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How to Exercise Your Dog Indoors

Author: Casey Netwon, BS, CPDT-KA

Published: March 1, 2017

Updated: November 3, 2022

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cute black and tan puppy ready to play indoors on blue rugCabin Fever: Is Your Dog Going Stir-Crazy?

It’s pouring down rain outside and you’ve got an antsy dog on your hands. What are you to do? You could dress to the nines in your rain gear, take a miserably wet walk outside, and then have to deal with dripping clothes, toweling off your dog, and that lingering ‘wet dog’ odor. Alternately, you could stay warm and dry by entertaining your dog with some indoor exercise and mental stimulation games.

Ready, set, go!

How to exercise and entertain your dog indoors

There are many situations in which the weather may prevent you from being able to exercise your dog outside, such as extreme cold or heat, snow/ice, as well as air pollution or high pollen counts (Ahhh…choo!). Aside from the weather, it could even be the case that you or your dog is recovering from an illness or injury so it’s simply not feasible to go for a long walk, jog, or play session outside.

Dogs (and humans too!) benefit greatly from daily exercise so it’s important to keep the mind and body active even on days you can’t get outside. Here are some ideas and ways that you can entertain and exercise your dog in the comfort of your own home.


Brain games for your dog

  • Fill up your dog’s favorite interactive food puzzles (or make your own) to give them a mental challenge that makes them work for their food.

  • Teach them something new. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Whether your pup is young or old, they’ll benefit from the brain workout of learning something new. Alternately, you can brush up on some of the tricks/behaviors your dog has already learned, such as the “Big 6.

  • Get more mental enrichment ideas in our article Dog Enrichment: Toys, Games, and DIY Ideas

Physical exercise

  • Do laps around the house or up and down the stairs with your dog. Either join them in the exercise or use a ball or favorite toy that they can chase.
  • Have a treadmill at home? Did you know that human treadmills aren't the best for most dogs? For toy and small breeds, they can work with some adjustments. But most human treadmills are not long enough for medium and larger dogs to use safely. Dogs can be trained to walk on a treadmill (under close supervision, of course). But do be aware that there are dangers here (especially strangulation and paw injuries from missteps) so be sure to take precautions and provide close supervision.

Learn what you need to know about dog treadmills and how to teach your dog to use one in our article Dog Treadmills: What You Need to Know. And check out this time-lapse video of two of our office pups, Finnegan and Clover, learning how to use their dogPacer treadmill.


dogPacer Full-Sized Dog Treadmill
dogpacer dog treadmill

A little of both: exercise and mind games

  • Play hide-and-seek with your dog. Either tell them to “stay” before running off to your hiding spot, or enlist the assistance of another person to hold your pup until you’ve hidden.

  • Set up an obstacle/agility course in your living room with chairs, cardboard boxes, or whatever else you have on hand. Your dog doesn’t have to run the course—even walking through it can provide brain stimulation and problem-solving.

  • Create a scavenger hunt by hiding your dog’s toys and/or treats around the house. Try wrapping some up with old towels so your dog has to dig.

  • Work on teaching your dog the names of their toys and then have them go find each specific toy. With any luck (and an awful lot of practice), your dog may eventually rival Chaser’s amazing 1,000-word vocabulary.

A word of caution

Note that some of these games and exercises are not for every dog, so be sure to use your best judgment. Running laps around the house or up the stairs may not be safe for older dogs, those with arthritis, dogs recovering from surgery, or in homes with hard or slippery floors/stairs. Plus if you live in an apartment building, it may be too noisy for your neighbors!

If you are uncertain about starting a new exercise program with your dog, be sure to check with your veterinarian.


Here’s Daisy, going for a leisurely stroll on the treadmill.
Notice that her leash is attached to a harness, not her collar. Safer that way. 


What indoor games or exercise does your dog enjoy most? Leave a comment to share your ideas!

About the author

Profile picture for Casey Netwon

Casey Netwon, BS, CPDT-KA

Casey is a well-respected and certified dog trainer. She is the founder and owner of Wonder Puppy, a perennial favorite puppy-training center in Portland, OR. Casey has received numerous awards and is a popular speaker at dog training conferences both in the U.S. and Internationally. She is also a co-founder of Whole Dog Academy, a non-profit organization that focuses on improving canine-human relationships through educational outreach.