Today, I’ll share a few tips to help you exercise your dog when you’re sick. On that note – I hope you’ll get better soon!
While I personally don’t get sick super often, I’ll come down with a cold every so often, and just don’t have it in me to properly exercise the pup(s) with a walk.
When I originally published this blog post back in 2017, I had just brought back a cold accompanied by a “lovely” cough from a trip to Southern California.
Ugh. And while I didn’t have the energy to go for a morning backpack walk with Missy, I managed to exercise her in a different way.
Because let’s face it – I would have had one whiny puppy on my hands if she hadn’t had her morning exercise.
So! This post is for all the sick doggie parents of active dogs.
Those who can’t take their pups for their daily exercise and who don’t have a partner, family member, neighbor or friend to do it for them.
How To Exercise Your Dog When You’re Sick
Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for 2022. It contains affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.
- How To Exercise Your Dog When You’re Sick
- Hire A Dog Walker/Runner
- Use Stairs/Tools Inside Your Home
- Couch & Homemade Obstacles As Tunnel Alternatives
- Use A Laser Pointer
- Throw A Ball
- Let Your Dog Go For A Swim
- How to Entertain Dogs Who Don’t Like Toys: Dog Food Puzzles
- My personal favorites are KONG toys and the West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl toy.
- Another good option is a snuffle mat.
- I have one more food dispensing dog toy up my sleeve: the Pet Zone IQ Treat ball.
- What About Heavy Duty Dog Chew Bones?
- How To Exercise Your Dog When You’re Sick: Bottom Line
- Related Reading:
Hire A Dog Walker/Runner
This one’s a no brainer. A professional dog walker/runner will give your active dog the exercise they need while following your instructions.
A 30 minute backpack walk? Done.
A 60 min run? You got it.
A 2 hour hike? No problem.
Note that I emphasized the word professional. If you’re going to trust a stranger with your dog, ask for references and make sure they have pet sitting/dog walking liability insurance in place.
It’s totally fine to ask to see their certificate of insurance, by the way. I carry mine on me at all times and I’m not offended if a new client asks to see it.
You may wonder how to go about finding a reliable professional dog walker? Fellow dog walker/blogger Lindsay from ThatMutt.com gives great advice on this topic in her blog post What To Consider Before Hiring A Pet Sitter.
Just like me, Lindsay is the owner-operator of her very own dog walking business in Southern California (the latter is UNLIKE me…I’m in NC).
Update 2022: Both Lindsay and myself are no longer in the dog walking/pet sitting business.
Lindsay is a full-time dog blogger now and so am I.
Try To Have A Dog Walker On Call Before You’re Sick
By the way, ideally you should think about finding a dog walker before you get sick. That way, all you have to do is text/email/call when you’re actually sick.
Because let’s face it – you’re probably not going to have the energy to interview a dog walker in that condition.
You can search for dog walkers/pet sitters in your area by typing your zip code into Pet Sitter’s International Homepage.
I can’t even remember how many times I received texts from regular dog walking clients letting me know they’d be home unexpectedly because they were sick…but to PLEASE still come by and exercise their pups because they just couldn’t.
Downside: You’ll obviously have to pay for this type of service.
Tip: If your pup is used to going to doggie daycare, that would be an option too. Obviously you’ll have to get them there somehow, so if you’re not up for walking, you may not be up for driving, either.
If your daycare has a pick up and drop off service, it may well be worth paying for it if it means you’ll have the day to take care of yourself.
If that’s not an option, try this to exercise your dog when you’re sick:
Use Stairs/Tools Inside Your Home
Here’s how I exercised Missy that morning when I felt like crap.
I grabbed a bag of our favorite single-ingredient, air-dried treats and walked upstairs into our bonus room.
My Dog Agility Tunnel
In there, I have a doggie tunnel set up that I use on a regular basis for exercise and nose work.
You can find those tunnels on Amazon for around $40. If you don’t have the space to leave it out permanently, it easily folds up.
Once upstairs, I pulled the tunnel close to the staircase, sat down at the very top of the stairs, and had Missy run up and down.
I get her to do that by breaking the treats into tiny pieces and throwing them down the stairs. She LOVES her treats and immediately goes after them.
Every now & then, I’d also throw a treat inside the tunnel so she’d have to go after it, and over the tunnel so she’d have to jump over it. We did that for about 30 minutes, at which point she was panting.
My voice was kind of fading, so I made it a point not to speak. This does more than just going easy on your throat because it’s also a great bonding exercise between you and your pup.
Couch & Homemade Obstacles As Tunnel Alternatives
If you don’t have stairs inside your home, you could get your pup to jump up and down on couches/beds and throw a large handful of treats inside your living room (or whichever room, really).
