How to Keep Your Dogs Active, Playful and Happy

So they live a good, long—and fun!—life. 

Healthy pets are often happy pets, and consistent exercise is one of the best ways to make sure your doggos are both. Keeping pets active is key to helping them maintain an appropriate weight, a healthy metabolism and sufficient muscle mass—all of which, very happily, directly relate to a longer life. Of course, your dogs probably already get daily walks, but here are four other ways to keep them active and mentally stimulated, indoors and out. 

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Try Puzzles
No, your pups will likely never help you bust through Word Cookies, but they will benefit from the mental challenge of puzzles. Toys you load with treats that require a dog to shake, push or bounce to get at the booty are a good choice. “These puzzles can keep them mentally sharp,” says Evan Antin, DVM, a vet in Thousand Oaks, CA. Make sure the treats are low in calories, or go for carrots or all-natural peanut butter. Look for puzzles that can be adjusted to become more difficult (once your four-legged genius is onto the trick!). Try the Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Tornado Interactive Dog Toy ($19). 

Plan a Doggie Playdate
Just as we love the company of friends, our dogs crave bonding time with their squad. “Setting up a time to let them run around and play with other dogs is an effortless way to ensure they’re getting enough exercise,” says Antin. Visiting a nearby dog park or scheduling a weekly hike with another pet parent is a great way to get dogs to romp around together.

  • Quick Tip: Aim for your dogs to get at least 30 minutes of daily exercise.

Catch Waves
Bring your pups along for a day at the beach. “Swimming is a low-impact exercise that lets dogs build muscle strength and avoid certain injuries,” Antin says. This activity is a gentle option if a pet is out of shape or has a preexisting health issue, such as osteoarthritis, and can’t handle high-impact exercise. Many breeds (like retrievers) love to play in the water, but even those not known for their aqua affinity (like bulldogs) can benefit. Antin recommends a life jacket for dogs who aren’t strong swimmers. In case your pups decide to get into water that you would never consider swimmable, clean them up with a deodorizing spray or wipe like Happy Pet Furwell Odor! Deodorizing Wipes ($6).

Stay Indoors
Even if rain keeps you from going outside, your dogs can still exercise. You could train them on an obstacle course where they jump over towels and weave through toys. Continue adding new elements to keep the course interactive. Another possibility is the “sniff and search” game, in which you hide your dogs’ favorite treat somewhere in the house and have them search for it.