What you can do every day to keep your dog mentally stimulated and less irritable while in recovery. This will help avoid boredom response behaviours like barking, whining, jumping, licking, and importantly, depression!

Bodywork therapies such as the ones I do like Bowen Therapy and Emmett Technique, or massage, or acupuncture. All of these will help improve circulation, lower stress, improve your bond AND will help with their boredom. Get guidance from your vet first, you don’t want your dog to overdo things and end up extending the time they need to rest for!

Change their environment. Putting new things in the room or moving the crate will make the surroundings more interesting. No one wants to spend weeks staring at the same four walls!

Long lasting chews are great for dogs with limited mobility, but can be messy depending on what you get. Choose something that is both age and size appropriate to avoid damage to their teeth or choking hazards. Your dog will need supervision to ensure they don’t choke on the little bits that will break off.

Nose games or nose work will help exercise their minds without wear and tear on their bodies. Get them to guess which hand the treat is in, or which cup the treat is under. You can spray pheromones around, or use old towels to bring in new scents. I took an old toy to the dog park and let the other dogs stink it up, Bosco LOVED it.

Stick to a routine. They are suddenly in a very new situation. They’re not going out for walks and there is no favourite play time. They may feel odd due to medication, and are likely to have pain. It will help them to relax knowing that play time follows breakfast, tummy rubs follow medication, and there will be a puzzle or chew toy to break up every afternoon.

Use different puzzle toys or enrichment toys instead of just putting their meal into a bowl, and make the fun last ten minutes instead of two! Take care to not overfeed them, as gaining weight is really common when on crate rest. Instead of adding in extra snacks, take some of their regular meal and allocate it to different times of the day.

Swap the hard plastic cone for a Comfy Cone, or any other type of softer, more comfortable device to stop them from licking or biting at the surgical site or wound. I have even seen them made out of pool noodles (you can even look up how to DIY this yourself). What about a onesie that protects the site? Make sure the device stops them from reaching the parts they’re not supposed to reach.

Rotate their toys to keep things interesting. In the same way you don’t want to read the same book over and over, they can get sick of the same toy all the time. Buy a few different ones, swap them each day. This way you can see which one they get most excited over, and try more toys of that style.

Teach new tricks, as keeping their mind busy will help keep them calm. You can teach them the names for certain toys, how to high five or shake paw, or even how to balance a treat on their nose and wait for the signal to eat it. You want a good mental workout, but also…

Keep it short and sweet because it doesn’t matter if your dog is used to 20km runs every day, they are now a dog who is medicated and has pain. They’re not at their normal, and it’s up to you to entertain them without letting them overdo things.

Every dog has different needs and limits. Entertain them, don’t overwork them!

You can download these activities in PDF form here.

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Donna Monaghan

Canine Mobility Specialist

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