Active Goldens: Exercise and Enrichment Ideas for Your Furry Friend

Key Points

  • Keeping your golden active is key to decreasing destructive bored behavior.

  • Fetch, doggy playdates, puzzle toys, agility training, nose work, hiking, and exploring are great ways to keep your dog active.

  • Socialization is critical to making a playdate work between your dog and another.

  • Use the B.A.R.K. rules to keep your dog safe on the hiking trails.

No, a tornado didn't hit your house, but a bored golden did. Too full of energy and having nowhere to put him means your house may become one giant toy.

How much exercise do goldens need? Goldens are a sporting breed, meaning they need at least two hours of daily exercise. Your dog craves activity, and if not provided, she could become destructive. Many owners feel their dog is out of control, but the reality is they need more movement.

Exercise is far more fun when you enjoy what is happening. The key to burning all that energy is to have fun while using these enrichment ideas.


Starting with a classic fetch is simple. You throw a ball, frisbee, or stick and let your dog chase it down. Play this game anywhere.

Fetch requires training. To train your puppy to fetch, start in a smaller space like your backyard. Most puppies enjoy the game of keep-away before they grasp the concept of bringing the ball to you to throw again. You must teach your dog the game and make sure she understands it's necessary to return the ball.

Once your pup is a pro at catching a ball, introduce a frisbee. Not only does your dog get a workout, but you also get cardio in by running and throwing the frisbee. Frisbees go longer distances than just your average ball. The longer your dog runs, the more energy they burn off.

If your dog loves the frisbee and catches it frequently, there are competitions known as Disc Dog events, where dogs compete to see who can catch a frisbee from the longest distance.

Golden Retriever playing fetch

Doggy Playdates

Socializing your dog from an early age is critical to her growth. Socializing your dog teaches her to react to the world healthily, without fear or aggression from the unknown. What better way to do that than to get your dog together with another dog?

Be safe when picking a suitable playmate by understanding your dog's habits, likes, and dislikes. Also, know your dog's play style before finding another dog. Some dogs play rougher than others. While one dog may think she's playing, another might consider it an attack and defend himself.

Pick a playmate with a similar style of play to your pup. Consider the other dog's size, breed, and temperament before you settle. Too small of a dog, and your dog could accidentally run them over while playing.

Pick a neutral location for your first playdate. Keeping it natural means neither dog feels they own the space, making that one less thing you must worry about. Socialization in neutral areas keeps each dog from thinking the area is their space only and that they need to protect it.

Don't bring your dog's favorite toy with you on a playdate. Some dogs get possessive, even if that behavior has never surfaced before. Bring new toys with you on playdates or toys you only allow your dog to have on playdates.

Take breaks to ensure your dog stays hydrated. Playing hard works up a thirst. Bring bowls you rarely use to avoid any possessive behavior.

Golden Retrievers running and playing

Puzzle Toys

Active dogs must keep their brains engaged or fall into the boredom trap. A bored dog creates destruction in order to do something with all his energy. That destruction often turns into your couch becoming a pile of fluff or trash scattered across your house.

Nina Ottosson, the designer and CEO of the Swedish-based puzzle toy line Outward House, states that "you can efficiently train your pup to behave instead of letting her create her own fun" by using puzzle toys to keep the brain active.

A puzzle toy keeps your dog's brain active. Food-dispensing puzzle toys aren't just for treats. Try putting your dog's meal in one and work to get every piece of kibble out. These toys slow your quick eater down and offer enrichment to keep her brain stimulated.

Calming Dog Ad

Have you got an anxious golden? Dogs can't be anxious if focusing on something else. A puzzle toy distracts your dog from what causes her to worry.

The mental stimulation of these toys exercises your dog's brain and, depending on the toy, her body. However, these toys don't replace exercise. These toys for your golden are perfect for using with regular physical exercise.

Golden Retriever with toy

Agility Training

One of the best-known dog sports is agility training for active dogs. It's hugely popular with active, intelligent dogs who love working. Goldens fit right into this, enjoying the training immensely.

Agility involves an obstacle course with items such as a seesaw, tunnel, weave poles, and jumps that your dog must navigate quickly under your guidance. It's important she's quick on their paws and brain to work through every obstacle without fail.

You also get a workout, as you must keep up with your dog while they sprint around the course. Any age golden may enjoy an obstacle course, but you might modify some obstacles for younger dogs, like jumps, so she learns the trick without getting hurt. As your dog grows, make changes to ensure everything's at her level.

Look into the American Kennel Club database to find a club near you. Most local clubs offer taster sessions and classes for new dogs to the sport. If there isn't one near you, setting up your own agility course is an option.

Golden Retriever with weave poles

Nose Work

K-9 nose work is an up-and-coming canine sport similar to search and rescue. This sport involves your dog seeking and finding different scents in various indoor and outdoor environments. You start by getting your dog excited about using its sense of smell to search for a hidden favorite toy or treat.

Your dog gets both mental stimulation and physical exercise benefits from nose work. Yes, it exerts your dog, but it's fun. Engaging the nose keeps your dog mentally healthy and stimulated.

This sport also encourages confidence in dogs. It builds them up because you praise them when they find the right hiding spot. The more you do this sport, the more confident your dog gets. A confident dog is more willing to learn more commands than a dog who isn't sure what will happen if they fail a task.

Any dog of any age can learn how to use their nose. This sport requires focus, making it perfect for high-energy dogs. It forces your dog to stay on task and burn off that extra energy by searching.

Golden Retriever puppy sniffing

Hiking and Exploring

Hiking and exploring are fantastic exercises for you and your dog. However, before you hit the trail to burn that extra energy, there are rules you need to follow.

Not every hiking trial allows for dogs. Confirm the trail you want to follow welcomes dogs. While it may feel arbitrary, your dog impacts the environment and the delicate ecosystems. There are also wild animals to consider that could hurt your dog or that your dog could hurt accidentally.

Once you have a trail that allows dogs, you must follow the B.A.R.K. rule. B.A.R.K. stands for bag your pet's waste, always leash your pet, respect wildlife, and know where you can go.

The first rule may seem silly, but your dog's waste impacts the local creatures and might impact the water supply. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Keeping your pet leashed prevents accidents. Off-leash dogs are more likely to encounter danger, whether meeting a skunk or eating something dangerous. There might be other dogs hiking and exploring, and they may not be as friendly with strange dogs. A leash is the best option to keep your golden safe and sound on a trail.

Hiking trails with Golden Retriever

Tired Dogs Are Good Dogs

Getting all that extra energy out is a good thing. A tired dog doesn't have time to go off destroying things. A tired dog means you met your dog's needs and can rest easy knowing you are keeping up with his health.

Always remember to keep your dog's limitations in mind before settling on an activity. If one activity doesn't work for you, try another.

For more information on how to keep your dog healthy, subscribe to BreedExpert.

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