Post Surgery Dog Games & Activities
You have finally digested the fact that your dog is having surgery. You’ve figured out how to pay the bill, prepared your home to accommodate a post-surgerical dog and you’re ready to care for your dog during recovery.
But, have you thought about how you will keep your active dog happy, quiet, and calm at home during the weeks he’s in recovery?
If you have an active dog, this thought has probably already occurred to you: “How am I going to keep this dog quiet and calm for 4-16 weeks while he recovers?”
If you are like most people, your immediate response is “It isn’t possible!” Your next realization is likely that your dog is going to be expressing that boredom with boredom response behaviors such as chronic barking, licking, jumping, whining, destruction or depression.
Mental stimulation is just as rewarding to a dog as physical exercise and you can keep your dog’s mind occupied while he recovers from surgery. The good news is that there are hundreds of dog games and activities that you can do with your pet while he recovers.
What you can do every day to keep your dog busy and mentally stimulated while he recovers:
- Replace the food bowl with food release products such as a Monster Mouth or Kong. These products respectively dispense kibble and soft foods such as yogurt, canned dog food or pumpkin and turns a three-second feeding event into a mentally challenging activity. If your dog has never used these products before, be sure to introduce him to the products so that he learns how to use them. Instruction videos for teaching your dog how to use a Kong or Monster are available
- Give your pet a raw bone if your veterinarian approves of its use. These can be purchased at many dog boutique stores and will keep your pet busy for hours. They are messy though and are best given in the crate or X-pen. Other long-duration, natural chew products include deer or elk antlers, and animal hooves.
- Teach your dog a new game every few days. There are hundreds of things you can do with a dog recovering from surgery that require only use of the eyes, the snout or a single paw. There are 80 such games in the Woof it Up Book which have been tested and perfected with dogs wearing e-collars and those with limited mobility. Pick a game and get started! Your dog will appreciate having something to do and you’ll appreciate all the things he is learning.
- If your dog is restricted to his crate 24/7, place novel things in the environment that he can look at. Staring at the same walls through the crate will get boring quickly. If possible, move the crate every few days to achieve the same purpose.
- Utilize the dog’s most primal sense- his sense of smell. It can be quite enriching for some dogs to be exposed to scents. Place a drop of lemon extract on the floor in the same room as the crate (not in the crate please.) Change the scent every two or three days by using a drop of lavender, or vanilla. A dog’s sense of smell is significantly superior to ours so a single drop of scent placed at least ten feet away from the crate will do the trick. You might also consider using a dog appeasing pheromone known as D.A.P. This product chemically mimicks the scent of mother’s milk and many dogs find this calming. D.A.P. can be purchased in most pet stores.
- Utilize touch exercises and canine massage. Both enhance circulation and will relax your dog’s mind and body. If your dog is depressed after surgery, purposeful touch can help improve his mood considerably.
- Rotate toys to keep them interesting. Consider purchasing five new toys- each of different shapes and textures. Introduce them to your dog one day at a time. Remove the first toy on day two when you introduce the next one and keep rotating them to keep interest high. There is nothing like a novel toy to lift a dog’s spirits.
Unfortunately we cannot tell our pets that recovery is a process that will not last forever. But we can show them every day through our actions that we understand what they are going through and will help them get through the boredom. Here’s to a speedy recovery!