10 Exercises and Activities to Keep your Small Dog Fit

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Whether you have a small apartment or a large backyard, whether you have an active, outgoing or a laid back, indoorsy lifestyle, I have done my research and below is a list of exercises and activities you can do to keep your small dog active and fit:

  1. Playing Tug-of-War
  2. Playing Fetch
  3. Going for a Jog or Run
  4. Going for a Walk
  5. Going for a Swim
  6. Going Hiking
  7. Game of obstacle course
  8. Playtime with other small dogs
  9. Hiding treats
  10. Teaching new tricks

The above list of exercises and activities are some of the most effective ways to get your dog physically, as well as mentally fit. I have gone further to give a brief but informative summary on each below:

Playing Tug-of-War

A terrier playing tug-of-war

This is an enjoyable game to play with your dog as it helps both exercise your dog as well as strengthen the bond between both of you.

It is important to take extra precautions to ensure your dog doesn’t have an aggressive history as they might take the game of tug serious.

Likewise, dogs that are hyperactive and easily aroused are not great candidates for a game of tug-of-war. Other games and activities on this list are to be considered instead.

According to Dr. Mary Burch, the director of the AKC Family Dog Program and a certified animal behaviourist, these are some steps to note when initiating a game of tug-of-war:

  • For safety reasons, the game of tug should always be initiated by you and you should always stay in control throughout the game.
  • If the dog becomes overstimulated, aggressive and uncontrollable, you should be able to end the game.
  • Ensure your dog has been well trained to follow your commands to release the tug toy during the game of tug-of-war.
  • When your dog growls during the game, check if its tail is still waggling, if it is, the game can continue.
  • If your dog gets tense and refuses to release the toy, its time to end the game.
  • Ensure to only play the game of tug-of-war with toys created for it. Do not use sharp nor hard objects like sticks. In the absence of a commercially made tug toy, a clean and soft piece of cloth/towel tied as a knot or a piece of rope can be used.
  • Ensure you are being gentle when playing tug-of-war with a puppy, it is important to know their jaw is not fully formed yet and they have baby teeth. Keep the game short.
  • Finally, let your dog win.

Playing Fetch

Dachshund Wearing Clothes Chases After Thrown Toy
A cute dachshund wearing clothes chases after a toy tossed by its owner in a public park.

The game of fetch is a great way to get your dog exercised and fit without doing so much as you would in the game of tug-of-war. It also helps in improving the relationship you have with your dog as it relies on cooperation.

Playing fetch is simply tossing a toy or object and having your dog chase after the said toy or object, retrieve it and return it back to you.

Check out our detailed article on how to teach your dog to play fetch

Most dogs naturally get interested in the game of fetch while some would show little to no interest at all.

According to Eric Rakosky, AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer, here are some pointers for the outliers that don’t necessarily take up an interest in fetch:

  • Get some of your dog’s favourite toys and place them in a circle. This can be done outside, in a fenced area or a large indoor space.
  • Start out by playing with one of the toys, as excited as you possibly can. This is to get your dog to believe this is the best game in the world.
  • When your dog starts reacting towards that toy, quickly move on to the next toy. Repeat this as your dog joins you from one toy to another as you go round in circles.
  • The purpose of this exercise is to make your dog know that you bring fun and not the toy.

Going for a Jog/Run/Walk

It is without a doubt that going for a short-runs, jogs or walks can really get your dog exercised, fit and active.

Some small dogs can run or jog for miles and possess admirable endurance, while some small dogs are not built to for strenuous activities, in such cases, going for a walk can go a long way in getting them active and exercised.

Walking or running with your dog can be a great bonding activity, enhancing the relationship between you and your dog.

Check out our article on the best small dogs for active, outgoing owners

Going for a Swim

It is important to know that not all dogs can and should go for a swim; dogs with a short and exposed snort such as the French bulldog are prone to drowning and should be kept away, when unsupervised, from large bodies of water such as a pool or lake.

Also, stocky built dogs with an uneven body weight distribution would find it to swim and might drone if unsupervised src.

Luckily there is a way around getting your dog some pool time, which is employing the use of life jackets designed for dogs.

If your dog does not fall under the category listed above, going for a swim can really get your dog active and fit as it would also engage their problem-solving ability as they would have to traverse unchartered territories while using all four limbs to stay afloat and move.

Going for a Hike

Just like going for a run or jog, hiking is also a tasking activity and not all small dogs are meant to engage in it.

Hiking can go on for hours and as such, it requires endurance and agility on the part of both the human and dog. This can be physically exhausting for small dogs, as such, certain preparations have to be made to ensure your dog is well taken care of:

  • Carry an extra bottle of water for your small dog. This is to be used for cooling it down when the heat and exhaustion begins. Dogs don’t sweat, instead, they pant excessively, usually with their tongues out.
    At this point, water should be poured on them as well as given to them to drink.
  • Be ready to carry your dog in intervals to help them rest their feet and catch a break.
  • Take breaks. Given them a treat for being good and motivate them further.

Hiking can be tasking for some small dogs but with the above list of things taken into account, your small dog can accompany you on hikes, creating memories, fostering relationships while getting some much-needed exercise.

Playing a Game of Obstacle Course

Obstacle course or Agility is a fun canine sport that fosters trust between a dog and its owner, improves their working relationship as well as gets the dog disciplined and focus.

papillon running on a board
papillon running on a board

Due to the nature of the obstacle course game, with your dog running, jumping, crawling and swerving past obstacles, it would expel its excess stockpile of energy while staying exercised, fit and active.

If you are not opportune to live near an Agility park, you can still build an obstacle course in your back yard or indoors, if you have a large empty space.

Check out this amazing one-page pdf from the American Kennel Club, showing with photos, the various agility training obstacles you can introduce, HERE

Playtime with other small dogs

Taking your dog to the dog park and having it run around and play with other small dogs can be a great way for it to let loose and socialize while staying fit and active.

Extra attention should be paid if your dog is meeting another dog for the first time ever, as most intended play sessions could lead to a fight that might get your dog injured. So, a proper, supervised introduction is necessary.

If you have other small dogs in your home, this part is adequately covered as they would play together, staying fit and active.

Hiding Treats

Hiding treats in your house or apartment and having your dog find them can be a great way to stimulate and activate their mental capabilities.

It also helps trigger their natural hunting and scavaging instincts, improving their sense of smell and ability to stay focused on the task at hand.

Hiding the treats in places where an obstacle is intentionally placed can also help improve their problem-solving abilities while getting them fit and active.

Teaching New Tricks

Teaching your dog new tricks can be a great way to keep them engaged while they learn something new.

Tricks like having your dog twirling right or left and stretching his side, targeting trick to lead him around in a circle, also, a bow is a great trick for stretching your dog’s back e.t.c.

Teaching these tricks will also improve your relationship with your dog as well as get them active and fit.

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