My Dog Is Fat | How to Exercise my Dog and have Fun

Towards the end of winter or early spring I took Maui to the groomer hoping that a good bath, deshedding, and hair cut would make her look like she lost about ten pounds. It didn’t work. I was actually pretty surprised to see how much weight Maui had gained. This was her second winter with me and I was able to maintain her weight really well over the first winter so it was shocking to me that she gained so much this past winter.

I’m in a wheelchair and I’m not exceptionally more active in the summer than the winter, so the weight gain was even a little bit more baffling. In addition to winter just being a generally less active time for most people, the only other change I could think of was that I changed her main dry dog food.

2017 US pet obesity survey dogsWhatever the case, winter is over and so is the time for rationalizing and I guess excuses. It’s time to figure out how to exercise my dog to help her shed some pounds.

Overweight and Obese Dogs

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention conducts a survey every year asking veterinarians and pet owners about pets. The 2017 survey revealed that 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. In case you are curious, the survey also revealed that 60% of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. That adds up to 106.5 million dogs and cats in the United States that are obese or overweight.

Maui and I are definitely not alone in her overweightedness (yes, I created that word), but not a very healthy crowd to hang with. Maybe Maui and I should start an exercise club!

Dangers of Being Overweight or Obese

The dangers of being overweight or obese are similar for pets as they are for humans. Carrying around too many pounds can lead to diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, or possibly even cancer. All of these conditions can dramatically decrease your dog’s quality of life as well as their life expectancy.

How to Exercise My Dog

Here are some great exercises that you and your dog can do together. The extra activity will help them burn some calories and overtime lose weight and who knows, maybe the activity will help you lose a little weight as well.

Go for a Walk or Hike

I’m not sure what it is like around your home, but here in Minnesota we have a ton of walking paths and hiking trails of various difficulty levels. Getting out for a walk around your neighborhood or going for a more strenuous hike through the woods, a hilly area, or up a mountain is sure to be awesome fun for your dog and a great way to burn calories. Even if you’re pressed for time a 15 minute walk is better than no walk at all!

Go to the Lake for a Swim!

Bring a ball or your dog’s favorite floating toy and hit the lake! A lot of dogs love the water and love to swim. Swimming is a low intensity exercise so it is more gentle on the joints. This makes swimming an excellent choice for the older dogs or for a dog that is obese and might put too much strain on their joints by running. It’s a great way for them to cool off at the same time!

Run and Play Around the House

If the weather is bad or you just happen to catch the right moment when you’re indoors, run around the house! Sometimes Maui gets the zoomies and just decides to grab a toy and run! This is a great time to take advantage of your dog’s excitement and energy and turn it into an opportunity to burn some calories! We have a somewhat long hallway in our house so Maui will run from the living room to our front sunroom and back to the living room, again, and again. Quite often when she does this I encourage the running to help her get a little bit of exercise.

Here is Maui and her ‘sister’ playing with some toys in the hallway.

If your house doesn’t have a long hallway you can always do the stairs. Go easy at first if your dog is overweight or obese, but just go up and down the stairs a few times. You could make a game of it by tossing a ball down the stairs and have your dog go get it and bring it back to you.

Set-up an Agility Course

Watching dogs run through agility courses is so fun to watch on TV, but have you ever thought of creating one yourself for your own dog? This could be a great way to get the whole family involved and all have fun together creating the course and teaching your dog how to run it (might even be fun to watch your kids run it!)

You can purchase agility equipment online but you can also make your own. Pound long stakes into the ground for your dog to weave through, grab your kid’s tunnels for him to crawl through, or make ramps or a teeter totter with wood from your workshop.

If you look around on YouTube you can find a lot of folks showing you how to make your own dog agility equipment at a much lower cost than buying it.

Classic Fetch or Frisbee

You can always hit the classic games that dogs love like fetch and Frisbee! If you don’t have a good throwing arm you can use something like a Chuckit! ball launcher to send a tennis ball flying! You could even play fetch with their favorite toy or a stick you find at the park.

Blow Bubbles!

