32 of the Best Indoor Exercises for Dogs: Physical & Mental Activities

The Florida heat can be relentless, and I've been on a mission to find the best indoor exercises for dogs like my Coton de Tulear, Lucy. 

Indoor Exercises for Dogs

But these indoor exercises aren't just for scorching hot days! They come to the rescue during cold winter or rainy days too. Do you have a senior dog with joint problems or arthritis? These ideas will have their tails wagging again.

And let's not forget our special pups like Lucy with health issues – for them, dodging that extreme heat is more than a comfort; it's a must!

Are you searching for physically and mentally stimulating activities for your dog in the comfort of your own home?

Here are some suggestions for physical exercise and mental stimulation.

14 Physical Indoor Exercises for Your Dog

No. 1 - Tug of War:  A soft, durable rope toy can make this game fun and energetic. Tug of war toys are especially a good idea for puppies who need to chew. 

No. 2 - Indoor Fetch: You can play fetch in a hallway, basement, or large living room using a soft ball or small toy.

No 3 - Agility Course: Agility is one of the best indoor exercises for dogs like the Coton because they love to please, are intelligent, and are fast. While many agility courses are set up outside, there’s no reason you couldn’t set up a mini indoor obstacle course in your home using household items like chairs, cushions, hula hoops, and tunnels. Learn much more about agility training for dogs here.

No. 4 - Stair Climbing: If you have stairs, you can encourage your dog to go up and down by tempting them with their favorite high-value treats and toys.

No. 5 - Hide and Seek: Who doesn’t love a game of hide and seek? Hide around the house, and call your dog to find you. Of course, this won’t work as well if you live in a small studio apartment.

No. 6 - Bubble Chasing: Blow some non-toxic bubbles and let your dog chase and pop them. It’s one of the best indoor exercises for dogs because it’s fun, inexpensive, and doesn’t require a lot of space.

Coton de Tulear playing with bubbles

No. 7 - Dance Party: Play music and dance with your dog, encouraging them to jump and move. Lucy LOVES to dance, but she gets shy as soon as I get the camera out.

No. 8 - Indoor Play Dates: Invite some of the neighborhood dogs over to hang out. They'll have a great time tiring each other out playing chase in no time.

No. 9 - Dog Treadmills: My Coton, Luc, used the treadmill for napping. Who am I to judge? I used it to hang clothes on.

Coton de Tulear sleeping on treadmillLuc sleeping on the treadmill :)

But seriously, introducing your dog to a treadmill requires patience and careful supervision. There’s debate about whether or not a human treadmill is safe for dogs, but it depends on the treadmill you have.

Can it go slow enough for small dogs like the Coton? Are there any mechanical parts that their long coat can get caught in? Will the loudness of the machine scare your dog? 

They actually make treadmills just for dogs, like this one geared toward smaller dogs. I have a feeling Lucy would also use it as a bed :)

How do you even get your dog to go on the treadmill?

  • Start by letting your dog explore the treadmill while it's turned off, allowing them to sniff and get comfortable.
  • Reward them with treats for this curiosity.
  • Once familiar, turn the treadmill on the lowest speed, and using a leash, guide your dog onto the moving surface, standing beside them.
  • Offer constant praise and treats as encouragement.
  • Keep sessions short at first, around 1-3 minutes, and gradually increase the time as your dog becomes more comfortable.
  • Always stay engaged with your dog during treadmill exercise, watching for signs of fatigue or distress.
  • Make sure the speed suits your dog's size and fitness level, and never leave them unsupervised on the treadmill. With consistent practice, this can become a safe and enjoyable part of yur dog's indoor exercise routine.

No. 10 - Hallway Chase: Gently kick or throw a soft ball down a long hallway and encourage your dog to chase. And you get extra points if you can get him to bring the ball back to you!

No. 11 - Yoga: Practice stretching exercises with your dog, incorporating movements they can mimic. Downward dog takes on a whole new meaning.

Art Rendering Coton de Tulear Yoga

No. 12 - Flirt Pole Play: A flirt pole is like a giant cat wand for dogs. It's a fun way to engage your dog in chasing and jumping while you control the movement from a safe distance. This is good if you have a large inside space available. 

No, 13 - Swimming: Swimming is great exercise whether you have an indoor or outside pool. It’s a fun activity that you can do together with your dog.

Coton de Tulear swimming, art rendering

No. 14 - Indoor Dog Park: They’re not too common, but maybe you’re lucky to have one nearby. Check out this list of some of the best. But if you don’t have one of these parks near you, get creative. You can walk your dog in a pet store, a large box store like Home Depot, or even some malls that allow dogs.

