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More than anything, your dogs wants to be with you and have fun.  Doing things also provides mental stimulation and exercise that can reduce or prevent behavioural problems.   It can also help you destress and live in the moment when you have had a bad day!   Nothing cheers me up more than the sight of my pets acting joyously.  It also makes me feel great to know that I’m providing a happy, stimulating, healthy and fun home for my pets.  So have fun!

  • Play lots:  When you think of life through your dog’s eyes it is likely pretty boring.  Many pets are alone for most of the day while their humans work.  Then their human comes home and wants to relax and they want to play.  So, let your dog motivate you and play even for an extra 5 or 10 minutes/day.
  • Exercise:  Consider whether you can safely include your pet in your exercise routine. 
    • Instead of walking on a treadmill, walk your dog outside. 
    • Take the pet to the park and throw the ball and you will both get exercise.  
    • See if your dog will swim with you (life jacket for the pet and start in shallow water).  Swimming is great exercise. 
    • Have your kids set up an agility course in the backyard using household items.. broom on boxes to jump over, a hoola hoop hanging from a tree to jump through, tunnel made of sheets and chairs to go through.   Be sure the course is adult approved for safety first and keep jumps at a low level. 

  • Teach your dog something new:
    • Agility – most dogs love it and you will get lots of exercise too.
    • Flyball – My dog Buddy didn't  have a strong retrieve drive but I took him to a beginner flyball class and we taught him to get the ball. 
    • Teach your dog to track –  just set up a trail with a treat in every footstep placing them under each heel as you lift up for the next step.  Show the dog the first few treats then see if he/she will follow the trail.  At the end have a jackpot of treats or a Kong stuffed with treats or his/her favourite toy.  Once the dog understands the process then go to a treat in every second footstep, then every third..  phase out until there is just a treat at the end.  Many obedience classes have courses on this too.
    • For dogs that like to sniff also consider nosework. These are games where your dog has to search and find things. See the video link below.
    • Disk or Frisbee – great for the really active herding breeds.  Check with your vet to ensure that this high impact exercise is OK for your dog.
    • Up date your obedience training using positive methods. 
    • Rally class is a great option too. It is like obedience but with a few twists and a bit faster pace.
    • Where I live it is difficult to exercise my dogs in the winter.  So I invented (or borrowed), some fun games to give them exercise and mental stimulation.
      • The running game:   Cody loves this and you can play it down a long hallway or up and down stairs if the footing is good and your vet says it is OK.  It is basically a recall between two people.  At first you can use two leashes and have the dog between two handlers.  One handler backs a couple steps and says come.  When the dog comes and sits in front of you, give a treat.  Then the other handler calls and gives a treat.  Once the pet understands, you can take the leashes off and increase the distance and eventually reduce the treats.  In the summer we play this outside and Cody runs as hard as he can between us.   I did a little video to show you how much fun he has.  The handler that says come can also run away to further increase the dog’s motivation.  In the video I am giving a treat every time to motivate him but I’m also incorporating several commands for a single treat. 

Teach your dog something useful..watch the video below for an example:

      • You may notice I had a few distractions by cute, but unwanted, help…  Cody is wary of the cat and would not do a recall to the normal position when Callie was in the way!
      • The running game:  One person version – Have the dog do a sit stay, walk down the hall and ask the dog to come and give a treat.  Then sit stay the dog and keep playing. Turns a simple recall exercise into a great game.
      • The hiding game:  Again, this can be done as a one or two person game.  The handler can sit , stay the dog and the other person can hide (at first where the dog can actually see you) and then the handler can say ‘go find’ or the hiding person can say ‘come get me’.  The person hiding can give the occasional sound hint (over here) if the dog is having trouble.  When the dog finds you make a big fuss, and give a treat.   Then you become the handler and someone else becomes the hiding person.  With one person, sit/stay the dog and then go hide and call him/her  to come find you.  This can be a great game for kids and dogs too.
      • Retrieve up and down stairs – again ask your vet as this exercise is not appropriate for obese pets or on poor footing.  Throw a toy either up the stairs or down the stairs so the pet has to run and get it and come back.  Be sure to not let it roll down the stairs as the dog might injure itself trying to retrieve on the stairway alone.  Variation:  throw the ball but ask the dog to wait a few seconds before being released to retrieve it.
      • Teach your dog hand signals so you can direct them to find hidden toys/treats.  Start by pointing forward and giving a command such as go out and throw a treat in that direction.  Once the dog is anticipating then say go out and delay the treat throw until they are at least 4 – 5 feet away.  Once go out is good, then introduce go right and left in the same manner.  Make your cue strong and keep pointing until after the food toss.  If the dog doesn’t go very far, you can repeat the cue.  Once this is good, set up a small area with a treat under a plastic cup (something really tasty and smelly).  Have the dog in a sit/stay and send them out to find things.  If you are throwing a ball in long grass and the dog doesn’t see where you’ve thrown it, you can use this method to have them find the ball. 
  • Give your dog a massage.  There are books on a calming method called Tellington Touch if you are interested in learning a formal massage type exercise.   You don’t have to be an expert for your dog to appreciate this though.  Choose a time when your dog is resting comfortably and just start to gently massage your dog (not a hard or deep massage).  Some dogs love it, so see how your dog responds.  If you can feel them relax and almost get a happy sleepy look then try to do it a few times a week.  This is a great exercise for a nervous dog and may eventually be useful as a calming exercise.  If your dog seems tense while you are doing the massage, it may be counterproductive.  Very shy dogs that are nervous about handling will need lots of handling before they are comfortable with this.  See Touch in the additional sites below.
  • Teach your dog a new trick.  My dogs love to do their tricks.  Choose a behaviour that is cute and that your dog does every once in a while.  For example many dogs will stretch or bow when they first get up.  My dog Bud did this so I simply tried to have treats nearby when he would first get up and if he bowed, I’d say ‘Good Bow’ and give a treat (clicker works well too).  After a while, he would do it and start looking at me like he was all proud of himself.  So then, I started asking him for it in the mornings and giving a treat and love when he did it.  Once this is consistent you should be able to ask and have him/her do the exercise on command.  Scratching an itch can be taught similarily as can any natural behaviour. 
  • Does your pet watch TV.  Some dogs do.  Consider buying your dog(s) some doggie DVD’s that you can leave playing when you go out.  This will provide a distraction and mental stimulation. 
  • Teach your dog to do doggie sit ups. I saw this on the ‘Underdog to Wonderdog’ show and thought it was a great suggestion.  Your dog has to know a sit and a down command.  By having your dog sit, then down, then sit…  you’ll  have them doing sit ups.  Great exercise and they will have tons of fun.  At first, give a small treat for every sit and every down.  Once this is good then do one sit and one down and a treat.  After this is good do 2 sit-ups and treat, 4 sit ups and treat, one sit up and treat.  Continue fading the treats until they are only very occasional.   Also consider switching to using some good high quality kibble so you don’t spoil their nutrition.
  • Check out books and sites on Clicker Training.  Most dogs love it and you can teach them to do great things.   See below.

So, I hope this gives you some ideas for fun things to do with your pet.  If you have ideas you would like to share…  please contact me and I may add them to the list.

Also see:

Nose work -

Nose work video

Clicker Training –


Touch –