My dog has a low to medium amount of physical energy. He’s tired after a short walk.

However, Ace does have a fair amount of mental and emotional energy. While he’ll be trailing behind me after a 30-minute walk, he still needs ways to work his mind every day or he becomes anxious, stressed and annoying.

Since I’m limited on how far I can walk my dog, I have to get creative if I want him to be well behaved and worn out before a road trip (otherwise, there's a lot of whining!).

The following are some tips I use to tire out my dog mentally. I thought these would also be helpful for dogs with higher amounts of physical energy.

Please share your tips in the comments. I think most of us could use some extra ideas!

How to get your dog tired before a road trip

Lab mix Ace sitting in the grass

Lots of tug of war

This is a fun game that seems to eliminate much of my dog’s pent-up stress. I learned the benefits of tug through Neil Sattin’s natural dog training techniques. It really works. I recommend a 5- to 10-minute game of tug two or three times a day in the days leading up to your long car ride.

Mental challenges

Ideally, I like to visit a new park or even a coffee shop with my dog the day before a trip. Visiting new places really helps tire him out.

Since I’m usually not that organized with my time, I'm more likely to play a quick “find it” game with Ace. For this game, I tell him to sit and wait while I hide a toy. Then I release him with the command “find it!” We play this in the house and at parks if it's safe for him to be off leash. He loves this type of “work,” and using his nose tires him out.

More walks in the week leading up to the trip

I used to run with my dog in the morning before road trips. While this would leave him huffing and puffing temporarily, it didn’t really work to tire him out for the whole day.

Instead, it’s more effective to start increasing the dog’s exercise a week before your trip or event. For example, walk for 45 minus a day instead of 30 for an entire seven days. This will use up some of your dog’s “reserves” before you have to travel.

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How to tire out a dog before a roadtrip.

Puzzle toys in the car

Another way to drain some energy is to use any sort of food-dispensing, puzzle-type toy that will keep your dog interested. You could give these to your dog in the car or even once you reach your destination if it will help your dog remain calm and still.

In the week or so leading up to your trip, you can even feed your dog from puzzle toys instead of from a bowl. This will require your dog to work for his food, slowly draining some of his mental energy. Or, give your dog his food in small amounts throughout the day while you’re working on training.

A quick walk once you reach your destination

Even a 10-minute walk once you get to your destination can help settle your dog a bit. It will also give him more time to fully relieve himself, which means less of a chance for accidents or marking in the house/hotel room. Always a plus 🙂

How do you tire out your dog mentally or physically before a road trip?

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