17 Ways to Exercise Your Anxious Dog Indoors

While nothing can replace a nice walk or hike in the fresh air, if your dog is too anxious to go out much at the moment, it’s good to know he or she can still get a great workout indoors. When I say indoors, I actually mean your home which includes the backyard!

From setting up an obstacle course in your living room and playing a game of fetch, to chasing bubbles and learning new tricks, these are a few examples of how to exercise your dog in the house.   

****There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That enables me to keep bringing you helpful content.

Why Exercise a Dog Indoors?

There are lots of reasons:

  • Your dog is too anxious to go out much at the moment, which is the focus of this article
  • Bad weather (your dog refuses to walk in the rain or it’s too cold for your old dog to go out)
  • You’re experiencing health issues that limit your ability to get outside
  • High temperatures prevent you from walking during the day
  • Your dog is recovering from surgery or illness and needs to take it easy
  • He’s not a big fan of taking long walks, so you’re looking for other ways to supplement his exercise needs

17 Suggestions for an Indoor Exercise Routine

Note: Sorry if this is obvious, but it’s important to mention. Not every activity will be suitable for every dog, and will depend on age and physical ability.

Set Up an Obstacle or Agility Course

create an obstacle course to exercise your dog indoors

The great thing about an obstacle course is, you don’t need a lot of room. Amazon has a variety of equipment to choose from or if you prefer, go the DIY route.

♦ Throw a couple of pillows on the floor for your dog to walk between, or buy orange cones in the dollar store.

♦ Rest each end of a broom on a couple of bricks or bowls turned upside down, then let him step over it.

♦ Make a tunnel using blankets, or take a cardboard box and cut the ends off.

♦ Hold a hula hoop and have your dog walk or jump through it. How high off the ground will depend on his or her mobility.

Super easy…right?

A Fun Game of Tug

Not only is tug of war a great way to help a dog release pent up energy, it can also strengthen the owner(parent)/dog bond. A well-managed game is key, although you may have heard whisperings that it causes aggression. I’ve attached a link to an interesting article worth reading.

Read this ⇒ “Dog Myths Debunked: Can Playing Tug-Of-War Lead to Aggression in Dogs?

Play The Shell Game

To play, you’ll need a few extra-smelly treats and two cups. Show your dog the treat, then let her watch you put it under one of the two cups. Move them around then ask your pup to “find it.”

As your dog learns the game, make it more difficult by adding a third cup, using a milder smelling treat, or spending more time moving the cups around

Exercise on the Stairs

Depending on your dog’s age and health, he may be able to run or at least walk up all or a few stairs. Stand on the step he’s able to reach, throw his favorite toy to the bottom and have your dog bring it back up. After a few rounds he’ll be ready for a nap.

Make a Ball Pit

Have you ever seen a ball pit at an indoor kids’ play area? Well, why not make the same thing for your dog! Get yourself a small plastic wading pool and fill it with plastic balls and you’re done. If your dog is a chewer, please make sure the balls are safe, and avoid choking incidents by supervising him at all times.

Go For a Swim

Swimming is a great form of exercise for dogs of all ages and mobility levels. Do you or someone you know have a pool? What about a quiet lake nearby? You may even be able to book a hydrotherapy pool during a time when it’s quiet and won’t cause your dog anxiety.

Puzzle Toy/Treat Dispensing Toy

The mental stimulation a dog gets from figuring out a puzzle toy helps release pent up energy, that’s why it’s a perfect addition to a dog’s exercise routine. You can find lots of different types A quick search will bring up a good selection in a wide price range or make your own for little or no money. Pinterest is a great resource for that, and check out this Youtube video to create something today!

Play Fetch

Fetch is a fantastic way for your dog to burn off excess energy, and can be tailored to your dog’s ability. Even rolling a ball along the floor will make a difference. Here’s a great video that teaches how to play fetch with your dog

Put Your Dog on the Treadmill

A treadmill is a great way to get your dog moving. Please be aware, the slowest speed may be too fast for your dog, so be mindful of this when trying it out.  It is possible to buy one created specifically for dogs, although they can be a bit pricey. If he will be spending a significant time indoors, the benefits to his overall health may be worth the investment.


