Daily exercise, both physical and mental is important for all dogs. The amount of exercise a dog needs will depend on many factors such as breed, age, and the individual dog. For a guide to how much your particular dog needs see here.
Living in an apartment or having limited space with no yard is not a barrier to giving your dog exercise. There are many ways to exercise your dog by getting out and about or providing activity indoors.
Exercise ideas for an apartment dog
If you are having trouble finding ways to exercise your dog because you live in an apartment, try these ideas.
The daily walk is crucial for all dogs, especially dogs that live indoors. Firstly, they have toileting needs. Many people that live in an apartment having facilities for their dog to relieve themselves such as potty pads or a grass toilet for dogs. However, it is nice for your dog to be able to relieve themselves out in nature when possible.
Going for a walk with a dog is more than just an opportunity to burn off some energy and get physical exercise. They also receive plenty of mental stimulation from the sights, sounds, and smells they come across. In addition, there is the opportunity to meet other people and dogs giving them social enrichment. Dogs are social animals by nature and this social contact is special to them.
If possible, take your dog somewhere they can be off-leash. If your dog doesn’t have good recall you can use a long line or retractable leash. Allow your dog to explore and set the pace and general direction of the walk. This is known as decompression walking because it allows your dog to decompress and destress.
Doggie daycare has become very popular with many dog owners and their dogs. Fifteen to twenty years ago, if you told someone you were taking your dog to daycare they would have laughed. Now it is a common and good option for many dogs and owners. Doggie daycare is not necessarily a good fit for all dogs and not all dogs are suitable for doggie daycare.
Doggie daycares vary in size and what they offer. many doggie daycares are overnight dog boarding facilities that also offer daycare. The number of dogs in the daycare varies greatly depending on the facility. This can vary from 50 dogs in total up to 200 even. Some facilities are purely an indoor-only set up while others may have outdoor areas also.
Another type of doggie daycare is smaller at-home services. This is where a dog lover may cater to a small number of dogs in their own home. This type of setup can be more relaxing for an anxious dog that would be too overwhelmed in a setting with a large group of dogs.
Ultimately, doggie daycares are a business and as in any industry, there are good operators and bad operators. If you are considering doggie daycare for your dog it is important to do your research. Most doggie daycares will have a trial day or half-day to assess your dog to make sure that they and your dog are a good fit for each other. To learn more about doggie daycare as an option for your dog, see here.
Walk on a treadmill
Walking on a treadmill is not going to be a substitute for going for a walk, but a least it will provide some release of physical energy. Once your dog is trained to walk on the treadmill you can fit in any other small tasks you have to do while they walk. Obviously, you will need to stay nearby and supervise for safety.
Tug of war
A firm favorite of many strong dogs. Make them crouch and pull back to use extra energy. Ensure that this is a controlled game and they release when you want them to.
Tug of war is also an excellent exercise for muscle conditioning and strengthening working the core and hindquarters.
Staying with the tug of war theme, this one is for the small dogs and can be used indoors. This is attached to the ceiling with a strong Elephant hook and can be removed easily when not in use. It comes with a bungy cord and a plush toy that has a squeaker to arouse their interest. You can attach other plush toys also if your dog has a particular favorite.
Playing Fetch with your dog is another fantastic way to burn pent-up energy. Many dogs are ball or toy crazy can play this for hundreds of throws. Obviously, you may not have much room and can only throw the ball or toy a short distance. However, it still gets your dog moving and burns energy.
A great alternative is to use an Automatic Ball Launcher so your dog can play Fetch by themselves. For more information check out “Automatic Ball Launchers for Dogs”
Make an inside obstacle course either with furniture or items around the house or use agility-type obstacles such as tunnels and jumps. If you don’t want to build a full obstacle course you can play Under and Over. Have your dog go under an obstacle the first time and jump over the second. This burns energy fast.
If your dog is ball mad then the Wicked Ball is the ultimate moving dog toy for them. The magic ball runs and bounces all by itself and the LED light adds another level of engagement for your dog. No App or remote controller required.
It has several settings such as the Intelligent Companion mode. In this mode, the Wicked ball has 10 minutes of play and 30 minutes of rest. If your dog pushes or hits the ball it starts the play cycle again. It also has three reaction modes (gentle, normal, active) so you can set it to suit your dog’s mood. Due to its obstacle avoidance system (collision sensor), it doesn’t get stuck in tight spots.
The Wicked ball is durable and dog safe and is also waterproof so it can be played with when swimming. It also has a treat hole for dogs that are food motivated.
View the Wicked Ball on Amazon.
For more dog toys that move on their own see here.
If you live in an apartment you will have access to stairs. Stair exercise is a great energy burner and muscle conditioning activity.
Start at the bottom of the stairs and have your dog “stay”. Throw the ball to the top of the stairs and then say, “Go!” Let your dog dash up the stairs as fast as they can. Have them return down the stairs at a slower pace to avoid injury.
Walking upstairs or a hill strengthens the rear legs as the full bodyweight of your dog is on each leg as the step. As they descend the stairs they are using the opposing muscles for stability. For more on stair exercise for dogs see here.
The Varram Pet Fitness Robot is the newest automatic chase toy for dogs. This device is super smart and ideal to keep your dog active in an apartment. Using an app on your iPhone or Android you can schedule when to activate or have it in sleep mode. It also can sense when your pet is near wanting to play. It also has an obstacle avoidance ability and can learn where obstacles are.
It has a built-in treat dispenser to reward your dog for playing. It also provides all the stats and reports on the smartphone app such as monitoring your dog’s activity and how many treats were dispensed.
View the Varram Pet Fitness Robot on Amazon.
In addition to the Varram Pet Robot, there are other similar interactive moving toys such as the GoBone, Wicked Bone, and Petgeek Playbone. To learn more about these alternative self-moving dog toys see here.
Mental exercise and enrichment
Mental stimulation and enrichment is often an overlooked part of a dog’s exercise routine. Mental exercise can tire a dog out just as much as physical activity.
All dogs need an outlet for their minds. If they are not provided the opportunity to challenge their minds they will come up with their own ways to achieve this. This usually manifests itself in bad behavior such as excessive barking, digging, escaping, and other destructive behaviors. Read “Mental stimulation and mind enrichment for dogs” to learn about the 6 types or categories of mind stimulation a mental enrichment and some great ideas to provide this.
Some suggested ways to provide mental exercise for your dog include –
Puzzle toys are ideal for dogs to challenge their minds and test their problem-solving skills. Try to find puzzle toys that are a bit more challenging as many dogs tend to work these out quite quickly. Check out “Top puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.
Scenting and nose games
Dogs have a keen nose. Playing scenting and nose games helps to provide mental stimulation. Read “12 Scenting and nose games for dogs” for some ideas.
Provide your dog with good strong chew toys. Chewing is a great way to occupy them. In addition, chewing releases endorphins and helps to relax a dog. Many dogs hold stress in the jaw.
For more on the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys click here.
Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.
Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your dog to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.
Enrich their environment
Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.
If you have any ideas and tips for exercising a dog that lives in an apartment or you only have a small space to work with, comment below.