Besides the obviously horrendous news that a dog has cancer or is in kidney failure, there are few more dreaded statements from the veterinarian than, “Your dog needs to be on crate rest.” Every time a client relays the news to me that the vet has said this, I am torn between the urge to offer them a stiff drink or slide a chair under them before they fall over in despair.
Keeping a dog on crate rest is unbelievably challenging for everyone involved, especially if the dog is young and active. I’ve found that many of my clients are more alarmed by the thought of living with a dog temporarily restricted from exercising than they are by the original medical problem.
It is never easy to keep a dog on crate rest from becoming restless and perhaps developing undesirable behaviors, such as chewing, whining or barking. The advice I have is to twofold: Continue to spend quality time with your dog and make sure she is mentally active.
Quality time with an activity-restricted dog is easily achieved with lots of physical contact. This can be as simple as cuddling together on the floor, but can also involve canine massage. The book Canine Massage in Plain English by Natalie Winter is one of my favorites. Make sure to check with your veterinarian about any areas of your dog’s body to avoid or that require you to be especially gentle.
Mental exercise can take many forms, some of which also provides you and your dog quality time together. Simple obedience work, either in a class or at home may work, depending on your dog’s specific physical limitations. Tricks are a great way to exercise your dog’s brain, too, as long as you don’t ask your dog for any behaviors that could exacerbate her condition.
There are ways to keep your dog’s mind active while you attend to other areas of your life such as working, showering, paying bills etc. Feeding her in a way that requires her to be mentally engaged, such as by stuffing food into Kongs or Goodie Balls can keep her occupied for a long time.
Surviving crate rest is mainly about preventing boredom, which is the enemy of a happy well-behaved dog.