10 Unconventional Ways to Exercise Your Dog

dog exercising

* All Sniffspot articles are reviewed by certified trainers for quality, please see bottom of article for details *

Every dog is a unique and wonderful creature, but they all have something in common: They need to exercise. No matter what breed or how old your dog is, exercise is a vital part of keeping them healthy and happy. If you’re bored with long, leashed walks or just looking for unique ways to help your furbaby let out their seemingly boundless energy, look no further. We’ve compiled a list of 10 unconventional – but totally effective and, most importantly, fun – ways to exercise your pup.

1. Dog Agility Courses

What is agility: Think of agility training as dog obstacle courses. You’ve probably seen these before – the dog show-esque setups where a trainer guides a precision-focused dog through various obstacles. Dog agility courses can include poles to weave, hoops to jump through, and mini hurdles to clear. You may have seen this in actual American Kennel Club (AKC) dog shows too – it’s part of the organization’s competition. 

Why is it good for your dog: In addition to being a great form of exercise, the American Kennel Club notes that agility courses can help dogs master self-control and even overcome anxiety. According to Arlene Spooner, an AKC Executive Agility Field Representative, participating in agility training benefits dogs in a number of ways. 

“For the dogs, there’s the exercise, the social aspect, and the feeling of having a job or a purpose,” she says. “And working with their person (rather than just fetching a thrown ball) builds teamwork, trust, a deeper level of communication, and a stronger bond.”

How can you get into it: You can set them up in a gym using professional equipment like you see on Instagram, but you can also set them up in your backyard using things you have around the house. One of the great things about agility training is how customizable it is. 

And, if you want to get into agility training but don’t have the space or the equipment to get started, you can check out Sniffspot and search for hosts with agility equipment available for use. Just go to app.sniffspot.com/listings and select “Agility” in the filter to see spots that have agility equipment. You can also search for agility courses and equipment available to access or rent for a fee in your area. 

2. Dog Swimming

dog swimming

What is dog swimming: This one isn’t a trick question. Dog swimming is a lot like people swimming, but with dogs. Dog swimming is, of course, much cuter than human swimming though. 

Why it’s good for your dog: Swimming is a great form of exercise for any dog, but can be especially beneficial for older dogs, overweight dogs, and dogs with injuries or other physical issues, like hip dysplasia and arthritis. Just like it is for people, swimming is a form of exercise that can be easier on dogs’ joints than land-based fitness options. 

Be cautious though, especially when your pup is starting out with swimming. While some dogs are natural swimmers and taken quickly to the water, others won’t know how to swim on their own and might be scared of the pool at first. Be patient and always put your pup’s safety first. If your furbaby isn’t a natural swimmer, take the time to teach them to swim or work with a qualified trainer to help them get comfortable in the water. 

How you can get into it: Most public pools have rules against dogs swimming, but you can search for dog pools (also sometimes called “canine aquatic centers”) near you to find pet-friendly pools in your area. You can also find Sniffspots with water features by going to app.sniffspot.com/listings and selecting “Water” on the filter tab.

3. Dog Hiking

What is dog hiking: Hiking with dogs is a lot like regular hiking – but roughly a thousand percent more fun. It might seem like this is essentially a fancy way of saying you’re going to take your dog on a walk, but it really isn’t!

dog in mountains

Why it’s good for your dog: Not only does hiking involve a variety of terrain and elevations that challenge your dog and increase the exercise they’re getting during their walk time, it also gets them out of their comfort zone and lands them smack in the middle of a new, wonderful world of smells, which stimulates their minds as well as their noses. 

Dog-friendly hikes are also a great way to meet other pet parents and find pals for puppy playdates. 

How you can get into it: Search for dog-friendly hiking trails in your area – AllTrails is a great resource for finding good options all over the country thanks to its dog-friendly search filter. You can also consider checking sites like Facebook and Meetup to look for groups of other dog parents looking to hike with pups. The barrier to entry is low though – once you find a place you and your furbaby want to hike, you can get started right away. But always make sure to keep your dog safe when in the outdoors.

4. Puppy Playdates

What is a puppy playdate: Puppy playdates aren’t just adorably meet-cutes for your doggo and their furry friends, they’re also a great opportunity for exercise.

Before you set your dog and their furry playmate loose, make sure they have a chance to get used to each other, especially if it’s their first time hanging out. Just like people, dogs have different personalities and sometimes they clash or just need a little time to warm up to each other. Check out our handy guide for tips on introducing dogs here

dog playdate

Why it’s good for your dog: Anyone who’s seen dogs at play knows what a workout the whole ordeal is (it’s easy to get tired just watching them go). With a playdate, however, your dog doesn’t just get to exercise their body, they also get to exercise their social skills, which is hugely important for pack animals. 

How you can get into it: To get the most out of a puppy playdate, find a place to meet up that allows for off-leash play (if you live in an apartment or don’t have a safe, fenced-in yard, this is a great time to put Sniffspot to good use). Off-leash play isn’t just great for exercise, it also benefits your dog’s mental health and is a great opportunity to build trust with your pup.

5. Dog Cycling

What is dog cycling: Obviously, dogs can’t ride bikes, but they can accompany their human parents for a ride. Dog cycling is when a human ride a bicycle and their pup trots alongside them as they ride.

dog cycling

Why it’s good for your dog: Dogs love to run. In fact, running probably tops your dog’s list of “favorite workouts.” If you don’t have access to wide open, safe spaces for your doggo to run full speed through, however, there’s a good chance your pup never gets to really open up and run as fast as they can. Even running or jogging with a human holds most dogs back when it comes to running. But, put the human on a bicycle and suddenly the playing field is a little more even.  

