
Tap into your dog’s ancestral hunting instincts by hiding their favorite treats around the home. Command your dog to sit, then place treats in areas that are out of sight, yet easily accessible. Place them behind doors, on different levels of the house, under tables and in the dog’s bed. The more treats your dog has to find, the longer they’ll stay occupied!
While this game isn’t physically strenuous, the mental energy required will leave your pup feeling wiped out. Hide and seek is a great way to divert destructive behaviors, because your dog will be focused on finding the treats instead of tearing up the house. The game can last a long time, keeping your dog busy while they’re stuck indoors.
#5: Go for a walk in the pet store
Desperate for a change in scenery? Load Fido into the back seat and drive over to your local pet store. The weather outside might be frightful, but you two can still go for a walk! Take your dog on a few laps around the store, allowing them to explore the various sights and smells. At the end of the walk, let your dog pick out a tasty treat for the car ride home.
This indoor activity not only satisfies their daily walk but exposes your dog to new environments, as well. Dogs need to get out of the house every once in a while so they can remain mentally stimulated. Plus, a walk around the pet store provides plenty of opportunities to socialize with other humans and pets.
Pet parents can easily create indoor versions of their dog’s favorite summertime activities. These exercises will banish the winter blues and get your dog’s blood pumping, all while avoiding frigid temperatures and blistering winds. Just remember—there’s no substitution for fresh air. Try to get outside on days when the weather is more tolerable!