How to Exercise Your Dog Inside When It’s Freezing Outside

A French bulldog sitting on a person's lap inside, as it's freezing outside.

With severe winter weather, including heavy snow, freezing rain, and negative temperatures, impacting parts of the country, you may not be too keen on taking your pup outside to exercise (or your dog might outright refuse to step outside, even bundled up in a sweater or coat.)

Despite the forecast outdoors, your dog still needs his daily dose of exercise. Depending on your dog’s breed, he’ll need between 30 minutes and two hours of physical activity every day – even in less than ideal weather conditions.

Related: Can Dogs Suffer from the Winter Blues? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder in Your Dog.

Here’s how to exercise your dog indoors to ensure he’s healthy and happy.

Stair Climbing

If you have stairs in your home, try running your dog up and down them. Stairs engage different muscles than those your pet uses on his routine walks or runs. To get your pup to use the staircase, stand at the top holding his favorite toy. Throw the toy down the stairs and your pooch will hopefully fetch it. Once he’s grabbed the toy, call his name and have him return it to you. Your dog is guaranteed to be winded after several rounds. For those more food motivated, you could also try throwing tiny kibble down the stairs, which will not only help with physical activity but also nose training. And if you don’t have stairs, you can teach your dog the up-down-game, which is basically having him go from a seated position to lying down and back up to seated or standing.

Indoor Agility Obstacles

Setting up an agility course inside is a great way to stimulate your pet both physically and mentally. You can either purchase an indoor agility course, such as the Outward Hound ZipZoom course or PawHut portable agility course, or create your own DIY version. Make jumps by placing tape across a doorway, create a tunnel with couch cushions or a sheet, or have him leap through an old hula hoop.

Brain Games

Dog puzzles and other interactive games are proven to tire your dog out. In fact, mental stimulation may make a dog feel more tired than physical activities alone. Start your pet out with simple dog puzzle games and allow him to master those before introducing him to more challenging dog puzzles. If the game isn’t appropriate to your pup’s skill level, he may get frustrated and give up. Some of our favorite dog puzzles include: Smart Dog Puzzle Game Dog Toy by Nina Ottosson, Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel Squeaky Dog Puzzle Toy and Kong Wobbler Dog Puzzle Toy

Use the Treadmill

While you may think that a treadmill is only meant for people, your dog can benefit from this exercise machine, too. Help your pet get comfortable with the treadmill’s sound and sight by running it next to him. Next, walk your dog onto the treadmill when it’s off and give him a treat. Standing in front of the treadmill with your dog’s leash in hand, turn it onto its lowest speed. Give your dog a treat to ensure he stays on. Never tie your pup to the treadmill. Once your pet is comfortable, gradually increase the speed. Here is a video tutorial, too. And when in doubt, consult with a trainer.

Related: The 7 Essential Commands Every Dog Needs to Know

Scent Games

Playing scent games with your dog expends energy and keeps him mentally occupied. While he’s watching you, toss a few of his favorite treats onto the floor. After your pet runs to gobble them up, say, “find it!” After a couple of rounds, hide the treats under furniture, in corners, and on low, nose-level shelves. Say the “find it” cue when your dog goes searching for them. After he’s conquered that, put him in another room and hide the treats. Be sure to hide them in the same locations as before to guarantee success. Let your pet back into the room and give him the “find it” command. As he gets better, you can hide in new places. If he can’t find the treats, stand near them or toss additional bones in the direction of the hidden ones to encourage him.

A Round of Tug

Tug-o-war is guaranteed to quickly tire out any dog. Find tug toys that can withstand rigorous pulling. It’s important to play a structured game of tug-o-war with your pet. Many pooches don’t innately understand how to play this game. It’s your job as a pet parent to teach your dog to follow the rules. Play the game in short, five-minute intervals at first and then gradually increase the length of time. Always end the tug game on your terms, and make sure you aren’t injuring your dog’s neck.

Teach Your Dog a New Trick

A dog is never too old to learn a new trick. Great indoor training tricks include, leave it, drop it and stay. Being inside not only keeps your dog safe while teaching obedience but these tricks will come in handy once you go back outdoors and need your dog to behave and listen to your commands.

Whenever the winter weather is frightful outside, exercise your dog with these indoor activities. From puzzle and scent games to a challenging indoor obstacle course, these activities will provide your pet with the mental and physical stimulation he needs to burn off pent-up energy.

Related: 19 of the Best Interactive Dog Puzzles and Games for Your Bored Pooch

By Stephanie Weaver

Stephanie Weaver is a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia, PA. When she's not locked down to her laptop, she can be found riding horses or playing with her Boston Terrier mix, Steve.

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