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I’ve stressed the importance of taking your dog on walks many times on this blog – in fact, this week I posted an article on how to make your walks even better. But what if you can’t walk your dog? If you are physically unable to walk, or you don’t have a safe place to walk, or there is some other circumstance that prevents you from walking your dog, they still need exercise. And you can still provide it. Even if you are just lazy, or work hard all week and don’t have the energy for walks, I won’t judge – you can still use these 11 tips for giving your dog a workout with minimal effort.
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You don’t have to be able to stand or throw a ball to play a great game of fetch with your dog. Get yourself a secret weapon – a ball launcher! With this tool, you just need to be able to load the ball into the chamber, aim the launcher, pull back the launching plunger, and push it back in with a small amount of force. If you can do that, you can easily play fetch without leaving your seat. If you need something that does even more of the action for you, consider an automatic fetch toy. When your dog deposits a ball in the back, it will spit it back out for them right away. Fetch is a fantastic game for a dog because they stay in constant motion, racing around after balls, bringing them back, and repeating those actions over and over.
Running around the backyard is not enough exercise for most dogs. However, if you can make running around the back yard a little bit more difficult, adding in some athletic feats that must be done in order to race around, it will definitely add some challenge to the usual loop. You can build your own obstacle course if you are handy, or get some pieces online to create a course. Try mixing a dog tunnel with some agility poles and other equipment.
If you have a large open space in your home, or a long hallway that isn’t used much, you can also set up an obstacle course indoors. This is great for bad weather, and keeps your dog agile well into old age.
If you just need to help your dog get out a case of the “zoomies”, and you don’t want to or can’t walk them, break out some bubbles. Go sit on the porch and blow bubbles for your dog to chase. I’ve never seen a dog resist the lure of bubble chasing, and you’ll have a blast watching them race around trying to pop these mysterious flying invaders!
Sometimes dogs need some mental stimulation to help them feel a bit less restless. You can use things like a KONG to help a dog stay active and engaged, which will burn energy just like a walk could. If you do this for a small part of your dog’s regular meal, they’ll be highly motivated by hunger to get the food out, and they won’t be eating more calories from treats. You can also make DIY treat-dispensing toys – for example, put some food inside an empty toilet paper roll, and fold up the ends to make them work to get the food out.
One great game to play with your dog at meal time when she’s super bored is to fill up several treat dispensing toys with kibble, as well as a few highly rewarding treats, like a bit of shredded cheese or a few pieces of plain cooked chicken. Scatter the toys around, or even hide them, and encourage your dog to forage for her food. Of course, keep an eye on this and ensure she’s getting enough to eat if this task is tricky.
One thing that can help dogs overcome an abundance of energy is to teach them something new. They’ll focus in on the new thing they are learning, and be pretty tired afterwards. You can try physical and mental activities that require your dog to move and think – great for helping replace some exercise when you need to. Work with your dog on basic tricks like sitting, staying, or heeling, and then add in other tricks like rolling over, speaking, shaking or high-fiving, or doing anything you can think of. Dogs can actually learn a couple thousand words no problem, so think about teaching your dog the specific name of their toys so you can tell them to go get “the squeaky pig” or “the ball” when you want to play.
If you are able to move around and play, but just can’t walk your dog due to something like the weather, hide and seek is an awesome game that will give your dog exercise and make them use all their senses. You can also keep kids occupied with this, so it’s a win all the way around. To teach a dog how to play this game, just have someone hold her while you hide – or, if you are alone, wait till your dog is distracted and then go hide. Then call out your dog’s name, and wait for her to find you. When she does, give her a treat or praise, or both, or find some other fun reward. Don’t hide too well in the start. Let your dog find you easily at first, so they want to keep finding you and getting the reward. Then you can start making it harder. Your dog will start using her nose, ears, eyes, and brains to seek you out.
You can also play a variation of this game wherein you hide a toy. Show it to your dog, get her excited to play with it, then hide it. Tell your dog to “find it”, and when she does, give her a reward or a treat. Again, start easy by hiding it in full view of her so she understands, then start hiding it out of view.
Have you ever used a stair master to lose a few pounds, or just walked up the stairs instead of taking the elevator and been winded at the top? Stairs are hard work. This is the same for dogs. They will get a lot of exercise running up and down stairs. If you are needing a break from walks, grab a ball and sit at the bottom of the stairs. Lob the ball up the stairs. Your dog will race up after it, and then come back down the stairs to you.
It’s safer for your dog to be running up after the ball, rather than down, so don’t do this at the top of stairs. The only exception might be if you are sitting on a porch, tossing the ball out into the yard, and your dog runs down the porch stairs. If there are only a few stairs, and they are not at all steep, this could be safe. Keep doing this until your arm gives out, or until your dog is tired.
A flirt pole is a great toy if you are mostly immobile, because all you need to be able to do is move an arm. These are poles with toys that dangle off the end, similar to a whip. Just hold the pole and twitch it around to make the toy dance out of reach. Your dog will chase it, jump up for it, and play a bit of tug with you for it if they capture it. This is best for smaller dogs that won’t hurt you should they capture it, but you can find flirt poles for big dogs if you are physically fit but j