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5 Enriching Activities You Should Do With Your Dog Every Day


It’s no secret dogs need physical exercise to stay healthy and fit. It’s generally the number 1 question people ask themselves before acquiring a dog... ‘Will I have enough time to exercise a dog?’

Whilst physical exercise is an important part of dog ownership, it’s only part of the picture. Dogs are gregarious, intelligent creatures that also crave social interactions and new learning experiences daily.

With that being said, there are five things you should do with your dog every day to achieve a happy and satisfied pooch at the end of the day:

Move, Play, Focus, Sniff, Rest.

Each one of these areas is as important as the other and some overlap, but they all work together in helping prevent behavioural issues and promote a healthy mental state.

#1. MOVE

Shetland Dog Finn  - Photo (supplied) Nathan Edwards


Although each breed requires completely different amounts of physical exercise, every dog needs to move every day. The type of physical exercise you do with your dog should vary each day in length and activity. 

Don’t get stuck in the same pattern of a 30 minute walk every day at 6am or a one-hour game of fetch in the afternoon in an attempt to tire your dog out. Dogs like variety, they are neophilic (they love new things), so get creative with how you exercise your dog!

Here are some ways you can vary your dog’s exercise regime:

Credit - Amy Smith @brian.calvin.smith
✔️ Go for slow-paced leisurely walks, with the emphasis of letting your dog explore the surroundings.

✔️ Get in your car and go to different locations to start your walk somewhere new.

✔️ Vary the start time, duration, location and distance of your walks.

✔️ Teach your dog to swim!

✔️ Vary your pace, slow, normal and fast and add in a training session when you reach the corner of each block.

✔️ Take your dog on a long line to an open space and practise some recalls.

#2. PLAY - Why is Play so important?

To put it simply – your dog NEEDS you to play with them. Play is one of the most common and important bonding and learning exercises for all social mammals, and dogs are highly social creatures. 

Through playing, puppies learn and rehearse virtually every skill that is important to have later on in life. 

Some behaviours learned during play are obvious and funny, like watching puppies stalk, pounce and attack each other.

Others are a bit embarrassing, such as humping! One thing is for certain, it’s all normal and it’s crucial.

Once your puppy leaves its litter or when a new dog joins your family, the best thing you can do early on is work out HOW they like to play


Knowing this about them will establish and strengthen your bond together, which means when you eventually head out into more distracting environments, you are your dog’s favourite play mate. Playing properly with your dog will also teach them how to think when excited. 

You’re not only bonding but you’re making your dog healthier and building skills that make them easier to train
Even if your dog is an adult dog who you’ve never played with, this is a must.

So what are some examples of play you can do with your dog:

Fetch with rules, e.g. sit, stay and then retrieve.

Hide and Seek games.

Tug-O-War again with rules, e.g. wait, bite & let go.

Chasing flirt poles.

#3. FOCUS

The two obvious ways to help your dog focus would be through: Training and Behavioural Enrichment

Consider activities suited to your breed as well. Think of activities that get the blood pumping and the brain thinking at the same time. For some breeds, this is as important as providing them with food to eat and clean water to drink. 

A working dog’s desire to problem solve is as strong as their desire to run for miles. Agility, Obedience, Trick Training trials – the possibilities are endless and your Border Collie, Kelpie or Cattle Dog will thrive given access to these outlets.

Ryan Tate training with his
Belgian Malinois Rafa
Training new behaviours and continuing to teach your dog new things throughout their life, not just while they are a puppy, naturally offers opportunities for your dog to focus and problem solve. 

Start by learning the basics; teach your dog a reward marker and a release cue. Then work on perfectly current behaviours like sit, drop, stay working on duration and distraction and then move on to shake, touch, roll over, spin and so on!

Behavioural enrichment is all about offering dogs opportunities in their daily life to explore, problem solve and experience novel stimuli as a way of improving their overall psychological and physiological wellbeing. 

It’s like doing a crossword or sudoku puzzle each day to keep your brain sharp (or our son who currently has us trying to solve Rubik’s Cubes every spare minute!).

Most dogs struggle to entertain themselves with a toy unless there is a human at the other end of that toy making it move and come to life. We therefore tend to focus more on food-based enrichment, especially when attempting to keep dogs entertained while separated from the family. Keep in mind that dogs are omnivores, which means they can eat a variety of fruits and vegetables along with meat.

Frozen ice blocks with broth, veggies or kibble.

