How to Keep Your Dog Occupied After Surgery

How to Keep Your Dog Occupied After Surgery

If you’ve ever owned a dog you’ll likely understand the struggle of keeping your dog occupied after surgery.  Post op can be a challenge, especially if your dog is high energy.  We have put together a list of  tips that will help you and your dog during this time.

I was dreading having my dog spayed. As much as I didn’t love the idea of her having surgery, I was primarily worried about keeping a young, high-energy dog calm for 10-14 days. My dog Zola is a vizsla, so she’s super bouncy and LOVES to move quickly. I’m fairly certain her life motto is “why walk when you can run?”.

I’m happy to report that her recovery went smoothly and I was able to keep her mentally stimulated and calm so that all members of our household survived with our sanity in tact!

For those of you preparing for how to keep your dog occupied after surgery, below are some helpful ideas that worked well for me:

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With the odd exception, I didn’t feed meals in bowls. Instead, I used either a slow feeder or stuffed toys like KONGS. I like to stuff, then freeze all my KONGS because it keeps dogs busier for longer. To switch things up for your pup, try stuffing different sizes and types of toys. Here’s a link with stuffing ideas.

Teaching new tricks

I’ve always loved teaching Zola new tricks but it came in really handy during our down time. There are tons of behaviours you can teach your dog that involve minimal movement. One of my favourite things to teach is sustained target behaviours like a chin rest or a sustained nose touch. Anything that requires your dog to stay calm and hold a position is awesome for their impulse control. This video will give you some good ideas.

Playing “Find it” games

This was one of my favourite ways to keep Zola entertained. With her out of sight, I started by hiding treats on the floor in different areas of our apartment and giving her the “find it!” cue when all my treats were in place. Once that became fairly easy, I started bringing out all sorts of different objects and hiding treats in them. I used old cardboard boxes, folded up blankets, plastic bowls flipped upside down, Tupperware containers…you get the idea. My living room looked like a big mess, but it was totally worth it.

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Giving my dog a puzzle to solve on her own was a really easy way to provide a source of mental enrichment for her, and often times a source of entertainment for me, win-win!

If you haven’t heard of dog puzzles, do a quick Google search and you’ll find all sorts of options online. If puzzle toys are new for your dog, make sure you pick up one or two beginner puzzles (they’re all labeled by level). For more enrichment activity ideas check out this Facebook group.

Solidifying existing behaviour

Proofing behaviour (i.e. the phase of training when you add distractions and/or distance) was another way I spent time training indoors. I played around with how long I could get her to hold a down before I released her and I made “leave it” more difficult. I also asked for behaviours she knew from new positions. For instance, if your dog has a good down facing you, what happens when you stand beside them? How about behind them? What about when they’re between your legs? See if they understand what you’re asking for even when they’re not facing you.

Preparing ahead and having a variety of ways to keep your dog calm and their brain busy after surgery will make the recovery process much easier for both you and your dog.

Good luck!

Nina Blagojevic