how to exercise your dog indoors | Pupford

How to Exercise Your Dog Indoors: 21 Games, Ideas and Exercises

When it’s 7 degrees outside (or 107 degrees), going for a long walk with your pup might be out of the question. At these times, finding ways to exercise your dog indoors is vital for pup’s mental and physical well being!

Pups have some very real needs on a day-to-day basis. Food, water, exercise, training and of course, love.

Plus, most common problem behaviors stem from boredom and lack of exercise (we’re not talking about normal puppy behavior and misbehavior here). So, here it is! 21 indoor exercise ideas for dogs of all ages.

*Note- These will cover both physical and mental exercise because both are 100% necessary for a happy pup 🙂

1. Dog Treadmill

First off, be aware that regular human treadmills are not typically safe for your four-legged friends. You need to get a treadmill built specifically for dogs. You can check out one option here.

Although the price tag may seem alarming for dog treadmills, the benefits can often outweigh the sticker shock. If you live in a cold climate, odds are you will use the treadmill every single day for at least 3-4 months. Plus, the treadmill will stay with you for years to come.

Exercising your dog indoors using a treadmill is a great option for keeping your pup healthy and happy in the winter (or extreme summer) months!

2. Monkey in the Middle

If you have two humans in your home (or call a friend over), monkey in the middle is a great way to both interact with and exercise your dog!

Just like how you played in elementary school, you’re essentially playing keep away (sort of) with your pup.

Find the longest part of your home, like a hallway, then sit or stand on one end and have the other person sit or stand on the other end. With a ball or favorite toy, toss it down to the other human! When they get it and your pup chases, engage with your pup for a few moments. Toss them the ball, play some quick tug, let them squeak the toy, etc.. Then, throw it back to the other end!

The great part about monkey in the middle is that it gets your dog both running back and forth as well as engaging with you! It’s a great opportunity to incorporate some mini-training sessions at each end of the hallway or room. #doubleduty

3. Using Stairs for Exercise

Another quick disclaimer, talk to your vet about your dog’s joint growth and verify that this type of exercise is safe for your pup’s age and breed.

Incorporating stairs into fetch, “tag”, or other pup games can help to tire them out even more! Again, just be careful to not overdo it on your pup’s joints!

4. Obstacle Course

Before you say you don’t have enough space or the right equipment for it, think again! You can set up obstacle courses in your home using items you already have and in even the smallest of spaces!

You can make use of chairs, tables, old boxes, broomsticks, and so many other simple items! The important part is to make your dog move, think, and have some fun. Have them go up and over some items, under others, and around some as well.

If you wanna be the ultimate pup parent, try out something like in this video below.

5. Tug of War

One of the must underutilized indoor exercise ideas for your dog is a game of tug of war. Games of tug of war help your pup engage with something desirable (as in, not your hand), learn new behaviors like ‘drop’ and ‘leave it’, and even do some simple fetch.

Remember to not be too aggressive with your pup or to yank your pup’s head up and down, just stick to the side to side motions.

Don’t be afraid to get down on the ground and play at your pup’s level! Tug of war is a simple and effective way to get your pup’s energy out indoors.

6. Indoor Play Date

A perfect way to help tire out your pup is through play dates. Socialization can be with other pups, humans, environments, or all of them at once!

A great socialization outing can be a pup play date. These play dates don’t require being outside or having very large areas to play. Many friendly pups will love wrestling, chasing, and playing inside a large room in your house!

Make sure you know how to properly introduce new dogs and be there to monitor your pups as they play.

7. Hide and Seek with Treats

When I was a kid, I was the champion of hide and seek. I still have a spot where no one ever found me… but this isn’t about me… it’s about your pup! 😉

Put your dog in their crate, a fenced off area or a closed room. Take 5-10 high-value treats and hide them around your home.

You can put them under rugs, in other rooms, underneath cups, in the laundry basket, wherever!

Once you’ve hidden the treats, let your pup seek them out! Not only does it get your pup moving (hopefully quickly) around your house, but it provides fantastic mental stimulation.

