How to Exercise with Your Dog: 5 Ways to Play

Any pet parent knows just how excited our four-legged sidekicks feel when we grab a squeaky ball or take out the leash. It’s easy to see why so many dogs love to stay active—regular exercise stimulates the canine mind, promotes overall health, and, of course, fills our Cadets with joy! Providing physical activity can even help prevent destructive chewing, according to the ASPCA.

Although how much exercise your dog needs depends on factors such as their breed and age, PetMD recommends 30 minutes to two hours of activity each day. If that sounds like a tough commitment, fear not! There are plenty of ways to help your dog stay fit, regardless of time, space, or weather conditions. Learn how to exercise your dog with these fun, calorie-burning indoor and outdoor activities.

1. Embrace the Great Indoors

Whether it’s a rainy day or your pup simply enjoys the comfort of home, these indoor games to play with your dog are some of the easiest and most exciting ways to have fun together.

Homemade Obstacle Course: Building an indoor obstacle course will put your dog’s mind and body to work. Using your creative prowess, choose an open area to set up the course with household objects such as a chair to run under, a children’s play tunnel to crawl through, or upside-down buckets to weave through. Lead your pup through the course and reward them with praise and their favorite dog treat when they reach the end. Once your dog masters the course, try adding new obstacles!

Step Fetch: Nothing will put your pup’s muscles to work like climbing the stairs. The concept for Step Fetch is simple: throw your dog’s favorite ball upstairs and watch them chase and return it. Before the game begins, be sure your stairs are dry and clutter-free—and let your dog run at their own pace. You can even change up the routine by tossing a new ball up the steps or throwing it to a different side of the room.

Tug of War: When played properly, this game can be a healthy way for your dog to burn off energy and satisfy their natural chewing instinct. Make sure your dog knows the “drop it” command in the event they get too aggressive while tugging. Remember: it’s perfectly fine to let your dog win!


2. Explore Your Backyard

Give your dog some space to romp on a beautiful afternoon! These backyard games and activities are excellent choices for warm, sunny days.

Epic Agility Course: Similar to an indoor obstacle course, a dog agility course will have your best friend jumping, dashing, and weaving. You can purchase a dog agility course kit or build one yourself using objects like plastic hoops, cones, and outdoor play tunnels. Switch up some obstacles to keep the course fresh and always reward your dog with praise and treats after they complete the circuit. High-protein dog treats like chicken or duck jerky will keep your best friend energized.

Champion Chase: This is a simple, effective way to get your dog’s blood pumping. Call your fur friend’s name to grab their attention and jog away once they approach you. Then, give your dog praise when they reach you. Once your dog gets the hang of this game, take it up a notch by running at full speed and zigzagging across the yard!

Water Party: Your dog will thank you for some cool and refreshing fun on those extra-hot days. If you have a pool and your dog knows how to swim, put them in the water and toss their favorite ball to the other end of the pool. Be sure to give your pup plenty of breaks after retrieving the ball. If you don’t have a pool, you can turn on a backyard sprinkler and let your dog dash back and forth in all their glory!


3. Hit the Trail

Stunning scenery and vigorous exercise come together on the trail. Not only will hiking connect you with nature’s beauty, but it will also provide some quality bonding time for you and your Cadet. If your dog can walk on rugged terrain for extended periods, consider taking a brisk and refreshing trek together. Does your furry friend prefer high-intensity exercise? Consider biking with your dog to ramp up the challenge!

Before you head out, research local dog-friendly hiking trails and look for a route with elevation, distance, and terrain that are comfortable for you and your dog. Once you choose a location, read up on the trail’s rules. Many hiking trails require dogs to be leashed or only allow dogs on certain routes, so be prepared. Make sure your dog is microchipped and wearing their up-to-date ID tag before leaving home.

Hiking can be extremely rewarding as long as you and your dog take proper safety precautions. If you and your Cadet are new to trailblazing, read our article on hiking with dogs to learn about gear you should take, potential trail dangers, and other important considerations.


4. Visit the Dog Park

As pack animals, dogs need plenty of time to exercise and socialize. Your local dog park provides the best of both worlds, offering your pup a chance to play and make new friends. Whether your dog prefers to stroll casually or sprint with excitement, the dog park is great for all energy levels.

Research your dog park’s rules and follow basic courtesies such as making sure your dog is updated on vaccines, watching your dog at all times, and closing the gate when entering or leaving the park. Some dog parks have separate areas dedicated to large and small pets, so make sure your pup is in the correct spot.

Bad weather doesn’t have to stop your best friend from enjoying this valuable social time. Indoor dog parks—an exciting new trend—let dogs to play with their fellow four-legged companions no matter what the forecast says. Check out America’s best indoor dog parks for year-round fun.


5. Discover Dog-Friendly Events

You and your dog can exercise together while checking out the best your town has to offer. From flea markets to 5K races, many areas offer dog-friendly festivals and community events you can enjoy side by side. Check your town’s website for a list of dog-friendly events and be sure to read up on rules before attending.

In addition to walking or running with your dog, local events are great for meeting new pets and exploring sights and smells that will satisfy any curious dog’s wanderlust. Who knows—your pup might even make a new friend!

No matter how you exercise with your dog, watch them at all times and make sure they have access to plenty of water. Providing physical activity for your dog is simple even in a pinch—enticing your dog with their favorite chew to get outside or walking a lap around the neighborhood can help your Cadet get the daily fitness they need!

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