Treats & Enrichment

Indoor dog exercise that your dog can do SOLO!

December 21, 2022

Can you train a dog to exercise independently indoors? Yes! I’m going to show you indoor dog exercise that your dog can do SOLO!

(If you prefer video tutorials: In this Youtube video I train Millie to use the gadget. She goes from never seeing it before to running stairs by herself within 90 minutes!!  You will be able to easily follow these same steps to teach your dog. To watch, click here)

In a perfect world we would exercise our dogs outside every day. However, there are going to be days that you just can’t.

You might get sick or injured. Sometimes the weather will be too extreme for it to be safe to take your dog outside for their exercise. Or, you might just have a dog with very high exercise requirements and you just want to give them a little bit of a boost!

Train your dog to exercise independently using this button & treat dispenser!

Train your dog to exercise themselves indoors

I’m going to show you a fun gadget that you can use to exercise your dog indoors. The best part is that once it’s trained, your dog can use it to exercise themselves without any involvement from you!

To train your dog to exercise independently you will need:

  • Treats
  • Treat dispenser (click here for the one I use)
  • A usb adapter if you want to plug it in rather than using batteries
  • A marker word or clicker

Get set-up:

  1. Fill the machine with tiny treats or kibble
  2. Adjust the opening so that only 1-2 pieces come out at a time
  3. Pull out the treat drawer
  4. Turn the button and machine on
  5. Setup is complete!

Teach your dog to exercise themselves!

First, I want you introduce the machine with the power and sound turned off. We want your dog to be completely comfortable with it before it makes any noise!

Start by teaching your dog to press the button. To do so:

  1. Put a treat underneath the button, then show your dog. They should try to get the treat. When your dog paws at the button, say “Yes” and let them have that treat.
  2. As you repeat this, they should get faster and faster. Only reward them when they paw the top of the button!
  3. Next, I want you to turn the button sound on AND add the verbal cue “touch”. Place the treat under the button, then say “Touch” as you present that button. Let them have the treat when they trigger the buttons sound. Repeat a few times.
  4. Next: Phase out the treat lure. This time, present the button WITHOUT a treat underneath. Say “touch”. When your dog triggers the sound, say “yes” and give them a treat from your hand.

Now we want to introduce the treats coming from the machine rather than from you:

  1. Turn on the treat dispenser and place it close to the button.
  2. I suggest pressing the button (and thereby triggering treats to come from the dispenser) a few times to get your dog used to the system and sound!
  3. Now it’s your dogs turn: Show them the button and say “Touch”. When they press the button treats will fall from the dispenser. After a few repetitions your dog should easily understand the game!
  4. Next is the really fun part! You’re going to move away and let your dog figure out the entire system on their own. Keep the button & dispenser close to each other and let your dog learn to press the button independently.
  5. To add exercise, progressively start moving the button and the machine farther and farther apart.  Each time I move it I like to cue them 1-2x, then leave them to practice solo.
  6. Once they master that distance, move the button farther away again!
  7. The main machine and button can be placed up to 50m apart, so it becomes a great way to have your dog enthusiastically exercise themselves! 
  8. Lastly: Enjoy your tired pup after their solo indoor dog exercise!
Can you train a dog to exercise independently indoors?

I suggest watching the video tutorial of these steps so you can see the parts that Millie struggled with, and how I fixed those issues!

Want more ways to entertain your dog when the weather sucks? Check out THIS post!

Happy training 🙂

Disclosure: Happy Hounds uses affiliate links. Purchasing with these links will not cost you any extra, but I get commissions for purchases made through these links. Affiliate links help me to continue to offer free resources & blog posts. I would love if you used them!

Indoor dog exercise that your dog can do SOLO!

About the author:

Stephanie Rombough, DBTMc, is a force-free dog trainer in Edmonton, Alberta. She owns Happy Hounds Dog Training, offering private in-person or virtual dog training services. 

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