Indoor Exercise for Dogs

Indoor Exercise for Dogs

Do you need an indoor exercise for your dogs? There comes a time when the weather may be too inclement to go outside. Or perhaps you can’t go outside for other reasons e.g. self-isolating.   
But what about the dog? Are they driving you crazy from lack of physical exercise? What can you do? Are there ways to exercise a dog indoors?

Read on to find out my top 3 indoor exercise ideas for dogs

Rain, Rain, Go Away, Come Again Another Day

Right now in Sydney it’s pretty much raining all of the time, and the bad news is it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

That might mean a reduction in the amount of walks your dog usually gets. Or a reduction in their playtime exercise in your backyard or local park.

Maybe your dog has been sleeping away the rainy days. And of an evening they’ve got all of this pent up energy, but you’ve got nowhere to go.

We know bored dogs can suffer behaviour problems and become destructive. But boredom just doesn’t occur from lack of physical exercise. It’s also about social needs and mental stimulation.

So, what are you going to do without as much physical exercise?

Need help with indoor exercise ideas for dogs? Picture of frustrated women and bored dog with rain in the background.

Increase their mental stimulation

Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. If you’re relying on physical exercise to tire out an energetic dog, you’re probably fighting a losing battle. All you’re doing is creating a fitter and fitter dog, who is harder to tire out.

Balance this out with mental stimulation.

What do I mean by mental stimulation? Well maybe try think about it from a human perspective first.

Are you the type of person who enjoys discovering something new? Perhaps you pick up new hobbies constantly. Or you like to do new and varied tasks at work. Maybe you enjoy learning new things at school. If so, you’re mentally stimulated.

Have you ever started a new job and needed to learn various new things? Attended a whole day or multi-day conference or seminar? Read large amounts of text on a complicated subject, or a long novel? If so, how do you feel afterwards? Brain fried? Tired?

I know these things make me feel unusually tired, and yet I haven’t done any physical exercise. That’s because I’ve been mentally stimulated.

Mental Stimulation for Dogs

How do you give your dog new experiences, that help to tire them out, and keep them happy?

Some refer to this as enrichment. Enrich means to improve or enhance the quality or value of something. And when we talk enrichment we mean making their lives better and improving welfare.

A lot of enrichment items are things that you DO TOGETHER, thus satisfying the social needs of your dog as well.

This chart from +R dogs gives some enrichment ideas. There are outside and inside activities listed. How boring must it be for most dogs to experience the same day over, and over again? Spice it up!


1. Training

Train the brain. I’m always told by my clients that their dogs are happier, better behaved and sleep more after training sessions.

Practice what you already know

You can start by practicing easy things your dog knows already.
Keep the response to those cues strong. Or level up and train the next steps. You don’t need to stretch your imagination or resources for this.

Learn something new

Of course, it would be more beneficial to start training something new.
Any helpful manners cue like sit, lie down, go to bed, stand, stay, leave item, give item, take item can all be done in a small space. You’ve probably even got enough room inside to work on come and lead walking.

Train a TRICK!

It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Here’s some inspo with a puppy doing some easier tricks
And here’s a tutorial for teaching a spin you see the puppy do in the above

During a previous deluge, I got one of my dogs to start jumping through a hoop. Because I happen to have a hula hoop for my puppy preschool classes. And we’re doing it on the lounge. You just need to work with the materials and space you’ve got.

Go through a hoop is a good challenge for a beginner

2. Puzzles & Food Dispensing

Bowls are boring. Get rid of the food bowls. Why have a meal gone in 30 seconds when it could last 30 minutes, or more?

Get your dog sniffing, licking, chewing, pawing, nudging, hunting instead. All normal doggie behaviours you’re giving a legal outlet for. Get your dog to work for their food from now on.

Always supervise when you give something new. Make sure it is safe for your dog, and take it away if it is not. Show them how to use it and make it easy to begin with so they don’t give up. Progressively make it harder as they become more skilled and confident.

I personally dispense food out of toilet paper and hand towel rolls. Egg cartons and boxes. Plastic bottles. Snuffle mats and snuffle balls. Various products by Kong, Planet Dog, West Paw, LickiMat and Aussie Dog.

Marty has grown up with a variety of food dispensing items like Aussie Dog buddy ball
And he absolutely loves a plastic bottle. Cheap ideas are winners too!
A nina ottosson puzzle feeder poses a challenge

You can also make the puzzle prize your dog’s toy. Here we threw a toy into a box full of packing materials, that was a little higher than their reach.   

3. Games as indoor exercise for your dog


I can play tug inside. It doesn’t take much space to do. This is super easy indoor exercise for a dog. Tug is an excellent short duration, high intensity game. If you have rules and teach your dog how to play it’s totally safe and fun. (We teach how to give and take toys in puppy preschool for 8 to 14 week old, Kindy for 15 to 21 week old, and Big School for 6 to 12 month old – that makes tugging safe and fun) It does not make your dog dominant or aggressive. Don’t have a tug? Got an old shirt or material? Make your own tug toy tutorial here and here

Teach your dog a “give it to me” and “you can take it” cue, which helps make tug safe and fun


You might have a large room or hallway where you can still safely (be mindful of slippery tiled or wooden floors for example) play some fetch inside.
Change it up and teach your dog how to fetch unusual articles
Or if your puppy doesn’t already play regular fetch you can teach them how
Both these videos will help you. Fetch and fetch for puppies

Fetch Alternative

Instead of throwing a toy for your dog to retrieve, you can hide it and tell them to find it. It doesn’t take a lot of time and resources to come up with a game like this. If your dog is toy mad for fetch, this is a good way to slow the game down. It may also help to prevent injuries or over-arousal. And may be more appropriate in your indoor space.
I made this one up last night. I started with 1 cushion, then 2, then 3… making it harder as Marty was successful at each step.

Hide N Seek

You get to hide and your dog needs to seek. We don’t use food in our house because we taught this a different way. But this is an easy way to get going so watch this video to get the idea. You’ll be having fun in no time at all! Hiding in a cupboard is a bit advanced. Just start off maybe going around a corner first ok?

Scent work / Nosework

Why play nosework games? Nosework is incredibly rewarding for dogs. Dogs perceive the world primarily through smell, and they absolutely adore games that require them to sniff and snuff out goodies!

Plus, scentwork can be really exhausting for dogs. It’s a great way to burn off some excess canine energy without requiring too much physical activity on your part.

Scent games

So now you have some ideas of easy things you can do with your dog right away. Although this might help you out during this current wet patch, I recommend making these activities a part of your everyday routine with your dog. For good welfare and behavioural outcomes.

Be sure to share these ideas with your friends…