♦ Never use force at any point. If he’s not interested, then he’s not interested.

♦ Each dog will go at their own pace. You may only have to repeat each step a couple of times, or over the course of days. It takes as long as it takes, and there’s no rush!

♦ If your dog seems uncomfortable at any stage, end the training. It’s quite possible you’ve moved too quickly and he wasn’t ready for the next step. In your next session, go back to the point he was still comfortable and go slower.

♦ Never leave your dog unattended when he’s on it.

♦ Keep exercise sessions short.

♦ You don’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, get through all the steps in one day.

How to introduce your dog to the treadmill

Step one: With a pocket full of treats and the treadmill off, bring your dog over to it, get on and hold a treat out to lure him on. When he gets on, give him the treat then both of you hop off. Try that a few times and see how he does. He may be ready to move on to step two, or if he’s still wary then practice again another day.

Step two: Now we want him to get on when you aren’t! You do that by standing on the side of the treadmill, hold out the treat and lure him on. When he complies, reward him.

Step three: Repeat step two, but this time you’re going to ask him to “stay.” You don’t want him to run off on his own, so the first time ask him to stay for a second, then reward, the next time two seconds and gradually build from there.

Step four: Now it’s time to get him used to a treadmill when it’s on. Stand at a distance you feel he’ll be comfortable, have someone else turn it on the lowest speed, and give him a treat when he doesn’t react. If he does, it means you’re probably standing too close. Try it again another time, but stand further away. Your goal will be to move closer each time.

Step five: With the treadmill on low and a leash on your dog, lure him onto it as you’ve done before. Hold the treat in front of his nose and encourage him to walk. Even if he just takes a couple of steps that’s great. Give him a treat (as long as he didn’t jump off on his own) and try again.


That’s right! It means yoga for dogs and it’s not only a different form of exercise, it’s a great bonding experience for the two of you! If you can’t find a class in your area, here’s a video to get you started.

Teach Your Dog a New Trick or Two

Training is not only fun and an opportunity to bond, it also provides your dog with mental stimulation which helps work off energy and stave off boredom.

Of course he’s already well trained, but there’s always something new he could learn. How about teaching him the names of some of his toys, then getting him to bring them to you!!

Get Your Dog to Help Around the House

I just mentioned teaching names of toys, but what about human items? For example: teach him what a sock is, then get him to pick them up and bring them to you. Ask him to put the toys he knows the names of in the toy basket.

Buy or Make a Snuffle Mat

To put it simply, you hide various treats or parts of your dog’s meal in the mat, then he forages for them. This fun brain game relieves boredom, and pent up energy. Buy one on Chewy.com or Amazon, or make your own.

Play Hide and Seek

Whether you or another member of your household hides and your dog has to seek, or you hide a bunch of yummy treats around the house he has to find, it will keep him busy, exercise his brain and even tire him out.

Buy New Toys

I know we never need an excuse for this one, but if it’s been a while and he’s stuck indoors, now is the time to buy him something new to spark his interest. Whether it’s a chew toy, a bone or a stuffed toy he can really sink his teeth into, it’s a fun way to burn calories and keep your dog busy. Just like the puzzle toys above, there are plenty of low or no cost ways to make some, a quick search or visit to Pinterest will give you great ideas.

Socialize Your Dog Indoors

Your dog may not be going out a lot at the moment, but he still needs to see different faces! Are there any people and/or dogs he’s comfortable around? Great…invite them over for play dates. Start off one at a time so you don’t overwhelm him, and you both have visits to look forward to.

Chase Bubbles

Have you ever seen how much joy some dogs get from chasing bubbles? Wave the wand yourself or buy an automatic bubble maker. Just be sure the bubbles are pet safe.

If you’re interested in making your own bubbles…

Read this⇒How to Make Dog Safe Bubbles

Isn’t it amazing, knowing how many ways there are to exercise your anxious dog? What have you found works for your dog? Sharing helps others, so leave your tips in the comment section below.

Get in touch today and book your FREE, no obligation, 15 minute session. It will give you the chance to tell me about your dog’s anxiety, how it’s been affecting your life and I will let you know how I can help. Contact me through my website  or message me on FB.







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