You know how kids love bubbles? Dogs love bubbles too (well, who doesn’t). A fun game that doesn’t take a lot of room, you can do it right there in your front or back yard, is to blow bubbles and let your dog catch them! Not only is jumping and running to get the bubbles good exercise for your dog it’s great fun to watch them do it!

Dogs who have never caught bubbles before might be a little confused at first so just blow a couple and encourage your dog to chase them. Catch a couple yourself to show them that the bubbles are nothing to be afraid of.

The regular bubbles that you can buy in the kids department at the store are usually made of some sort of soap. Ingesting small amounts of this is not harmful, but too much will definitely give them a bellyache. Also be sure to wipe off their face when you’re done as the residue could get in their eyes and be irritating.

If you’re worried about that potential tummy ache and irritation from regular bubbles you can buy bubbles specially made for dogs! I just looked them up on Amazon and they are even scented – I found some bacon scented dog bubbles and some peanut butter scented dog bubbles.

Introduce Slowly and Take it Easy

For us humans, when we start new exercise program it’s always good to check with our doctor first. The same goes for your dog especially if they are obese, overweight, have arthritis, or have a special medical condition. Touching base with your dogs veterinarian is a good idea.

Man giving dog water. Dog drinking waterThe shorter faced or nosed dogs like Pugs and Bulldogs, may have more trouble breathing, so definitely monitor their activity and adjust so that it is safe for them.

Starting out on an exercise program can be physically and mentally difficult. Think about making a schedule so you will have the time built into your day. This way it will be a little harder to “forget”.

Watch the weather and don’t go out if it is excessively hot and/or humid. Dogs can get overheated too! Don’t forget to bring water for the both of you!

Ease into it, stay dedicated, and have fun!


What’s your favorite way to exercise and play with your dog? Let us know in the comments below!


  • Peter says:

    Seems like we can get more fun with dog exercise and get better relationship with them. I like the hiking or walking together best. We can also lose weight by doing that too.

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Peter, Doing activities with your dog is a great way to strengthen your bond with them. Most of the time dogs will be happy to do anything with you, but when you make it more fun for them it’s more fun for you too!

  • I definitely think an active dog is a happy dog!! Plus it makes our bond closer! I love my pups and I can definitely tell you know what your talking about!

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Amber! Maui is always happy to be around me but she’s definitely much happier when we are out and about doing something together. It’s hard for me to do a whole lot since I’m in a wheelchair, but I can definitely take her for walks, go for hikes, and blow her some bubbles 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and I hope you come back soon!

  • Linda Sams says:

    My hubbie bought bubbles at the store and was teased when he said it was for the dogs. I think this is kewl.

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Linda, yeah a lot of dogs really love going for the bubbles! If you try the bubbles with your dogs please come back and let us know how it went!

  • Han W says:

    My dog is not overweight, luckily, but these are some great tips to keep him that way! I had no idea there were bubbles especially for dogs, might have to try that out!

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Han, I honestly didn’t know there were bubbles made specially for dogs, either! I’m going to give them a try and see what Maui thinks of them. If you give them a try please stop and let us know how it went 🙂

  • Matts Mom says:

    These are all really great ideas! I have one dog that I perpetually have on healthy weight dog food. And he always acts like I am starving him. I have managed to get and keep about 5 pounds off him. He is a small dog, so that is a lot. He is older, so doesn’t like to get around and run and play too much. But he brother does, which has been great for him. Great information on the hazards of having an overweight dog.

    • Lynne says:

      Hi, Glad you enjoyed the article! Swimming is a great idea for the older dogs who don’t like and possibly can’t do the running and jumping. Swimming is a much lower impact exercise.

  • Eden says:

    A really detailed article that shows the amount of different activities to do with dogs to loose their weight. This will be very helpful to dog owners who have them overweight. I like the videos that you have put on. Obesity is not only serious in humans but as you say dangerous in pets and unfortunately becoming more and more common.

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Eden, Obesity is a huge problem in the United States and unfortunately it is spilling over dramatically into our pets! I’m glad you enjoyed the videos! I also enjoyed your guinea pig articles whattofeedyourguineapig.com. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to come back great info!

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