How to Keep Your Dog Happy While on Crate Rest

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Raising Your Pets, Dogs and Cats Naturally

 The two words that a person with an active dog doesn’t want to hear from their veterinarian, “crate rest.” Yup, I’m sure you have heard those words and thought to yourself, “how the heck am I going to be able to keep Fluffy calm in his crate?” But don’t despair. Today I’m going to teach you a few games and exercises to help alleviate some of your dog’s boredom, while still keeping him calm.

 PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR VETERINARIAN TO ENSURE YOUR DOG CAN PARTICIPATE IN THE EXERCISES BELOW. NOT ALL EXERCISES ARE SUITABLE FOR EVERY DOG. FEEL FREE TO MODIFY AN ACTIVITY TO YOUR DOG’S SPECIFIC NEEDS.

Photography by Kelly and Kelly

Phase One-Strict Crate Rest, Leash To Potty

  • Hollow Toy Stuffing: Toss that dog bowl away, and place your dog’s meals in a hollow toy. This is a wonderful way to feed your dog and keep him busy in his crate. Not sure how to stuff a hollow dog toy? Read my article- Stuffing a Hollow Chew Toy.
  • Safe Chew Bones: Dogs love to chew, so this is a great time to buy some healthy and safe chew toys such as bully sticks, raw meaty bones, and fish skins. Not sure what makes a dog chew toy or bone safe? Read my article- How to find safe and healthy dog chews.
  • Hand Target: Using a hand target is a great way to help keep your dog walking slowly while focused on you when going out to potty. Your veterinarian may also want him to walk a little throughout the day, but to be low-key. Using a target is a great way to accomplish a slow walk. You can also interact with your dog in his crate, or while he’s resting at your feet using hand target games. Need a little help getting started? Watch my video on how to start a hand target here.

Phase Two-Crate Rest and Calm/Supervised Activity 

  • Building on Target: You can build on your dog’s targeting behavior, by integrating stretching and movement.
  • Bow: A nice way to stretch out your dog’s back and mind. Learn how in this video.
  • Find The Treats: If you are using dry dog food, this is an easy game to play. If you are home cooking, or providing a healthy raw diet, you can use healthy, dehydrated treats for this game. Just count the meat calories towards your dog’s daily calorie intake. Place your dog’s food in various hiding spots around the room or yard, attach his leash, and encourage him to hunt and find the rewards. Start out placing the food in plain sight as you say “Find It” and point to a few reward piles to get him going. As he advances, make the hiding spots harder and harder. Encourage him along the hunt with words of encouragement.
  • Perch Work: Teaching your dog to put his front two feet on something such as a book, is commonly called perch work. It’s another form of targeting, but with two front feet. By teaching your dog some low-impact but mentally challenging games, you will be able to help him not feel like he’s about to burst at the seams. Learn how to teach your dog perch work in this video.
  • Plank: Walking a plank is a great way to mentally engage your dog because he has to think about where his feet are. A plank can be anything that is solid, narrow (about 12″) and sturdy. Your local home store is a great source for a smooth board you can use. You will want to ensure that the plank does not have splinters and is not slick. You don’t want him slipping off!

Phase Three-Crate Rest and Increased Activity/Stretches/Supervised

  • Other Food Toys: Again, grab your dog’s food and stuff it into various food toys. After stuffing the food toy, hide it. Use your “Find It” cue. You can also place some of your dog’s food in a muffin pan and place a tennis ball over the food so he has to remove the ball to get the food. Or place your dog’s food-filled toy under a cardboard box and encourage him to figure out how to get the toy out.
  • Find The Toy: Start by gently playing with one of your dog’s favorite toys. Get a nice game going. Ask him to Sit/Stay (or hold him back if he doesn’t know it), and place the toy 5′ from him and say “Find It!” Once he grabs it, start playing again or give him a food treat. Build on this game, putting the toy farther away. Tip: If your dog can stay while you leave the room, place the toy in another room as you tell him “Find It!” You can encourage him as he looks for the toy. Very likely this game will be on a leash. If you need help teaching your dog to find it, check out my article- Find The Toy.
  • Sniffy-Sniffy: Does your dog like to smell the roses? Get outside with him and teach him to sniff on cue. Get excited, say “sniffy-sniffy” and point and touch the ground, pointing to something that is likely to have some interest, like a vole hole or tree trunk. Let him lead the way, then say “sniffy-sniffy” again, pointing to something else fun and exciting. Your dog will think you are the best hunter ever for finding all those amazing smells.
  • Perch: Continue to increase the difficulty of your dog’s perch work to pivoting around the perch and decreasing the size of the perch. You can also teach your dog how to use his back feet to target the perch. Here is a nice video on teaching a dog to back up.
  • Side-Stepping: Once your dog is pivoting around on a perch, you can teach your dog to side-step. Teaching your dog to walk sideways is another fun and challenging movement for dogs. Learn how in this easy dog training video.

The next time your veterinarian gives your dog the crate rest instructions, don’t fret. It’s just another opportunity to think outside of the box and bond, interact, and challenge you and your dog. Oh, yeah. That’s another one. 101 Things to Do With a Box game! Check it out.

How did you keep your dog busy when he was on crate rest at home? Comment below.

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