This plan is designed to prevent a dog on medical rest/recovery or other physical activity restriction from acting out due to boredom or frustration. Confinement can sometimes have the opposite effect on recovery that we seek and depending on the type of recovery, if the dog does not need the crate to remain calm or prevent injury, it may not be necessary that he spend his time on crate rest. We want the dog in the least stressful environment possible and that may mean different things to different dogs.

During recovery, your foster or adopted dog should (almost always, exceptions exist) be separate from other animals, have very limited physical activity (walks are out to potty and right back in), and refrain from activities that cause stress or excitement. Please use your judgment on which of the activities below are best suited for your particular dog.

1) Long-Lasting Chews: Items like frozen Kongs (freezing makes them last longer, vary the filling to keep it interesting), bully sticks, antlers, tracheas, and Nylabones are great for low-key enrichment and the chewing can help your dog relieve stress.

2) Basic Skills: No time like the present to work on basics.

  • Sit: Have him/her hold it for a period of time (working up to 1min) while you do something else. Release word is “free.”
  • Down: Have him/her hold it for a period of time (working up to 3min) while you do something else. Release word is “free.”
  • Touch/Target
  • Flip Finish (or “Swing” or “Flip”)
  • Eye Contact: Hold a treat near your face, wait for him/her to look at you and not the treat, say “yes” and give him/her the treat when s/he does it.

3) Leslie McDevitt’s Pattern Games. Remember not to get him/her excited. If these games cause too much bounciness in your dog, please refrain from playing them during treatment/recovery.

4) TTouch, Massage, & Lots of Snuggle Time. It is just as important to practice not doing anything as it to practice the items above.

5) Car Rides in Lieu of Walks. As long as this doesn’t over excite the dog, it is a great way to still give him/her the sense of getting out of the house without the physical exertion.

6) Soft Music & Different Scents as Enrichment. You can mist different essential oils in the air and play varied soft music to add some enrichment that doesn’t require any effort on the dog’s part. Recent studies have found that the sound of human voices had the most calming effect on shelter dogs. Simple solution? Play them NPR.

7) Calming Aids. Holistic aids like Rescue Remedy, DAP, The Thundershirt, and Peaceful Paws may help support calm behavior.

8) Video of Simple Crate Rest Activities.

9) Puzzle Toys. As long as s/he doesn’t get too excited, working through puzzle toys provides great mental stimulation. Find ideas here, here, here, & here!

10) “Husbandry as Behavior”. This is a great time to practice on various husbandry activities, such as checking ears, looking in the mouth, touching the tail, lifting and inspecting paws, etc. Teach these things much as you would any behavior by performing the action (e.g., looking in your dog's ear) and immediately paying with a treat. If you notice any areas you touch and your dog becomes squirmy or leaves or fools around, you know you need to work on these areas a little more.

11) Olfactory EnrichmentLet them sniff! Dogs experience much of the world through smell, and they use a lot of energy when they get to practice sniffing regularly. Check out these game versions from Suzanne Clothier, Dog Star Daily, and the Center for Shelter Dogs to learn how to play!