That awesome hike you have planned in the mountains is sure to tire your dog out! But what if it rains? Or if you sprain your ankle?

Can you exercise your dog indoors—even in a small space?

11 Ways To Tire Out Your Dog In A Small Space |

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How Do We Tire Out A Boat Dog?

When you live on a boat that is ten feet wide at the broadest part, you get good at tiring out a dog in a small space. After all, we’re not always walking 6-miles round trip to buy groceries or hanging out on a cool beach. But you don’t have to be a sailor to need the same skill.

Honey is unable to turn around in the narrow aisle of the sailboat.
Our bluewater sailboat is narrow so you’re never far from a handhold. But it’s also too narrow for a golden retriever to turn around in the aisle.

Whether your small space is a hotel room, adventure van, RV, or vacation rental, it is possible to tire any dog out. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Large dogs are harder to exercise in tight quarters than small dogs. But giving a large dog a good workout is still absolutely possible.
  • You can tire out a dog as much (or more) by working her brain than working her body.
  • You can buy (or make) many cool accessories you need to tire out your pup.

The key to a happy and tired dog is being a creative owner!

11 Ways To Tire Out A Dog In A Small Space

These are some of the best ways to work your dog’s body and brain indoors.

1. Rotate The Toys

Do you keep your dog’s same old toys hanging around all the time? Stop it! Your dog will show much more interest in playing with toys that are new to him.

You don’t need to spend money on new toys all the time. Just hide the ones he hasn’t paid attention to for a while and then surprise him with them a few weeks later.

If he’s an enthusiastic toy lover (like our Honey), he’ll do a good job of tiring himself out just by jumping around with his long, lost toy.

Pro tip: Add “Hide dog toys” to your trip plan a week or so before leaving on vacation.

READ MORE ⇒  How To Take A Cross Country Trip With Pets

Honey finds her stuffed bear in a bag.
Honey’s favorite bear has been hidden away for two weeks. As soon as we put it in reach, she sought out her old friend.

2. Play Hide & Seek

Our boat is too small for this game. But it’s a favorite when we get to shore.

Wait until your dog is distracted by a treat, person, or ball. Then slip into a closet or duck behind a piece of large furniture. If your dog doesn’t come looking for your right away, call to her. Make a big fuss and give her a treat when she finds you.

This game also comes in handy if you have trouble getting your dog to come back at the dog park.

3. Set Up An Obstacle Course

There are tons of ways to tire your dog out with an obstacle course. You can place tape across a doorway to create jumps for your dog to go over or limbo bars for him to go under.

Pro Tip: Include blue painter’s tape with your dog’s travel gear.

You can also rearrange the furniture for them to wind around. Have them jump up on and off the couch and other furniture if it’s allowed. Remember to be respectful – not all lodgings want pets on the furniture.

All our furniture on the boat is bolted down. But we use Honey’s favorite stuffed toys to encourage her to jump on and off the settees and climb the first few steps of our ladder.

Honey the golden retriever jumps down in the cockpit.
We can’t move furniture around on the boat. But there are plenty of obstacles for her to jump on and off.

4. Play The Shell Game

To play the shell game you’ll need a few extra-smelly treats and two cups. Show your dog the treat and let him watch you put it under one of the two cups.

Switch the cups once or twice and ask your pup to find the treat. Most dogs will knock over the cup hiding the treat.

As your dog learns the game, make it more difficult. You can add a third cup, use a treat that doesn’t smell as strongly, or spend more time moving the cups around.

Honey the golden retriever tries to figure out which cup is hiding her treat.
C’mon, Honey, make your choice. Which cup is hiding the treats?

5. Chase Bubbles to Tire Out a Dog

Dogs with a strong prey drive love chasing bubbles. Just whip out your wand and let your dog pop bubbles until she’s tired!

Make sure you use a bubble mixture that won’t hurt your dog’s eyes. You can get bacon-scented or peanut butter-scented bubbles (yes, really!). Or make your own – which is less interesting, but safe – using glycerin and water.

