What Can Dog Owners Do When Outdoor Air Quality is Poor?

June 15, 2023 4 min read
3 dogs on a couch chewing on a large bone


Our furry companions are known for their love of the great outdoors and reliance on daily routines, but what happens when the air quality is poor outdoors? If your city, town, or suburb has an unhealthy number on the Air Quality Indicator (AQI), there are a few precautions you can take outdoors and several activities you can try indoors. Pet ownership often relies on routines but it’s important to think of your pet’s health first and then implement a few tactics to beat the boredom.

Limit Your Dog’s Exposure to the Outdoors

When outdoor air quality is poor, the #1 action you should take is to decrease your time outdoors to a minimum. Simply put, less time outside decreases exposure to harmful pollutants and excess allergens.

If there is an air quality warning for humans, consider it in effect for your dogs. Dogs can’t breathe as deeply as humans 
so air quality impacts them sooner. This also means running outdoors with your dog during this time is inadvisable, as it can cause asthma-like symptoms in your pet.

Air quality tends to be best early in the morning (but this varies based on wind and moisture conditions), but keep an eye on your area’s AQI or local weather to see what times will be best. Take your dog outside at times predicted to be lowest on AQI.

Indoor Activities for Dogs when Air Quality is Bad

Once you’ve taken the basic precaution of limiting outdoor exposure, there are a few out-of-the-box activities your dogs can engage in when outdoor air quality is unhealthy or hazardous. So, let's dive in and discover some safe adventures!

1. Indoor Playtime and Mental Stimulation:

When venturing outside is not an option, there are plenty of ways to keep our dogs entertained and mentally stimulated within the comfort of our homes. Engaging in interactive games, playing with puzzle toys, or giving a long-lasting chew like Yak Cheese can help satisfy their curiosity and keep their minds sharp.

If your dog has been previously trained, there is never a bad time to practice old training with 
treats and run a refresher course right in your living room! With fifteen to twenty minutes of attention, a dog can be worn out from mental stimulation.

dog playing with a toy on a carpet

2. Exercise in Enclosed Spaces

Exercise is essential for dogs' overall well-being, even when outdoor air quality is a concern. It’s also pretty tough to tell your dog about a routine change and the poor air quality. One way to still get exercise is to look for indoor facilities like dog-friendly gyms or pet-friendly hotels that offer enclosed play areas or access to canine agility courses. These spaces provide a controlled environment where dogs can burn off energy and stay active while minimizing exposure to polluted air. 

If your air quality is currently poor and your dog isn’t established at a daycare or agility facility, you can research now and join in the future. Exercise in enclosed spaces may require a bit more planning but it pays off if you’re concerned about poor air quality events in the future.

3. Indoor Dog Parks and Daycares

In many urban and suburban areas, you'll find indoor dog parks or daycare facilities designed specifically for dogs to enjoy off-leash playtime. These places often provide ample space for socialization and play, ensuring that your furry companion can exercise safely while staying in the central air conditioning. It’s not a bad idea to schedule an indoor park or daycare visit  because visits also offer the added benefit of supervised interaction with other dogs, fostering positive social behaviors.

4. Indoor Training and Enrichment Activities

To keep your dog's mind stimulated, consider engaging in indoor training and enrichment activities. Use treat-dispensing toys or engage in scent games, where your dog has to find hidden treats or toys around the house. These activities not only provide mental stimulation but also reinforce positive behaviors and obedience.

Playing a few rounds of ‘hide the treat’ with appealing treats, like Chicken Snack Sticks, can wear out your dog mentally and physically. If you have a high energy, intelligent dog, you may want to combine several activities throughout a day of being stuck indoors.

5. Introduce Interactive Feeding

Turn mealtime into a mentally stimulating experience by using interactive feeding toys or puzzles. These devices encourage dogs to work for their food, slow down while they eat, and engage their problem-solving skills. If you have a slow-feeder from puppy days or want to make a DIY solution, it can be a temporary but fun and enriching mealtime experience. Not only does this keep them mentally engaged, but it can also promote healthy digestion.


As responsible pet owners, we must prioritize our dogs' health and well-being, especially when outdoor air quality is unhealthy or hazardous. By exploring alternative activities and environments, we can ensure that our furry friends stay safe, mentally stimulated, and physically active.

Engage in indoor playtime, seek out enclosed spaces for exercise, utilize indoor dog parks or daycare facilities, and get creative with mealtimes and training. Remember, our dogs rely on us to make the best choices for their health, so let's make their safety our top priority, even when the great outdoors may not be as inviting as usual

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