How to Trick a Lazy Dog into Exercising

Author: Taylor Ritz

Whether it’s old age, health issues, or plain laziness, some dogs just don’t seem interested in exercising. Sometimes a dog we think is lazy is really just unmotivated. To engage your dog in exercise, sometimes you have to get a little creative and make physical exertion fun. Here are a few considerations to get your dog up and moving.

Rule Out Medical Issues

Before encouraging your dog to exercise more, rule out health problems first. If your dog’s disinterest in physical activities is sudden, take them to a veterinarian to make sure there isn’t something medical going on with your dog. Any sudden change in a dog’s behavior should be treated with caution. If you plan on starting a new exercise regime or activity, consulting your veterinarian is a good idea anyway. 

A few medical issues associated with sudden laziness include:

  • Thyroid issues
  • Arthritis
  • Anemia
  • Lyme disease

Overweight dogs are often found to have thyroid issues that can be corrected with medication. Arthritis leads to musculoskeletal pain that makes exercise painful. Tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease cause extreme fatigue.

Modify the Activity

Once you’ve gotten a clear bill of health Exercise activities should be catered to the needs of your individual dog. Not only should the physical activity be engaging and fun, but it should also take factors such as your dog’s age, weight, and size into account. For example, “low-rider” breeds like corgis and basset hounds are not well-suited to long jogs. 

New workout plans should start slow; just like with people, your dog doing too much too quickly can lead to injuries. Begin with low-impact activities, such as slow walks around the neighborhood or swimming, and work your way up from there to more rigorous activities.
Exercising should be fun: if you notice your dog is not enjoying the activity, consider how you could modify your plan so they become excited to engage in exercise.

Common Issues and How to Address Them

Your Dog Hates Walks

Maybe your dog prefers to be sedentary or even sits down instead of walking around the block with you. No one wants to have to drag their dog down the sidewalk to get them to exercise.

Don’t force it. If you know your dog hates walks, trying to get them to exercise for 30 minutes this way is setting yourself up for failure.

Try to turn walks into a fun game and start out small. Take your dog out for a 5-minute walk to the end of the block and back.

Here are some other tips to improve your walk:

  • Use excited body language and voice to convey how much fun you’re both having
  • Use treats sparingly if needed to motivate them into following you
  • Try sudden changes in direction to keep their attention.
  • Celebrate small victories with rewards of attention and praise
  • Let your dog sniff. While you may have places to be, letting them take in the sights and smells will increase their enjoyment.
  • Put your distractions (i.e. cell phone) away and fully engage with your dog.

Your Dog Is Uninterested in Toys


Some dogs aren’t very motivated by toys. Maybe they weren’t introduced to toys when they were younger or they’ve become bored with the toys they have. 

Playing with toys can be an excellent exercise for your dog, as they won’t view it as exercise; Toys can facilitate both training and games. So how do we engage a dog with dwindling interest in toys and play?

Fixing this issue requires you to become your dog’s trainer: you need to teach (or re-teach) your dog that toys are fun.

Here are a few recommendations to get your dog interested in toys:

  • Buy a variety of toys to find what will interest your dog.
  • Feed your dog out of puzzle-feeder toys.
  • Put toys away when he or she isn’t using them.
  • Designate some toys as “outside only.”
  • Use interactive toys you can use with your dog such as tug-of-war rope toys.
  • Encourage play by getting excited and praising your dog for interacting with toys.

Your Dog Does Not Play Inside

Bad weather, lack of time, or no fenced-in back yard can all contribute to your dog spending more time inside. Many people don’t realize that there are plenty of activities you can do with your dog inside your home to get them mentally and physically engaged.

  • Hide and Seek: While one person hides, another holds the dog in another room. Initiate the game by calling your dog. When your dog finds you, reward them with praise and pets.
  • Hide Their Food: Let your dog hunt for his or her food by hiding it all over the house. Kibble can be placed under the corners of carpets, behind furniture, on shelves: anywhere your dog can easily access. Just remember where you hid the food in case your dog doesn’t find it all!
  • Obstacle course: set up an obstacle course for your dog. Have them jump over chairs, crawl under tables, or run around the pillars.
  • Keep Away: have a catch with another person using one of your dog’s toys.
  • Fetch: if you have a large room or long hallway, you can easily play fetch with your dog indoors.
  • Tug of war: tug of war is a great game that both you and your dog can use to exercise inside.

Your Dog Only Plays With Other Dogs

Some dogs only want to play with other dogs. This can be a problem if your dog is in a single-pup household. The solution: get your dog to play with you. The best way to get your dog engaging with you is to further develop your bond. Spend time with your dog to get to know what he or she likes. Walks and playtime are an obvious way to spend time together, but try adding picnics, errands to dog-friendly establishments, dog parks, or play dates with friends to your weekly schedule. Deepening your bond with your dog will have them playing with you in no time.

Exercise For a Healthier Dog

Though we can’t stop our dogs from getting older, we can ensure they have optimum health and happiness in their golden years. Making sure our dogs exercise regularly is the best way to keep them happy and healthy all their life.


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