Pro Tip: If you need your pup to be entertained while you’re on a conference call, the automatic bubble blower is a good investment!

6. Feed Your Dog Using A Food Toy

If your dog has to work to get her food, the effort will tire her out while slowing her down at the same time.

We’ve been feeding Honey out of food toys since she was an 8-week old puppy. Her first was a plastic bottle balanced on its opening. We’d put her kibble inside, balance the bottle on its neck, and encourage her to knock it over with her nose. While she was eating what fell out, we’d set the bottle up again.

From there she graduated to more advanced toys, including the Kong Wobbler which requires her to work the toy all over the room to get her full meal.

The result of feeding Honey from food toys all these years? She takes a deep nap immediately after eating.

If you’re concerned about the noise your dog might make playing with the KONG Wobbler, try a snuffle mat.

Or, if your dog is particularly clever, a food puzzle that makes them solve problems to release their food.
The mental energy required by food toys paired with the arousing scent of food stimulating the brain will tire your dog out faster than a long run through a field.

7. Play Fetch

Yep, fetch is a great game inside. If you don’t live in a museum, that is.

We’ve played fetch on the stairs, using toys that make weird bounces like a Kong Wubba. Using the stairs for a game of fetch keeps the game contained while forcing your dog to run up and down.

8. Wrestle Or Play Tug

Honey loves playing tug. We trained her to inhibit her bite, so we can play rowdy games of tug without getting hurt. My husband also gets down on the ground to wrestle with Honey.

If your dog gets overexcited with this kind of game, you might want to avoid it. But for some dogs, rolling around on the floor with their favorite person is loads of fun.

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9. Trick Training

Nothing works your dog’s brain better than training, and teaching him to do tricks is fun for you both. Shaping is a training method in which you reward your dog for getting closer to a behavior, one tiny step at a time.

For example, to train your dog to shut the door, say yes and give them a treat if they face the door. Once they are reliably facing the door to receive a reward, wait for them to move closer to the door before giving them a treat. 

Work your way through the steps until your dog is touching, and then pushing, the open door with their nose for a reward.

The best part is, you’ll never run out of tricks to teach your dog!

Honey the golden retriever gives a high five.
One of Honey’s favorite tricks is “high five.” Learning it really tired her out, though.

10. Play Nose Work Games to Tire Out a Dog

We took a great class on playing nose work games at our local SPCA and Honey LOVED it. Now we use nose work games to tire her out when we’re stuck on board. When she hears me say, “Find it,” Honey knows to start sniffing out the treats I’ve hidden around the boat. Using her nose tires her out better than anything else we do.

You have to train your dog to understand what you want them to do when you give them the command, “Find it.” But it’s worth the effort because nose work is a fun way to tire out your dog no matter where you are.

Honey the golden retriever plays nose work games.
Looks like Honey has followed her nose right to the box with the treat. Good girl.

11. Give Your Dog A Stimulating Chew Toy

Honey loves a soft, stuffed toy with a squeaker. But in a pinch, a crinkly water bottle in a sweat sock (yes, there is a use for unpaired socks that come out of the dryer) is a fun substitute.

 For some reason, most dogs go crazy for the sound of a crinkly water bottle. And the crunch, crunch, crunching is a great way to tire out your dog.

Congratulations, you now know how to tire out a dog!

Hopefully, you’ll find at least a few of these ideas a good way to tire out your dog out the next time you’re stuck indoors.

  • Remember to choose an activity that’s a good fit for your pup.
  • Supervise your dog. Don’t leave them alone in a hotel room or camper with a toy until you know it’s absolutely safe for them.
  • Know your dog’s limits. A senior pup with joint issues is not the best candidate for playing fetch on the stairs. And a dog who destroys toys might do better with trick training than with chewing on a stuffed sock.

Most of all, keep it fun. Who knows? You may find that your dog is as happy to hang out inside with you as he is to roam the mountains or go swimming on a beach.

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  • These are probably some of the best tips I have come across. Thank you for the ideas. I’m definitely going to try them with my puppy. He knows “find it” already so that should be fun.