PJ and I went through two extensive crate rests together, one after each of her knee repairs. She was confined to her crate or on leash with me until she was healed completely. These periods of crate rest taught me how to help her have an excellent quality of life in the short-term while we worked on getting her an excellent quality of life in the long-term.
Here are 10 tips to help you and your dog not just survive crate rest but to actually have some fun and grow together, as well.
- Write Down the Right
Write down your goals for this recovery. Write them down now so you have them when you waver. And you will waver. Your friend will be restless or your family will be pressuring you to “just let her play for a minute” or you will want that quick cuddle on the couch. Don’t give in! Don’t let making your dog happier in moment trump making your dog happier for her life time. You understand the stakes so you have to hold the course! You can and you will be glad you did. Your words will help remind you why you are doing what you’re doing.
- Banish Basic Bowls
Basic bowls allow for fast food; but you have no need for speed right now. In fact, go for slow. Prolong things your dog enjoys, when possible, and these feeding systems do just that: Northmate Interactive Feeder and Buster Interactive Food Maze Feeder
- Use Chews
There are many different chew products available these days and they offer fine in crate entertainment. Some of Pip’s favorites include: USA Bully Sticks, USA tendons, USA Moo Tubes. Non-meat options include: Himalayan Dog Chew and Sweet Potato Chews. Try short chew sessions at first instead of one long one. Also, count canine calories here and give less regular food if your dog is a regular chew toy consumer.
- Create “Coloring Books”
These are simple entertainments that will keep you dog occupied. Avoid toys that roll too easily for now as they can cause your dog to lunge or give chase. Not what we need!This first one I have had for years. It holds up, is easy to use, easy to clean completely so it gets high marks from me. You insert biscuits into the openings, okay, jam fat biscuits into the openings. The harder they are to insert, the harder they are for your dog to get out! PetSafe Busy Buddy Football Dog Toy. This one you insert smaller treats into as an in-crate project: Starmark Treat Dispensing Pickle Pocket for Dogs. And then there are Classic Kongs. Stuffing a kong is an art form. There are many, many ways to go about it, learn a few here.
- Follow Through on Physical Therapy
Physical therapy helps dogs recover from injury or orthopedic surgery just as it helps people. To find canine physical therapy near you ask your veterinarian or check out this extensive US listing. If nothing is close by, or if you are just interested, check out: Physical Therapy and Massage for the Dog.
- Drain the Brain
Since exercising your dog’s body is basically on hold, focus on tiring out that brain! Teach tricks and games that require little motion. There are plenty to choose from. This will also give you both the needed connection and fun time to balance out the separation this period demands.
- Create Calm
We all need rest to heal. Dogs who are barking and upset will not get as much rest as they may need and neither will you. You must be clear about the confinement. If you are unsure, your dog will reflect that back to you. This is the way it has to be. It really IS for their own good. Get a good, nonslip crate pad, maybe cover the crate during rest periods, set up routine (such as you come out of the crate calmly and wait calmly as I put on the leash), and you let your dog sleep as much as is needed. That may well be 18+ hours a day; more for a puppy who is healing.
- Massage and Stretching
Learning how to massage and stretch your dog will make your dog (and you) feel better. When we touch one another we change our brain chemistry for the better so touch is not an “extra” but a necessity. It is a gift we each can give our dogs daily and they can give us. Both activities will also make your dog easier to handle, always a good thing.
- Leash, Leash, Leash!
During recovery keep your dog on leash with you 100% of the time. 110% if you have slippery hardwood flooring or tile. PJ stayed on leash for an extra month because her rehab extended into the winter—New Hampshire winter—each time. Ice was a danger so she stayed on leash. I was not getting sent back to start after eight weeks of effort – not for her sake, not for mine and not for my wallet, either.
- Mark Your Calendar
Really. Mark it. Put happy stickers on each successful day. Do whatever feels right—no matter how “silly”—to help you stay the course here. This is challenging stuff. We love our dogs. We want them to be happy. They don’t understand why they are confined but we do. So we do what is needed even if it isn’t what is wanted.
You CAN do this! If you are wavering or need support, write me here. I’ll cheer you on (or give you a gentle talking to). But when it is all done and your dog is all better, I will want pictures.