Leash walks. I talk a lot about the benefits of getting dogs off leash, but that doesn’t get you off the hook for walking your dog. Walking on leash won’t tire your dog out for the rest of the day, but investigating the neighborhood is valuable mental exercise. Let your dog sniff and explore his surroundings. Try going new places to walk on leash, like outdoor shopping centers or city parks.
Long lining. Long lining is a half step between walking your dog on leash and letting them run off leash. Instead of a regular length leash, use a leash 15 to 30 feet long. The length you choose depends on your speed vs your dog’s and the size of the area you have to use. Use a longer leash for fast dogs, slow owners, and wide open spaces. The goal is to let your dog feel off leash while giving you a safety backup. Remember, leashes are seat belts, not steering wheels or brakes. You shouldn’t notice the leash except in an emergency. See “How to train your dog to be off leash” for more.
Flirt pole. A flirt pole looks like a sturdy fishing pole with a dog toy as bait. Instead of trying to “hook” your dog, try to keep the toy just out of your dog’s grasp. Flirt pole games are high intensity sprints, so don’t over do it. For advanced dogs, flirt poles can be used in obedience games to teach your dog to listen to you even when they’re really excited and distracted.
Trick training. Teaching your dog tricks has tons of benefits! It’s a chance to improve your bond and practice your training skills. Plus many tricks are easy to teach but really impressive. Tricks like sit pretty and walking backwards strengthen your dog’s core, which is important for the same reasons core strength is important for humans.
Sniffing games. There are lots of different sniffing games you can play with your dog, or your dog can play on their own. Hide your dog’s favorite toy and encourage them to use their nose to sniff it out (start easy, maybe just on the floor in the next room). If you don’t mind some destruction (and your dog isn’t likely to eat the pieces) put some kibble and treats in the bottom of an empty cereal box, shove a second box inside the first so the treats are in the gap between them, and let your dog tear it up! Stuffed kongs and raw bones are like crossword puzzles for dogs – a quiet mental activity that’s really satisfying.