Tips for Keeping Dogs on Crate Rest Happy

If your dog has been prescribed a period of crate rest or limited activity, here are some ideas to keep them entertained. Remember, do not attempt any of these suggestions if they are contrary to your vet’s orders. In addition, always supervise your pet to ensure they are safely engaging in these activities.

Think Outside the Bowl:

  • Feed your pet their meals from a stuffable food puzzle toy. There are plenty of toys for purchase on Amazon or at your local pet store from brands like Kong, West Paw and SodaPup. Stuff these toys with dry kibble, canned dog food, freeze dried raw food, pumpkin, cream cheese and/peanut butter. The more tightly packed the longer it will take your pup to work and get the food out. You can also freeze these for an extra challenge.
  • Feed canned food or other spreadable foods (peanut butter, cheese, baby food) on a lickable surface. Commercially made LickiMats are made for this purpose. You can also use Tupperware lids or silicon baking mats.
  • Let them use their nose by searching for their food. Place small piles around the room and encourage your dog to search for them. Additionally, you can use a snufflemat (fabric woven and tied to a plastic base that creates places for your dog to search).
  • Food Puzzle toys. There are many puzzle toys commercially available from Outward Hound, Nina Ottson and others. You can buy them on Amazon, at the pet store or even Marshall’s or Home goods.
  • Use what you have! You can create your own food puzzle toys by using paper towel rolls, boxes with newspaper or packing paper or egg cartons. Put kibble or treats inside and let them dig, forage or shred to get them out.

Teach a New Trick or Skill:

  • A good skill to be taught while your dog is on crate rest or limited duty is a hand target. This is where your dog touches their nose to your hand. To do this, place your hand 1-2inches from the side of their nose. When they touch it to investigate, mark with a yes and give them a treat. Continue to practice further and further distances and add a verbal cue like Touch.
  • You can also practice a leave-it with your pup. Show them a treat then close it up in your hand. Your pup will try to get it but the moment they stop or physically back off, mark with a yes and reward. Continue by opening your hand and waiting for them to back off (if they come for it, close your hand quickly), mark and reward. Add your cue of leave-it.
  • Also work on your drop it behavior. Give your dog a toy. They will put it in their mouth but eventually let it go to adjust their bite. When they do, mark and reward. Next time, when they adjust their bite, say drop it, mark and reward. Continue to practice and they will be dropping anything by they finish their quiet time!
  • Teach them to turn on a tap light or ring a bell. Present them with the light or bell on the floor. When they touch it, whether with their nose or paw, mark and reward. Continue until they are hitting that light or bell with enthusiasm! You can add a cue like hit it, light, bell or something else that’s easy for you both to remember.