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How to Keep a Dog Entertained After Surgery or Injury

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Get ideas for how to keep your pup occupied while they're recovering from surgery or an injury.

Get ideas for how to keep your pup occupied while they're recovering from surgery or an injury.

What Exactly Is Restricted Activity?

If your dog recently had surgery, or if your dog has an injury that requires rest, your veterinarian may have ordered restricted activity in your dog's post-surgery instructions. What exactly does this mean? The meaning ultimately tends to vary depending on the type of surgery or the injury sustained.

For example, dogs with leg injuries must obviously move as little as necessary. This may mean keeping the dog confined in a crate or exercise pen and keeping the dog on leash when taken out for potty breaks. If the dog had an elective surgery such as a spay or neuter, the dog may need to be on restricted activity to prevent the stitches from opening and allow time for the surgical wound to heal.

How Long Does It Last?

If you are unsure of the level and length of restricted activity your dog must follow, it never hurts to ask your veterinarian for specifics. Restricted activity may range from a few days to several weeks. For instance, dogs that underwent a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy may need to be on restricted activity for a good six weeks!

What if My Dog Gets Bored?

Regardless of the level of restricted activity required to help your dog heal, it may prove to be a challenge at times, especially when dealing with high-energy dogs used to romp around for most of the day. In this case, it helps to get creative and find effective ways to keep your dog's mind stimulated. Fortunately, there are various ways to accomplish this.

How can you keep your dog entertained after surgery?

How can you keep your dog entertained after surgery?

How to Occupy Your Dog During Restricted Activity

Concerned about your dog when restricted activity is on your vet's orders? Hopefully the following tips and games will help keep your canine companion occupied for a good part of the day. Dogs do not have to necessarily and exclusively romp around and be physical to get tired; lots of mental stimulation may often suffice to drain off some of their excess energy.

Give Massages

Massages may help relax your dog and soothe his body and soul. It may be worthwhile to learn some T-Touch, a soothing way to calm animals down invented by Linda Tellington-Jones. More and more dog trainers are introducing five-minute sessions where owners caress their dogs' ears for the purpose of relaxing and preparing them to focus.

Try Free Shaping

Free shaping is a fun way to train your dog based on behaviors he offers. You can shape any behavior with free shaping by simply marking it with a click or yes, followed by a treat. Because the behavior is rewarded, it will likely repeat, and you may then expand it by asking for more. Once the behavior repeats reliably, you can then put it on cue.

Teach Targeting

In targeting, you will train your dog to touch an item with a paw or nose. As in free shaping, you will have to mark the wanted behavior as soon as it happens. The target may be your hand, a piece of paper or anything else within reach.

Invest in Puzzle Games

Puzzle games are interactive games that stimulate a dog's mind. It is great that pet stores nowadays offer a vast array of these types of games. Nina Ottoson produces a line of dog toys and puzzles of different difficulty levels meant to keep dogs busy and entertained. Kongs, stuffed in a challenging manner, make great food puzzles that can keep dogs entertained for quite some time

Start Nose Work

Nose work is the latest trend that keeps dogs busy and entertained. Best of all, sniffing is a very tiring activity for dogs! While the real sport uses birch, anise, and clove extracts to train a dog in scent discrimination, you can start basic nose work by hiding a few treats under some small boxes.

Provide Chew Toys and Bones

If your dog is not recovering from a mouth/jaw injury, chew toys and durable bones will keep your dog busy for some time. Favorites for many dog owners are bully sticks because they are a safer alternative to rawhide and last very long. Antlers are another choice. There are also many chew toys on the market that are quite durable.

Perform Training Exercises

You can take advantage of your dog's recovery for training and polishing your dog's skills. This is a good time to train your dog to take food from your hands gently or to train your dog the "leave it and drop it" command, a potentially life-saving command that all dogs should know. "Watch me'" is another great command to train during this time.

Last Resort: Ask for Tranquilizers

If you are really concerned about your dog not being able to stay still and you fear he may injure himself, you can always ask your veterinarian for some tranquilizers to at least get through the first critical days.

Try a few of these activities for dogs on restricted activity, but consult your vet first.

Try a few of these activities for dogs on restricted activity, but consult your vet first.

T-Touch for Dogs Recovering From Surgery

Further Reading

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli


Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 19, 2012:

and thank you Linda for posting the question in the first place! I hope it helps many dogs in their recovery, kind regards.

Linda Liebrand from San Francisco on March 19, 2012:

Thanks for answering my question. Fingers crossed my dog won't need any more surgery for a while, but if he does, now I have some more ideas for how to keep him entertained when he's not allowed to run around. Voted up and shared!