How you can get into it: This is one that takes a little pre-planning.. Before you hit the bike path with your dog in tow, make sure you’ve taken the time to train your dog to run alongside a moving bicycle. If your dog isn’t in running shape, you’ll need to start by jogging and then running with your dog before you jump into cycling together. 

Next, you’ll need to make sure you have all the right gear to keep your dog safe during your dog biking adventure. PetMD recommends stocking up on the following before your first dog cycle: 

  • A bicycle dog leash that attaches to your bike to keep your dog away from the wheels.
  • A reflective dog harness (it’s dangerous to attach the leash to a neck collar when biking with a dog, so make sure your dog wears a fitted body harness to go cycling).
  • Blinking lights for your dog and bike (you can look for a collar with built-in lights or lights that attach to a harness or collar).
  • A small dog first aid kit, just in case any injuries are sustained on the dog biking trip. 
  • A regular leash for when you’re not cycling (even if you’re not planning on taking a break during the cycling outing, it’s better to be prepared for anything).

6. Dancing with Your Dog

What is dancing with your dog: If you’re a pet parent, then chances are, you’ve already engaged in a bit (or a lot) of dancing with your dog over the years. Not only is dancing with your dog insanely fun, it can be a great workout for both of you, too.

Why it’s good for your dog: Not only does dancing provide a great workout, but since this is an activity you’ll be doing together, your dance seshes will also be a great opportunity to bond. 

How to get into it: Put on your favorite, upbeat tunes, and have fun with it. You can choreograph moves for yourself along with active tricks for your pup, or you can just go freestyle and encourage your dog to chase you around and “dance” along with you. If you get really into it, there are even  lots of “canine freestyle” and other dog dance competitions all around the world. Look for local events or search through national organizations like the Canine Freestyle Federation for more information.

7. Dog Frisbee

What is dog frisbee: If your dog loves being outside and playing active games like fetch, you might want to try playing frisbee together as a great form of exercise. The rules of dog frisbee are pretty straight forward: The pet parent throws the frisbee, the dog runs their little heart out to catch and/or retrieve said frisbee. Then, of course, the dog returns the frisbee to their human parent so the fun can repeat.

dog playing frisbee

Why it’s good for your dog: Frisbee lets your dog combine several of their favorite active activities: running, catching, retrieving, and, of course, playing with you. It’s also a great way to gameify your dog’s training and reinforce behaviors like fetch and come. 

How to get into it: Frisbee is, of course, a game that’s best played off-leash (for obvious reasons), so it’s another great opportunity to look for a Sniffspot in your area if there isn’t a good off-leash park near you. 

8. Plan Some Dog Nosework

What is nosework: Nosework (also known as scent work) turns one of your dog’s favorite activities (sniffing) into an active game. 

dog nosework

Why it’s good for your dog: In addition to keeping pups active, nosework can increase confidence in anxious dogs and can be a great supplement to other activities, like agility courses, because it can help dogs increase their focus and attention.  

How to get into it: According to the AKC, nosework or scent work is played by asking a dog to locate a hidden cotton swab scented with essential oil. Dogs who play nosework games tend to become fully immersed and engaged in the game, which means you can encourage activity by hiding the cotton swab in new and increasingly challenging places or by hiding a series of swabs to keep the game going. 

9. Go on a Dog Sniffari

What is a Sniffari: Simply put, a Sniffari is an adventure led by your furbaby’s nose.

dog sniffari

Why it’s good for your dog: These outings (also called “scent walks”) are vitally important for your pup. Dogs have an estimated 200 million to one billion scent receptors compared to the measly six million humans have. On a practical level, this means that the dog’s sense of smell is kind of like a human’s sense of sight; it’s their primary way of experiencing the world. 

These walks improve a dog’s confidence and stimulate their brains. Think of smells as being like books for dogs – really powering through a good smell will leave them as mentally spent as speed-reading a classic book would leave you. 

How to get into it: Planning a Sniffari is easy, mostly because you don’t have to do any planning at all. The beauty of this kind of adventure is that you’re letting your dog (and their stellar sense of smell) lead the way. Take your dog on a walk—be it of your neighborhood or a new, exciting area they’ve never been to – and instead of directing the walk yourself, give your dog permission to go sniff crazy and to follow the smells that grab their attention. 

10. Resistance Dog Walking

What is resistance dog walking? If you want to increase the exercise your dog gets from a simple walk, look to nature to help you add a little resistance to the mix.

dog resistance walking

Why it’s good for your dog: Resistance walking ups the benefit of a regular walk by increasing the cardio benefit for both you and your pup. 

How to get into it: Getting into resistance walking with your dog is easy. All you need is an area that’s difficult to walk through. Walking your dog through snow, sand, shallow water, or even a layer of fallen leaves can add natural resistance to the walk.

In the end, there’s no wrong way to exercise your dog. The important thing is that your dog gets the time they need to be active so they can stay healthy – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Trainer Review of this Article

There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers.  

These is the trainer that reviewed this article:

Danette Johnston
Owner – Dog’s Day Out, Ballard, WA
Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA)
Licensed AKC CGC Evaluator
NW Coordinator, Doggone Safe

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