You can repeat this over many times. Just make sure you use a treat that is both high-value and low in calories so you don’t overfeed your pup.

Pssst- check these out.

treats in hand with benefits | Pupford

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8. Indoor Fetch

Again, don’t discount the size of your home or apartment when you think of playing fetch indoors! You don’t need a huge area, sometimes you just need more time and repetition.

Find the largest area in your home and play fetch with a ball or toy your pup loves. Switch up the direction and incorporate some training while you’re at it.

Simple fetch can bring about some truly tired pups!

9. Snuffle Mats


Snuffle mats are one of the best brain games for your pup! Plus, you can buy one for relatively cheap, or make one on your own at home.

Here is a great tutorial on how to make a snuffle mat.

Once you have your snuffle mat, fill it with high-value treats. Your pup will then have to scavenge through and find the treats to get their reward.

Brain games like snuffle mats are a very effective way to mentally exercise your dog when it’s cold outside.

10. Swimming (In a Bath)

If you can find an indoor pool that allows dogs, amazing! For most of us, that likely won’t be the case, unfortunately.

BUT, if you have a small pup you can use a full bathtub as a little bit of swimming time. Swimming is a great low impact form of exercise that can really get your pup’s wiggles out. Of course, I understand that many pups don’t love the water. But if your pup does and they are a small breed, you may just be in luck!

11. Socialization Outing (Home Depot, pet stores, pet-friendly places, etc.)

Many warehouse type stores allow pets. That means heading to your local Home Depot, Lowe’s, Petsmart, Petco or other similar stores can be an amazing place to go for a nice walk and also get some important socialization time in! (Be sure to call your local store ahead of time to verify they allow dogs)

Keeping your pup mentally stimulated is extremely vital! So, do some training games in the store. Working on new behaviors with distractions in new environments isn’t optional for pups, it’s necessary!

It’s an especially great opportunity to practice polite greetings since everyone will be wanting to pet your sweet pup.

12. Puppy Push Ups

Woohoo, another idea that combines both physical and mental exercise! Plus, your pup likely already knows most of the necessary behaviors (especially if you’re signed up for 30 Day Perfect Pup, our free online training class).

Step 1- Get your pup into a sit.

Step 2- Get your pup into a down or lay.

Step 3- Get your pup back into a sit.

Step 4- Get your pup into a stand (all 4-paws on the ground, just to clarify).

Step 5- Get your pup back into a sit.

Step 6- Repeat over and over as long as your pup is enjoying it and working for the treats!

Whenever you can incorporate training and exercise into one game, you’re doing things right!

13. Puzzle Feeders

Don’t discount the opportunity to incorporate mind games into your feeding routine. Dogs are often at their hungriest state, meaning they are eager to find whatever you want them to work for!

You can buy specific puzzle feeders if you use kibble type food, or even lick mats if you go the dehydrated food route (we recommend it).

bob a lot puzzle toy | Pupford

Puzzle feeders often get your pup moving about as well as exercising their brain!

On top of these specific puzzle feeders, you can do brain games during mealtime without any extra items! Here’s how 🔽

Step 1- Get your pup into a sit stay in a different room (or put them in their crate)

Step 2- Hide food throughout a room (or your entire house). Don’t be afraid to put some under rugs, towels, in couches, etc. (just be sure to keep track of where it all ends up).

Step 3- Let your pup loose to scavenge for the food!

Voila, brain games and some extra movement during mealtime. Boom!

14. Long Walks Around Large Buildings

Similar to the socialization at Home Depot idea above, you can use these large warehouse areas as a place for long walks!

If you walk every aisle (maybe twice) you’ll likely be able to get in a mile or so. Hey, any long walk like that is much more preferred inside a building if the weather is poor.

Again, be sure to check that your local Home Depot, Lowe’s or other similar store allows dogs.

15. Flirt Poles

If your pup is full of energy (and maybe is a little mouthy) then a flirt pole is perfect for you! It’s one of the most efficient ways to exercise your dog indoors!

flirt pole for indoor exercise | Pupford

Flirt poles are a long (usually slightly flexible) stick that has some type of tug toy or rope on the end. You can move the toy back and forth while your pup chases it!