While physical activity is important, indoor exercises for dogs should also include mental exercises. Keeping their minds engaged can help prevent boredom and the potential behavioral issues that can stem from it. Mental stimulation encourages problem-solving and exploration, which strengthens the bond between you and your dog and contributes to their overall well-being.

18 Mental Indoor Exercises for Your Dog

No. 1 - Interactive Puzzle Toys & Feeders: Various puzzle toys and feeders are available that require problem-solving skills and mental effort to get to the treats. Invest in puzzle toys that dispense treats when your dog figures out how to unlock them. These toys challenge their problem-solving skills and keep them occupied for hours. The Kong or Kong Wobbler are great options. They keep your dog stimulated while trying to get to the treat (like peanut butter) inside.

No. 2 - Teaching New Commands: Once your dog has mastered basic commands, adding training sessions to learn new tricks can be a fun challenge. 

No, 3 - Hide & Treat Trails: This is one of the best exercises for dogs that’s both physically and mentally beneficial. Create a trail of treats around the house, allowing your dog to use their sense of smell which is instinctive, mentally stimulating, and fulfilling. This is one of Lucy’s favorite games. She’s always looking for treats in hidden spots, even when we’re not playing the game.

No. 4 - Clicker Training: Finding new ways to train your dog keeps them from getting bored. Use a clicker for precise, positive reinforcement while teaching new behaviors.

dog clicker training

No. 6 - Snuffle Mats: These interactive feed mats allow your dog to use their instincts and their nose to hunt. Lucy loves her snuffle mats. They require frequent washing, so it’s good to have more than one on hand. This snuffle mat was bigger than Lucy when she was a puppy - but it kept her busy! 

Coton de Tulear puppy with snuffle mat

No, 7 - Obedience Practice: Run through obedience drills, making them more complex as your dog masters them.

No. 8 - Sensory Games: Create activities that engage your dog's senses, like a scent-based maze with treats or different textured objects to explore.

No. 9 - Muffin Tin Game: Place treats in some compartments of a muffin tin, then cover all compartments with tennis balls. Your dog must figure out how to remove the balls to find the treats.

No, 10 - Scavenger Hunt: Creating a dog scavenger hunt indoors can be a fun and mentally stimulating game. Here's a step-by-step guide to setting up a scavenger:

  • Choose the right treats or toys: Select your dog's favorite treats or toys that will spark their interest. 
  • Select the locations: Choose various hiding spots throughout the house. These could include under cushions, behind doors, or within accessible containers. Be sure they're safe and won't lead to any accidental damage. And don’t forget where you hide everything!
  • Start simple: If this is your dog's first scavenger hunt, you might want to let them see where you're hiding the treats or toys initially. This helps them understand the game.
  • Gradually increase difficulty: Make the hiding spots more challenging as your dog gets the hang of it. You could use puzzle feeders or wrap the treats in a piece of cloth.
  • Add commands (optional): If your dog knows commands like "sit" or "stay," you can incorporate these into the game, asking them to follow commands before moving to the next clue.
  • Supervise the hunt: Walk around with your dog as they search, offering encouragement and hints if they get stuck.
  • Celebrate success: Praise your dog enthusiastically as they find each item. This positive reinforcement makes the game even more enjoyable.

No. 11 - Dog Button Communication: I just started using these dog buttons with Lucy (I’ll let you know how it goes)! It looks fun and will definitely give us both a mental exercise challenge. It’s a unique way to incorporate communication, training, and bonding. Now I just have to decide what to teach her.

No, 12 - Create a Digging Box: Fill a shallow box with fabric or other soft materials and hide toys or treats for them to find.

No. 13 - Mirror Exploration: Let your dog explore their reflection in a mirror, helping them investigate and understand.

Coton de Tulear in the mirror

No. 14 - Doggy Massage: Massages are a great way to bond with your dog and can help improve circulation, alleviate stress, and reduce muscle tension. Lucy absolutely loves getting her back and belly rubbed. 

No. 15 - Learning to Clean Up: Teach your dog to put toys away in a basket. It's a useful skill that requires thinking and coordination. This is a win-win when you don’t have to clean up your dog’s toys, right?

No, 16 - Differentiate Between Objects: Place different objects in a row and teach your dog to touch or pick them up based on your commands.

No. 17 - Watch TV Together: Okay, this might not seem like it’s mentally stimulating, but you can show your dog TV shows or videos of animals or nature and observe their reactions, encouraging them to engage. Lucy’s not into watching TV, but the cat goes crazy when she watches animals. And Lucy loves to watch the cat watching TV. It’s hysterical!

No. 18 - Is your dog a rockstar? You’ve seen the videos of dogs playing piano. If they can do it, why not your dog?

Remember to keep these indoor exercises for dogs fun and safe!

The good news is that these indoor exercises are also a great way to get quality bonding time with your dog.

Happy indoor playtime!

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