Small Dog Activities for the Mental Health of Both  Pet and Owner

Small Dog Activities by Frankie Wallace Updated 04-08-2024

There have been several studies showcasing how dogs can improve your physical and mental health. They’re built-in walking buddies, they provide motivation, and they can help with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and excessive stress. 

Spending as much time with your four-legged friend as possible is good for both of you. Unfortunately, most of the bonding and activity ideas you’ll find online are catered toward larger dogs. If you have a smaller pooch, it’s going to be hard to go on a long run or take them hiking on rocky terrain. 

Small Dog ActivitiesSmall Dog Activities for the Mental Health of Both Pet and Owner

But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of ways to spend quality time with your pet. Taking the time to do different activities with your dog is a great way to practice self-care. And, you won’t be the only one who benefits. Different types of activities are good for your dog’s mental health, too. 

Still stumped on which activities you and your small dog will enjoy? Let’s cover a few.

Small Dog Activities to Improve the Mental Health of Both of You

Explore at Your Own Pace

Almost all dogs like to spend time outside, no matter their size. So, while your furry friend might not be able to run ten miles with you every morning, that doesn’t mean you can’t take them on different outdoor adventures. 

Being outside can boost your mood right away, and doing something active outdoors will give you a quick rise in serotonin, causing you to feel happier and less stressed. Combine those benefits with spending time with your best friend, and you’ll feel even better!

Consider a walk around your neighborhood with your dog. Or, take them to a local park for a game of fetch. 

If you want to go exploring together, hiking is a fantastic way to find new walking opportunities and might take you and your dog to new, different locations in your area.

You can choose locations that are easy for your dog to walk in, and go at your own pace. Plus, they might be able to help you with the digging if you happen to find “treasure!”

Play Indoors

Many people who have small dogs get them because they don’t have much space inside. Maybe you live in an apartment or small home that isn’t equipped for larger breeds. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t be active inside with a small dog. 

In fact, you can both get some exercise from the comfort of your own home. Doing so will let you reap the same serotonin boost you would get from exercising outdoors. Exercise is also great for your dog’s mental health, and as the old saying goes, “a tired dog is a happy dog”. 

If you’re not sure how to keep your dog active inside, try things like:  

  • Running up and down the stairs with them (great exercise for both of you.
  • Setting up obstacle courses
  • Playing hide and seek
  • Using a rope toy for tug-of-war
  • Gentle game of fetch

Mental stimulation is also important for your dog’s overall health. Things like laser toys and dog puzzles are perfect options for exercising your dog’s mind and giving them the mental boost they need.

You’ll love watching them “work” and encouraging them to win at whatever activity they’re doing. It’s a wonderful way to decompress and de-stress.

So, even if it’s been a long day, taking a few minutes to exercise or play with your dog inside can make you feel totally different. 

Small Dog Activities:  Learn New Tricks

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. But, no matter your dog’s age, teaching them new things can be beneficial for both of you. Training your dog at any stage of life will help to keep their mind active.

Dogs love to learn, and when they get the hang of a new trick or command, getting praise from you (along with a treat or two) will serve as a huge boost to their mental state. 

Dogs of all sizes can learn different tricks. Your dog’s small stature might be beneficial in their training if it lets them maneuver around more easily.

You don’t have to have any background in dog training or obedience to help your furry companion learn new things. There are plenty of articles and videos to check out. 

Or, to make things even easier on yourself and your dog’s progress, consider downloading apps like: 

  • Puppr
  • iTrainer Dog Whistle
  • GoodPup
  • Pup-to-Date

Teaching your dog something new isn’t just good for them. It will give you something to look forward to, and different goals to reach for. If you’ve been feeling stagnant or unproductive lately, training your pet can be a great way to break out of that rut. 

Just be Close

You know your dog loves you when he just wants to snuggle close as he sleeps or naps on the sofa.  The physical connection you have when patting your dog also helps to relieve stress and can even boost your immune system, too.

Studies have shown that owning a dog can have remarkable benefits for our physical health as well.  

  1. Decreased blood pressure
  2. Decreased cholesterol levels
  3. Decreased triglyceride levels

Plus, when your dog is being goofy, he can make you laugh, which further helps to reduce stress and increase your feelings of well-being.

Just looking at a dog can lift your spirits!  A study in Japan found that staring into your dog's eyes raises your levels of oxytocin, the natural love hormone.

Small Dog Activities:  Last Words

As you can see, there are plenty of things you can do with your small dog that will benefit your mental health – and theirs, too! Put these ideas into practice the next time either one of you needs a boost, and you’ll never have to let boredom, stress, or feelings of anxiety take over again.

Small Dog Activities:  Pin for Future Reference

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Small Dog Activities:  Author Bio

Frankie Wallace is a frequent contributor to Small Dog Place.  She is a freelance writer from Boise, ID. If her spirit animal could be anything, it would be a beagle--inquisitive, and always searching for food.

More Articles by Frankie Wallace

Small Dog Obesity: Your Dog Isn't Chunky--It's Obese

The Benefits and Challenges of Having Pets in the Workplace

How to Guide Your Senior Dog Into Aging with Ease

How A Dog Can Promote Healthy Living

Separation, Divorce and Dog Ownership The Importance of Keeping a Dog in the Lives of Both People After a Separation

How to Care for Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs

How small dogs help cancer patients:  Having a Small Dog Can Boost Positivity for Cancer Patients

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About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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