Your yard works too.
Having to sniff out food in general is a great mental exercise for your pups and will burn energy. It taps into your dog’s natural foraging instincts.
You can also set up other obstacles like stacks of books that you connect with a broom or similar long item.
It’s just a matter of how much energy you have left to set stuff up if you’re not feeling well.
Use A Laser Pointer
Laser pointers are another great option to get your pooch to run around the house without you having to move around a whole lot. Heck, you could even do it from the comfort of your bed.
Dogs who like to play fetch will typically be into it. Just give it a try and see how your pup reacts to it.
Good to know: Some dogs with neurotic tendencies won’t do well with laser pointer games on a regular basis. That said, I don’t see anything wrong with using this approach occasionally when you’re not feeling well.
Throw A Ball
Definitely a no brainer if your pup is ball crazy.
Get comfy on your bed, the couch, or sit on the floor wrapped up in a blanket and throw your pup’s ball.
The chuck it ball is definitely a favorite of Buzz’s, Missy’s brother.
Let Your Dog Go For A Swim
If you’re lucky enough to live right on the water or to have a pool on your property AND your dog is the definition of aquapup, you could just let them go for a swim.
Of course you’ll still have to supervise, but you could do that while sitting or lounging close by.
How to Entertain Dogs Who Don’t Like Toys: Dog Food Puzzles
Another great way of entertaining your pup is to offer them dog food puzzles, especially if they’re not crazy about playtime with toys.
The way they work is they’re hollow and you put tasty treats on the inside.
Of course you can also stuff them with (frozen) raw dog food if you’re a raw feeder like myself.
Some of them roll or bounce, which makes it a bit harder for your dog to get the goodies out, but that’s exactly what you want.
That’s because your dog burns mental energy while he’s figuring out how to get to the treats or food.
My personal favorites are KONG toys and the West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl toy.
Both are super bouncy!
The Qwizl is great for holding long, thin dog chews like bully sticks.
Another good option is a snuffle mat.
The concept is similar, except that it’s not bouncy: You put it down somewhere and hide food or treats in there.
The one downside is that it’s not a great fit for raw or wet dog food – unless you wanted to immediately toss it into the washer after using it.
Probably not want you have in mind when you’re sick though!
So I’d only use snuffle mats for dogs who are kibble-fed or interested in single-ingredient, dry treats.
I have one more food dispensing dog toy up my sleeve: the Pet Zone IQ Treat ball.
The pet zone IQ treat ball fits a decent amount of air-dried treats. What I really like about that one is that you can adjust its level of difficulty with an interior disc.
The one downside is that it may be annoying to hear it roll across hardwood or tile floors! That’s because it’s made of hard plastic, not rubber, so if your pup’s not using it on carpet, there’ll be some noise.
What About Heavy Duty Dog Chew Bones?
You may have head that letting your dog chew on bones is a great way to exercise your dog when you’re sick.
While that’s true, you won’t see me hand out heavy duty recreational dog chew bones.
That’s because I’ve had a really bad experience with one of those smoked ginormous beef dog bones you can buy at pretty much every grocery store.
Back in early 2015, just a few months before my raw feeding days, Buzz broke one of his back molars on one of those beef bones. It was painful for him and expensive for me.
Ever since, I’ve switched my pups from recreational bones to raw meaty bones.
They’re such a wonderful energy outlet for dogs because they exercise their entire bodies. As Dr. Ian Billinghurst puts it on page 124 of his book Give Your Dog a Bone:
Meat left on the bone means your dog will have to rip, tear and chew at it. This is the way nature intended your dog to eat. It is part of keeping your dog healthy. […] It helps a growing dog to develop properly, and it helps keep an adult dog fit.
Think of a dog with both feet planted firmly on a lump of meat still attached to its bone. Head down, taking hold of that meat, ripping and tearing away. What is that dog exercising?
That dog is exercising its whole body. Its jaws, its neck, its shoulders, and its front legs. It is also exercising the back and hind legs which are braced to resist all this activity up front.
When these types of bones are raw, they’re soft and pliable.
When they’re smoked or cooked instead, they become hard, brittle and dangerous.
How To Exercise Your Dog When You’re Sick: Bottom Line
Finding yourself depleted of energy does not necessarily mean that your dog’s energy level will go through the roof.
They can still get a decent amount of exercise by applying some of the life hacks I mentioned in this blog post.
See about hiring a professional dog walker, throwing the ball, letting them run stairs, offering raw meaty bones or playing some nose games.
***Feel better soon!***
How do you exercise your dog when you’re sick? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!
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