Leash walks can only take us so far. Most of us can find them fairly boring and quite a few dogs don’t find them sufficiently engaging to provide enough enrichment. So…how DO you provide exercise when you are limited to leash walks? The answer is you get creative.

Beau and Jo in the ultimate dog backyard!

You can set up little jumps in your hallway using books or other heavy objects to brace dowelling or broom handles. You can find cheap pylons and drill holes in them for more sophisticated jumps.

A lightly inflated air mattress is a good way to start helping your dog work on balance and learning to adjust to an unstable surface.

You can take low box, fill it with something heavy, close the top and use it as a perch to teach your dog to put their front legs onto it. Or jump on it and sit or do a down. If you really get ambitious, you can try to teach your dog to back onto the perch.

Set up two small circular boxes and have your dog put one front leg on each. This is a somewhat more difficult task for some dogs, but if you start small and work your way up, then you will accomplish quite a bit.

I have an island in my kitchen and when I have no other ideas for exercise, we do walking/heeling exercises around the island. It’s a good time for me to reinforce and sharpen up their “watch me” (eye contact cue) and “Get In” (heeling cue)

Remember, most dogs aren’t volunteers. They want to be paid for their work, just as we do. Reward their progress as they go along. Think outside of the box, as it were.

This is related to the food toys blog, with a bit of a twist. This is focused on letting the dog use their nose to find the food.


Dog noses are remarkable things and most humans simply can’t appreciate how remarkable those noses are. One description that stuck with me: A dog can smell a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic sized pool. Impressive, eh?

Blanche and Jo playing a sniffing game

So one game that can be very useful in engaging the brain and get them busy is having them search for food or toys. You can hide food in small containers and hide them around the house. You can drop kibble around the yard and have them search for it. You can practice “stay and release” games where you place your dog in a sit-stay or down-stay, throw a bit of kibble down a hallway and then release the dog to go and get it.


The limits on this are up to you. My only caution is that you make sure to hide the food or toy in places where the dog can actually access it and that you remember that some dogs will try to dig it out if it’s stashed in a sofa or under a pillow. So don’t set yourself or your dog up for frustration by placing food or a toy some place that could get damaged as the dog strives to access it.


I do scent classes with my pug, Josephine. In scent class, she has to find the location of a specific scent and then tell me where it is. If she’s right, she gets a food reinforcement for this. The finding game is similar except we aren’t training an “alert”, we are just engaging their brains for fun.

Jo playing a scent game

I’ve included some photos of Jo’s scenting. As you can see, the scent is hidden in a variety of different things…..Christmas stockings, luggage, purses, etc.


Last word of caution….I do this with one dog at a time. Doing this with all three of mine might set them up for a fight over found treasures. Just be aware that resource guarding a valuable thing (like food) isn’t aberrant behaviour. If someone ran in and tried to steal something you valued, you might react, too. So be aware that you don’t want to create a situation where a fight might result.


 367 pugs rescued since October, 2005

Pugalug Pug Rescue is a registered charity #85426-8430 RR0001

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