Our Favorite Indoor Exercise for Dogs

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When one of our dogs, Goomba, tore both his CCLs (dog ACLs) and menisci, we had to keep him separated from our second dog, Prim. Both he and Prim are vigorous with playtime and we didn’t want to risk him having more pain before his surgeries or impede his post-surgery recovery. We ended up keeping him (generally) in one half of our house for the better part of 6 months.

We were constantly switching which pup was where, with the command “other side.” After doing this behavior for a while, we thought it would be useful as an indoor exercise for dogs!

After finishing teaching both pups the command, we were able to turn it into a fantastic energy-burning session for those days we couldn’t be outside. It’s extremely easy to teach this indoor exercise to dogs, and if you use a high-value reward, your dog will absolutely love it!

Keep reading to see our tips and tricks to help make learning the behavior as easy as possible. If you’re looking for ways to keep your dog active, check out our favorite inside activities for our dog. There are options for almost every dog’s situation.

Teaching the behavior

We love this behavior because it’s easy to teach, provides indoor exercise for dogs, and doesn’t require anything other than what you already have in your house. All you’ll need is an area that has two different ways to get to the same place and an item to block one of those ways off. If your residence isn’t set up like this, we also have the option of creating a similar scenario in your house.

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For example, you can pull a piece of furniture or crate from the wall and place an object to block your dog from running through (a dog bed or place/cot works perfectly for this). Something like the setup below is more than adequate.

Teaching with lures

For Prim’s favorite indoor exercise for dogs, there’s very little prep required. This next step is much easier if you have a second person until your dog understands the behavior. Grab some of a high-value reward and make sure to let your pup know both humans have it. Have your pup do a trick at one edge of the barrier and give them a reward. Have the other person stand out of your pup’s sight line, if possible, and have the second person call your pup. Your dog should begin running to the other person on the other side of the barricade. Work toward doing the full loop to the other side of the barrier.

Reinforcing with rewards

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After your pup is able to complete the behavior consistently (9 out of 10 times), start using the command (we used “other side”) immediately when they start to run to the other side of the barricade. The second person can still help by calling your pup if required to help reinforce the behavior. 

That’s it! If you like, you can use two people as long as you want. We typically do since we have both our pups perform their favorite indoor exercise for dogs at the same time!

Troubleshooting the behavior

Here are some of the issues we have found to be the most common and how we suggest addressing them.

No second person

You can teach and have your pup perform this behavior with one person, it’s just a little more work for you.

Two different options have worked well for us. First, you can guide your dog through the behavior if you don’t mind trotting around your house (and turn this indoor exercise for dogs into indoor exercise for humans, as well). A lot of pups will get excited and try to chase you, which helps make the behavior a bit more fun and easier to teach. 

If that’s not your style, we’ve had success with “cheating”, as well. You can take some of a high-value treat and throw it in the direction you want your dog to go. While your dog is running after this, sneak through the barrier and call your dog to you. You may have to walk toward your dog to help them realize they can get to you around the barrier. As your dog understands the behavior better, phase out throwing the treat.

Pup won’t run around

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If your pup isn’t willing to run around your house or obstacle, you’ll have to make it less challenging and/or more rewarding.

We recommend trying to make it less challenging first. Some ways you can accomplish this are to shorten the distance your dog has to go or use multiple barriers. For example, if your house happens to be a rectangle like ours, you can only do one-half of it by using two people or two barriers and moving between them.

If that isn’t an option, you could use something the size of a dog crate and have your pup work around the smaller obstacle. This is especially helpful if your dog is dependent on eye contact or needs a little more persuasion.


Obedience work / building your bond

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Even if you’re only interested in teaching silly or fun commands to your pup, we think obedience work is one of the best ways to have more positive experiences with your dog. As long as it doesn’t turn into a negative experience, they expend a lot of mental energy trying to figure out what you’re asking them to do. It’s fun to watch those doggy gears turning!

Any positive experiences that you’re able to have with your dog will strengthen their relationship with you and be an enjoyable experience for them.  Our dogs seem to get more excited about indoor exercise for dogs than mental exercise but honestly love both.

If you’d rather try something else first, give this article a read from Cesar’s Way for additional ideas!

Indoor exercise for dogs

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“Other side” is a great way to burn energy inside with your dog. Prim absolutely loves this behavior and takes off at a full sprint around our house when we ask for it. We added some rugs so she could get better traction around the house and not drift into the walls!

It’s much harder to be active during the winter months, so we try to have a variety of indoor exercises for dogs as well as other activities to keep them moving around and using their brains.

If you’re looking for some cheap mental exercise for your dog, check out our favorite way to keep our dogs entertained when we’re cooking!

Makes your life easier

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One of our primary goals with our dogs is to maximize the number of positive experiences they have. We teach a wide variety of commands to our dogs that aren’t that impressive but do make our lives marginally easier and they get to have fun and build confidence doing the behavior.

The idea is to turn mildly negative or neutral experiences into positive ones. For example, if you need your dog to go around an obstacle, it helps to have a prompt for your dog to know what to do. If your pup doesn’t understand the requested behavior, they may get frustrated and you end up annoyed because your dog can’t seem to understand what you want.


“Other Side” is an easy and fun command to teach your dog and a cheap indoor exercise for dogs! Our favorite benefits are the flexibility of how to use it and the high level of activity, especially for an inside behavior.

We’d love to see what behaviors you taught your pups! Share your photos of your dog trying them out with us on Instagram by tagging @therulybully.

Have fun!

    Lincoln Schaefer

    Hi, I’m Lincoln!  I’m the owner & primary writer here at The Ruly Bully!  My wife and I have two dogs, Goomba & Prim, and a host of other critters in our home.  Feel free to send a message!  We love to hear your stories, too.

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