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When a Walk Won’t Do

This article is part of “Adopt Your Love-a-Bull Valentine”, a joint digital event by C.A.R.L. and SPARC. Be sure to check out all the pit bulls and other big dogs available from C.A.R.L.! Adoption fees for pit bulls and dogs 40 lbs or heavier are $25 off through February 28, 2017!

By: Lucy Mrvichin

Bear playing with a toy. He’s adoptable from CARL!

We all know that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and the same is true for our dogs.

Most dogs love going for walks, and most dog owners like having tired dogs, but what do you do if you have a high-energy dog who isn’t satisfied by just a walk, or a reactive dog who barks and lunges when he sees other dogs?

From dog sports to ingenious toys, there are so many ways to exercise your canine athlete mentally and physically without having to be a marathon runner yourself!

Pit bulls especially are very active, high drive, energetic dogs (when they aren’t stealing the blankets on the bed, or snuggling with you on the couch). Here are some great ways to try some new activities and have a great time with your dog!

Obedience Class

CARL dog Brave Heart studying hard.

What? Obedience class counts as exercise? Yes!

According to Dr. Ian Dunbar (a fantastic dog trainer), “Mental exercise tires a dog physically more than physical exercise does.” In an obedience class, dogs are constantly learning polite manners and different cues which gives their brains a great workout!

Obedience class gives you the added benefit of a dog who knows how to be a polite member of your family, and you may find that after an hour long class your dog is much more exhausted than if he ran around at the park for the same amount of time.

Keep in mind not all dog trainers are equal. If you want your dog to love learning, look for certified trainers who support positive training methods.


Agility demonstration from CARL’s 2015 Pooch Parade

Want to exercise your pit bull physically and mentally at the same time? Dog agility may be your new sport!

You have probably seen dog agility on TV, at local parks, or even at the C.A.R.L. Pooch Parade, and while it’s true that the majority of dogs who excel at this sport are herding dogs like border collies or cattle dogs, it is open to any breed or mixed breed dog!

In this fast-paced sport, dogs are trained to jump over obstacles, weave through poles, dart through tunnels, and walk on raised ramps. Agility is a great sport for dogs that need a little bit more confidence, and it is a great way to bond with a newly adopted dog, because all of the training is done in a fun, positive way and teaches the dogs to look to their handler for direction and praise while giving them a chance to run, jump and weave!

Agility can be done for fun or for competition, and your dog could win titles and prizes.

Nose Work

CARL dog Cowboy is a certified nose work expert! Check him out on video!

K9 Nose Work is not just for police dogs anymore! This growing new dog sport teaches your dog to search for and recognize different scents and then alert you to them.

K9 Nose Work is a mentally stimulating game, which makes it perfect for senior dogs, dogs recovering from an injury, or other dogs who can’t (or won’t) run or jump.

Similar to drug or explosive sniffing dogs, K9 Nose Work dogs are taught to search containers, interiors, exteriors and vehicles for their target odor (Birch, Anise and Clove), all while gaining confidence and exercising their brains.

K9 Nose Work is especially great for dogs who are dog aggressive or reactive, since the dogs are trained individually with the other dogs in the class waiting their turn in crates. K9 Nose Work is another great bonding activity and teaches owners to trust their dog’s senses.

Flirt Poles

A doggy flirt pole. Source:

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s day than to flirt… with your dog! Flirt poles are essentially large cat toys that are made for dogs. They provide great exercise for your dog, and can also help dogs that have self-control issues, high prey drive and reactivity.

For a lot of pit bulls, chase is the most fun game they can play, and flirt poles allow you to control that chase that they crave, and use it as the ultimate reward in training. Flirt poles are a pole with a soft toy attached to the end of a rope or a bungee, which lets the owner control the speed, direction and timing of play.

This is a great option for healthy dogs without joint issues, because the excitement that these poles generate can encourage a dog to spin, twist and jump, which could cause injury if the instructions are not followed.

Some trainers find flirt poles essential to teach reactive dogs to enjoy having other dogs around them, and surprising it can even minimize prey drive by allowing the dog to exhaust that drive in a controlled way. For more information, training tips, or to buy a flirt pole, visit Feeling more in a DIY mood? Team Unruly has simple instructions at

Of course, these are not the only activities that you can find to play with your dog when a walk just isn’t doing the trick, but they provide a great place to start exploring all of the fun things you may not have known you could do with your dog. Try a couple, your dog will thank you!

Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Canine Adoption and Rescue League.

One Response so far.

  1. Genie Tuttle says:

    Fantastic blog with excellent enrichment ideas!

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