It’s a great way for pups to burn off loads of energy! Hundreds of pup parents swear by them.

16. Training Sessions

If you aren’t training your pup every day, you should start! 😉

Training your dog is a great way to help exercise them mentally and physically. If you’re looking for help with training, be sure to check out our free online class 30 Day Perfect Pup.

Some effective training behaviors to help your pup get rid of energy are spins, come when called, and leash walking (even inside!).

Remember to work at a pace your pup is comfortable with. Even little bits of success and progress are important, so stay patient and consistent!

Don’t Forget Some Training Treats!

If you’re looking to completely transform your pup’s behavior, these treats will be your best friend. Formulated with only 2 simple ingredients, perfectly sized for training, and with only 2kcal per treat, these are the best treats you can buy. Save 23% here.

17. Playing Chase

Playing chase with your pup isn’t just a form of exercise (for both of you), but also a great way to bond with your pup! Of course, you want these games of chase to be structured, not chaotic.

Step 1- Find a toy or ball that your pup loves.

Step 2- Introduce a cue word like “chase” or “get me.”

Step 3- Run away from your pup and lure them into chasing you.

Step 4- Be sure to introduce a cue for your pup to stop. Your dog needs to understand when the game is over or you need a break.

You can even reverse roles and teach your dog to play keep away from you with a cue like “run away” or “I’ll get you.” Again, just make sure your pup knows that this evading behavior is only allowed when you ask for it!

You’ll both be tired out in no time.

18. Learn New “Fun” Tricks

Oftentimes with training, it can feel like “all business.” It’s important to give your pup a nice break by learning some “fun” tricks.

Of course, these behaviors are also gonna get your pup moving and getting rid of energy! Here’s a great video below from Zak George that’ll help you teach your pup four new fun tricks.

19. Play Hide and Seek with Humans

Just like kids, most pups love a good game of hide and seek. Of course, you can do this with treats, but playing with humans is often more exciting for your pup!

Step 1- Put your pup in a sit, stay.

Step2- Go into another room and hide, maybe under a bed or somewhere difficult!

Step 3- Call your pup’s name and let them search you out.

Step 4- Have a treat ready to reward when they find you!

Step 5- Repeat.

These little games of hide and seek are a fun way to pup exercise indoors, no matter the weather!

20. Lick Mats

Similar to puzzle feeders, lick mats are a great way to stimulate your pup’s mind and keep them occupied!

licki mats for dogs | Pupford

You can use loads of different treats on your lick mats. Try peanut butter, yogurt, dehydrated dog food, or anything else that will keep your pup occupied.

Again, don’t discount the importance of mental exercise for your pup. Many problem behaviors arise when pups are bored, so keep that brain active!

These lick mats can also be used to help desensitize your pup to nerve-inducing situations like baths, nail trimmings, or combing.

21. Foraging Boxes

Foraging boxes are a super inexpensive puzzle type game to keep your pup’s mind active! Check out the example below.

As you saw above, you can make these foraging boxes for next to nothing. Get creative!

Try using these in conjunction with hide and seek to really get your pup moving physically and mentally!

Recap of Exercising Your Dog Indoors

The weather doesn’t have to keep your pup from getting their wiggles out and having some fun in the process! Try out all 21 of these ideas to exercise your dog indoors and let us know your pup’s favorite in the comments below!

DON’T FORGET to snag a bag of THE best training treats for 23% off when you set up autoshipments. Get a bag and check out all the 5-star reviews here.

get your training treats | Pupford

Written by Devin Stagg

Since being deprived of dogs during his childhood, he and his wife decided to make up for it by having three dogs, two Lab puppies, and one grandpa Puggle. Meaning you won’t see him not covered in dog hair. When he’s not busy training his dogs and/or picking up their poop, you can find him cheering on Tottenham Hotspur and all Cleveland sports (yes, even the Browns).

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