8 Ways to Exercise Your Pet Indoors
It’s not unusual for your pet’s exercise regime to take a hit in the winter.
Not only do you not want to go on a two hour walk in the freezing rain, but it’s also often unsafe for your pet.
In addition to less walk time, they’re likely to spend a lot less time in the garden, where they’d usually tire themselves out.
Unfortunately, your pet’s exercise needs don’t drop during the winter just because it’s cold and wet.
Don't despair, there are plenty of options for indoor exercise to keep their muscles and brain working.
Below are 8 tips for keeping your pet fit and entertained when it’s just too gloomy to go outside.
- Use a treadmill
- Play fetch
- Try an obstacle course
- Play hide and seek
- Stimulate their senses
- Join some classes
- Use puzzle toys
There are two main benefits to using some of these techniques. Firstly, you will keep your pet's weight down, which will reduce the chance of accident or illness. Secondly, keeping them entertained and reducing their energy levels will avoid behavioural issues. Tackling both will reduce the risk of any unexpected expensive vet bills for illness or injury.
Not every pet will want, or be able to do everything on the list, so give them all a try and see what works for them.
To give you a helping hand, we've broken each one down for you.
Use a Treadmill
Treadmills are popular for indoor exercise for both cats and dogs.
They’re the closest you can get to their regular walk without either of you getting cold and wet.
The great benefit of a treadmill is that you can manually control the speed and gradient, which makes them a regular tool for rehabilitation.
The only thing a treadmill doesn’t do is exercise your pet’s brain and senses like a proper walk does. This can’t really be avoided, so you will want to couple this exercise with other tips featured in this blog that are focused on stimulation.
Before trying your pet on a treadmill, you must speak to your vet first. They will offer advice on what to look for in a pet friendly treadmill and can advise you on what speed and gradient is best for your pet depending on their size, age, breed and general health. Not taking this advice could lead to an injury that may have been avoidable.
Fetch is the most basic form of entertainment and exercise for a pet, so we won’t explain the rules.
You may be thinking fetch is just for dogs, but you're wrong.
There are some cat breeds that will love to play along including Maine Coons, Ragdolls and Siamese Cats.
With a cat, you may find the difficult part is getting them to return a ball/toy so you may need to coax them with some treats at first.
If you’re going to play fetch, make sure the environment is safe for your pet to dart about. That could mean removing obstacles, clearing up spillages and blowing out candles.
A nice bonus of this form of indoor exercise is that it requires little effort for you. You can sit on the sofa watching tv and all that’s required from you is to throw a ball every 20 seconds.
Try an Obstacle Course
Exercise your pet both physically and mentally with an indoors obstacle course.
You can make a course out of just about anything but start simple so as not to injure your dog or break anything.
A few things you can try is resting a broom stick over two chairs to create a jump, or draping a blanket over two items to create a tunnel.
Alternatively, you can visit your local pet shop where they are sure to have some agility training kit like hoops, tunnels and hurdles.
Be sure to reward their efforts with treats and praise.
Play Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek is great fun for the whole family and is a really good way to stimulate your pet by testing their problem solving, hunting and recall skills.
The game is simple. Get them to sit and stay whilst everyone hides, then call for them to find you.
Give them lots of praise and treats when they do find you.
If they can’t find you, give them a helping hand by making some noises or sticking a body part out.
Some pet’s may not respond well to this kind of game, especially those who suffer from separation anxiety, so if your pet is clearly not enjoying themselves, stop the game and try something different.
Training is possibly the best indoor activity for your pet. When done well, it can be a good source of physical exercise and mental stimulation.
When you think of training, you may well think immediately of tricks like roll over and play dead, but there are a whole host of other options.
If you think your pet’s skills, or perhaps ability, aren’t suited to tricks, you can still train them to do simple things like sit, lie down, stay, and test their recall.
You may be thinking “My pet’s not smart enough to train”.
We disagree. Almost every dog and cat, can be trained to some level. If your pet isn’t responding, it could just be your methods. Search through the internet, watch some how to videos and experiment with treats.
The key is to not give up!
After some trial and error, you should find something that works for your pet.
Once you’ve nailed a skill, move on to another to keep them interested, but regularly test them on their older skills to ensure they don’t forget them.
Training improves mental and physical ability, confidence and strengthens your bond. All these things will make both your lives easier when it comes to outdoor activity, particularly with recall.
Scent training awakens a pet’s hunting and retrieving instincts like nothing else.
Dog's noses are famously much stronger than human's and are the reason they are often used to detect drugs, help search and rescue teams, and even detect upcoming seizures or illnesses.
When you take them on a walk, particularly to somewhere new, you will find they stop regularly to sniff something out.
You can bet that they will be missing this stimulation if they’re stuck indoors, but it is something you can easily exercise.
All you need to do is hide some of their favourite treats or toys in different places then sit back and relax as they follow their nose around the house.
Try to mix up where you hide the treats and give them a little helping hand if needed.
Join Some Classes
Have a look around or ask your local community for pet classes during the winter.
Classes can range from puppy training to agility and obedience training, most of which will cater for all levels of expertise, but be sure to ask the organiser first.
They’re a good option especially for those who don’t have much space in the house for a pet to run around.
The other bonus is that it is a great opportunity for you both to make new local friends with humans and dogs alike.
Yes, you will likely need to pay for these classes, but they are worth it. You could always just go to a couple to get an idea of what you can do at home and what your dog’s capabilities are.
Use Puzzle Toys
Much of this blog focuses on stimulating your pet and making them work for a reward.
Puzzle toys are no different. They come in all shapes and sizes and are designed to test your pet’s problem-solving skills and patience.
A popular option is a rubber ball or other shape with a small hole in the middle to put a treat in. Treats can be biscuits, cheese or peanut butter etc. depending on the toy and your pet’s diet.
With most pets, you can expect them to battle with the toy for hours trying to get their treat out of the small hole in the middle.
For more advanced pet’s, there are more intricate toys that require more than just licking peanut butter out of the inside of a ball. Why not try some out and see what your pet goes for.
Of course, nothing quite beats a good old walk outdoors, so take advantage of clear weather when you can in the winter. Even if it’s only for a 10-minute walk around the corner, your pet will be grateful.
Before you do go on a winter walk, please read our 10 tips for keeping your pet safe in the winter.