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6 Fun Fitness Ideas For Dogs

By Kayla Fratt

As we’ve discussed before, exercising your dog is about a lot more than just marching around the neighborhood on a 6-foot leash. If you want to really strengthen your dog’s body and challenge their brain, consider trying some of these fitness ideas.

Like with humans, there are multiple components of your dog’s fitness: it’s not just about hours-long hikes or sprinting after a ball. A complete fitness plan for your dog will include a variety of elements:

  • Flexibility: ensuring that your dog’s joints can move through the available range of motion. 

  • Strength and speed: your dog’s ability to exert muscular force to hold a position, pull something heavy or run fast. 

  • Balance and agility: boosting your dog’s ability to move through space and maintain upright posture over obstacles.

  • Endurance: your dog’s ability to move over long distances or for longer periods of time.

It’s important to consult with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is healthy enough for a new fitness plan, especially if your dog is young or recovering from an injury. Many dogs are motivated enough by food, praise, petting or toy play that it’s very easy to accidentally over-exert or injure them.

It’s also important to note that increasing your dog’s fitness is best undertaken if your goal is actually improving your dog’s health. If your only goal is a tired dog (which isn’t always a happy dog, contrary to popular belief), you may be disappointed by fitness training. Why? Because a fit dog may actually be harder to tire out in the long run.

All of that said, it’s a great idea to improve your dog’s fitness. Dogs appear to gain many of the same benefits from exercise as humans: they’re happier, sleep better, lose weight, gain muscle and are at reduced risk for injury with a solid fitness plan. Most of these doggie workouts don’t require you to get all sweaty as well.

Dogs appear to gain many of the same benefits from exercise as humans: they’re happier, sleep better, lose weight, gain muscle and are at reduced risk for injury with a solid fitness plan.

Here are six engaging fitness ideas for dogs:


1. Hiking on uneven surfaces.

This is pretty self-explanatory, but letting your dog romp around off-leash has many fitness benefits. Your dog can build agility and strength when leaping over logs and navigating streams. On longer hikes, they’ll build endurance and you both will get the soothing benefits of decompressing in nature together.

  • Benefits: builds balance, agility, and potentially strength and/or speed.

  • Equipment needed: a safe place to go off-leash and/or a 20+ foot leash to simulate being off-leash.

2. Sit-Down-Stand repetitions.

Short on time and space? You can easily build your dog’s core, shoulder and hip strength by doing repetitions of cuing them to sit, lie down and stand up in random order. Ask your dog to do each set for their breakfast kibble to reduce weight gain. Just do 30 seconds at first, but once this seems easy for your dog, you can have your dog do this exercise on a mattress or couch for extra wobble.

  • Benefits: builds strength.

  • Equipment needed: none.


3. Urban agility.

This easy game allows you and your dog to explore your urban environment in 3D! Use your dog’s daily kibble to teach them to jump onto chairs, crawl under benches, perch on curbs and balance along logs. Make sure you spot your dog so they don’t fall, but feel free to get creative and have fun! 

  • Benefits: builds strength, balance and agility.

  • Equipment needed: treats and creativity.

4. Weighted walks.

If you’re short on time and just want to take the dog for a walk, you can put small water bottles inside your dog’s backpack and add some strength training. Your dog’s backpack shouldn’t exceed 10 percent of their body weight at first, so take it easy! Build up your dog’s strength slowly.

  • Benefits: builds strength.

  • Equipment needed: doggie backpack.

5. Reach the cookie.

Help your dog build flexibility by having him stretch to reach a treat. Stretch his sides by luring his nose to his hip and stretch his hips by having him put his front paws on a chair to reach a high-up treat.

  • Benefits: builds flexibility.

  • Equipment needed: treats.


6. Canicross or bikejoring.

It’s hard to beat the fitness benefits of an old-fashioned jog. Your dog will particularly enjoy riverfront trails or off-leash trail runs, if at all possible. If running just isn’t in the cards for you, bikejoring is a great option! Teach your dog to pull your bike and enjoy fast-paced fun together. It’s best to work with a trainer to avoid crashes. 

  • Benefits: builds flexibility.

  • Equipment needed: treats, workout clothes for the human and a bike.

Kayla Fratt is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and the owner of Journey Dog Training. She’s passionate about helping owners prevent and treat behavior problems in their pets. She also works as a conservation detection dog trainer with her border collies in Missoula, Montana. She’s an avid runner, cross-country skier and a budding agility competitor.

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