Oakley recently had surgery on his paw and needs to be kept inactive until he gets his stitches out. For such an active dog, this can be really difficult! Most dogs will have to go through some sort of procedure at least once in their lifetime. Knowing what you can do to keep your pet entertained while they are recovering will save you and your pet lots of stress!
The first thing to understand is that every procedure is different. Depending on WHY your dog is on limited activity should determine what you allow them to do. In this case, my dog had a paw surgery, which meant that doing anything with his paws was out of the question. Always consult with your veterinarian beforehand to determine what activities your dog is able to do.
If you'd like to see some of these suggestions in action, check out our youtube video below.
Sniffing & Nosework games
One simple game you can play with your dog is "which hand"?
Hide some tasty treats in one of your hands behind your back. Bring both hands out from behind your back and tell your dog to "Pick a hand!" Whichever hand they go to sniff first, open that hand. If they choose correctly, they get the treat! This is a very simple game to play with your dog that does not require any movement. You can add more difficulty by using 3 or more cups and encouraging your dog to pick the right cup.
If your dog is able to move around the house, you can play the "Find it"game.
Hide some treats in easy to find locations around your house. Tell your dog to "go find it!" Help them out and encourage them along the way. Be sure to customize this game for your dog depending on the amount of movement and activity they are allowed to have.
Introducing new smells
This is something that doesn't require anything but sniffing from your dog and it provides plenty of new mental stimulation. Find new scents that your dog might enjoy. Let your dog sniff the mail, leaves from new locations, even the bottom of your shoes! A dog's sense of smell is astounding and we can utilize this to help keep them entertained.
Food Dispensing Toys
As with everything else recommended, choose what you do with your dog depending on your dog's restrictions.
Food dispensing toys are one of the greatest ways to keep your dog entertained. There are so many different types on the market, so you can definitely find one that suits you and your dogs needs.
Because Oakley had paw surgery, we were unable to use any toys that required or encouraged pawing, however this might be a great choice for you and your dog.
Some of our favorite kibble dispensing toys include the Kong Wobbler, Gyro, and more.
We used several toys that only require licking and chewing so that Oakley would not use his paw. You can use things like yogurt, peanut butter, pumpkin, canned food, and more to give your dog different things to work on. I personally made a concoction to fill up kong toys with that included sardines, broccoli, and blueberries and then I froze them to make it last longer!
Keep in mind that giving your dog the same amount of food without any activity, or having extra treats while recovering, may cause weight gain - potentially making recovery even harder. Pay close attention to the amount of food and caloric intake your dog is having to ensure they don't gain weight (unless they're supposed to).
DIY Food Games
Don't have any food dispensing toys? Don't fret! You can easily make some DIY games at home. One of my favorites to use is an old toilet paper roll. You can put some kibble or treats inside, pinch the sides closed, and let your dog at it! (if your dog tends to eat random objects, I wouldn't suggest this)
Another easy game would be to toss some kibble into a blanket or towel and roll it up. Encourage your dog to sniff and move the blanket around to scavenge for the food.
Do you have a muffin tin? If so, you can make your own food puzzle by tossing some food into the tin and covering the holes with toys like tennis balls. Watch your dog figure out how to get the food by moving all of the toys aside.
One great way to help keep your pup entertained while recovering is to give them different things to chew on. Some of my favorite chews are bully sticks. Although these can sometimes be stinky, my dogs absolutely love them and have never had a problem with them. They can be high in calories so be careful how many you're giving to your dog.
There are several natural chews that are safe to give your dog. My best advice when choosing a chew is, know your dog and choose accordingly. If your dog tends to swallow things whole, choose something that is larger and takes more time for them to chew on.
Personally, my dogs are very picky about what they chew, so bully sticks have been the best option for us.
If your dog is on a limited diet and you haven't given them edible chews before, try something like a frozen carrot to start with just to give your dog something healthy to chew.
Try a new toy! Or rotate your toys.
Luckily for us, a dear friend AND a generous dog toy company both sent us new toys during Oakley's recovery. This completely made his day and gave him something new to be excited about for a day or two. Because new toys can get old quickly, try rotating the toys and make the older toys new again by switching them out or giving them a good wash.
Change the scenery
If your dog is able to, try sitting outside for a bit or taking them for a drive. The new scenery can really give them some great mental stimulation. If your dog is completely restricted to the house or a crate, you can even switch up the room for them and place things in new locations. Give them something new to look at.
Look & Listen
Does your dog watch TV? Many dogs actually love to watch the TV or listen to music. This can be a great way to either soothe them or entertain them. There are even programs made especially for dogs such as Dog TV. (I was able to snag a discount code for DogTV just for you! Use SZ19 to try 1 month free!)
One great way to help your dog recover and enjoy the process is to give them a nice massage. This can help them calm down and can sometimes even help speed up the healing process by removing some of the stress from their body. Check out T-Touch to learn some effective dog massage techniques.
There are many things you can train your dog to do while they are under limited activity. Of course, choose what to train depending on what your dog is able to do. Here are some tricks and behaviors that require little movement and activity from your dog. To learn how to train some of these behaviors, check out my youtube channel!
Show me your Teeth
Go to your Place
Cover your eyes
...and many more!