✅ Mince smeared inside commercial enrichment products like KONGs.

Clam shell sand / digging pit with buried treasure in the backyard.

✅ Pig’s ear  / cow hoof / deer antler dog treats.

✅ Brisket bones or chicken necks inside old cereal boxes or similar.

✅ Frozen carrot or apple piece.

✅ Half a cup of kibble inside a plastic bottle (ensure the lid, o-ring and any stickers are removed prior).

All of these activities are designed to make the dog feel happy and will in turn make them a calmer dog.

Side note: Don’t underestimate the power of offering your dog lots of things they are allowed to explore, in order to prevent them from exploring the ones they’re not, such as your lawn, door mat, couch or Achille's tendon!

#4. SNIFF


Dogs were born to use their nose! Their sense of smell is at least 3,000 times better than ours. They have millions more olfactory receptors than we do and a much bigger part of their brain is dedicated to just smell. So all dogs should experience some form of scent game every day. 

This might be as simple as scattering their food around the back yard like a scavenger hunt rather than putting breakfast in a bowl. 2 minutes of mindlessly scoffing food becomes 25 minutes of active brain use, sniffing out every last morsel hiding in the yard! This is a great option just before you leave for work.

If your dog has a favourite toy, you can also play games of hide and fetch the toy. Start off easy by holding onto your dog and throwing their toy into some long grass, and increase difficulty by asking them to sit and stay while you hide it up high, down low or behind furniture.

If your dog belongs to the scent hound (Beagles, Bassets, Bloodhounds) or gun dog group (Retrievers, Spaniels, Pointers) then you can’t go past properly training your dog in scent based games. 
Photo by Nathalie Spehner on Unsplash

We believe training and games involving scent is directly linked to improved behaviour. This is why we are seeing more nose works and scent training courses popping up around the world. 

The internet is littered with online scent courses for pet owners – including our own at www.tateanimals.com. Once you have trained your dog to find your keys, wallet, kid's toy or equivalent, it becomes a fantastic way to exercise your dog on a cold and rainy day or when you are feeling unwell

Hide the keys somewhere in the house or backyard, ask your dog to find them then sit back with a coffee and let the hound burn off the steam!

#5. REST

Rest and relaxation are such important factors in raising a well-rounded adult dog. A young puppy needs anywhere between 18–20 hours of sleep a day! Teaching your dog the skill of ‘switching off’ is equally important as training, socialisation and exercise. And like humans, sleep really does promote sleep. Provide your dog with opportunities to practise ‘mindfulness’.

So how can you promote rest? Here are a few of our favourite ways:



1) Groom and pet your dog with long smooth strokes along the flanks of their body, particularly after exercise.

2) Crate train your dog and teach them to enjoy it and switch off while in there.

3) Teach your dog how to go to their bed/place for a period of time and relax.





It can be very easy to get stuck in the pattern of prioritising quantity of physical exercise, over quality; a variety of activities that serve the purpose of exercising both the mind and body.

You’d be amazed at how much more settled a dog might be after a 15-minute game of ‘find the keys’ around the house over a 40-minute ball chucking session at the park. 

When we visit clients with destructive, anxious or reactive dogs they are usually getting the wrong type of exercise. It’s generally along the lines of an out of control run at the dog park or a walk on lead where the dog is constantly pulling or reacting at other dogs. 

Often the other 4 topics mentioned here aren’t being addressed at all. We set each of our clients up with a daily training and exercise regime that consists of a combination of all the above exercises

In 9 out of 10 cases, regardless of the dog’s problems, we see an obvious improvement in the dog’s behaviour, overall happiness and relationship with the owner within 2-3 weeks of the owner’s implementing well thought out movement, play, focus, sniffing and rest, every day.

written by Jen Tate (February 2021) for Australian Dog Lover (all rights reserved)

About our writer

Jen and Ryan Tate are a unique couple whose passion for animals is central to their work and lives. 
Between them, they have almost 30 years experience and are two of Australia’s most in demand and respected animal behaviourists, including several years at Sydney's famous Taronga Zoo.

Their business, TATE Animal Training Enterprises, specialises in many areas of training, from puppy pre-school through to specialised training for conservation and biosecurity detection dogs. 

Jen and Ryan live in Port Macquarie with 3 young children and several highly skilled and affectionate dogs.

Their first book "How To Train Your Dog" is a comprehensive guide to raising and training dogs to be released on March 16, 2021. It can be pre-ordered here.
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