The words ‘crate rest’ are enough to strike horror into the heart of anyone living with a bouncy and boisterous young dog. But crate rest is an essential part of recovery for a range of not uncommon injuries in dogs. That’s where Sian Ryan comes in. She’s here to tell you about her book “No walks, no worries.”
In today’s article we are going to look at how to help keep dog on limited exercise, sometimes known as ‘crate rest’, physically and mentally stimulated.
‘He’s going to need six weeks crate rest; just keep him quiet while he recovers.’
How much would your heart sink if your vet said that to you in relation to your young and energetic friend
These words can strike fear and dread into our hearts and often form part of the treatment requirements for dogs undergoing surgery or requiring long term medical care.
Often vets can give only limited advice regarding keeping dogs appropriately mentally and emotionally supported.
Crate rest for dogs – why is it necessary?
There are many reasons why restricted activity may be advised by your vet, or behaviorist:
- musculo-skeletal conditions or injuries which require surgery or conservative management
- nervous or fearful dogs who may benefit from a period of reduced exposure to the things that scare them
- elderly dogs who are no longer as physically active as they once were but still require mental and emotional support
- puppies – whose physical capabilities are still developing.
No Walks? No Worries – a guide to help you through
The aim of my new book, is to reduce the stress for all concerned.
I provide ideas to help you if you find yourself in this situation, starting with how to identify the individual needs of your dog.
That’s why it’s called No walks? No worries!
What’s in the book?
The starting point is an individual audit of your current lifestyle with your dog.
What are your daily routines and how confident do you feel about making changes, or how much time do you have?
There are ideas and tips for mental stimulation and emotional support.
As well as alternatives to physical exercise and guidance on how to teach specific skills are included.
The approach suggests you consider what can be prepared for in advance and how any existing behavior problems can be addressed or managed in the treatment plan. There’s help to identify your dog’s specific needs:
- i.e. puppy, older adult, highly active, impulsive, already fearful etc
- assessing their sensory capacity and motor ability before you start
- how to listen and act on what your dog is telling you
- consider their emotional, mental and physical wellbeing to promote positive welfare.
Once you’ve completed your audit there are worksheets for you to develop an individually-specific care plan for your dog, and to reassess their needs on an ongoing basis.
Things to consider before cage rest starts
When preparing for a restricted lifestyle you might consider a range of things including:
- Equipment – what is needed?
- Behaviors – what can you teach now?
- Hydrotherapy / Physiotherapy – can you get started?
- Environment – what will change?
- Changing routines proactively in advance of surgery – switching from daily walks to indoor sessions instead
- Roles for different family members – to maintain social contact for you all
- Weight loss – be honest, does your dog need to lose a kg or two to give optimum chance of success from surgery?
- Car travel – a great alternative to walks if your dog enjoys travelling
- Proactive vet visits and handling – love your vet!
- Creating the care plan.
In some cases there may not be time to prepare in advance, and specific advice is given in these cases:
- Emergency crate training, muzzle training, harness
- How to identify the priorities for your dog
- stress audit in the home
- Minimising stress in the first few days post op
- Creating the emergency care plan.
Games and activities for dogs on crate rest
A range of potential activities for keeping your dog mentally stimulated are discussed. These include:
- Food toys – teach them, build complexity, beware of frustration or boredom / lack of reward
- Interactive toys – self control, positive interactions, increasing complexity
- Scent games
- Things to chew and how to encourage chewing on appropriate item
- Making use of household items e.g. empty boxes, bottles, flowerpots, muffin tin, envelopes etc
- Tricks and treats for the dog – free shaping, paw target, nose target, nail clipping!
- Stimulation versus overstimulation and stress, when enrichment becomes stressful.
Dog crate rest tips – emotional support
The emotional impact of restricted activity should not be overlooked or under-estimated.
Dogs are often highly social animals and isolation can be stressful and may have longer-term consequences for behavior. Things to consider and how to manage them include:
- Maintaining sociability – dogs and humans (other animals?)
- Supporting the fearful dog
- Recognising frustration and providing outlets
- Avoiding hyper-attachment, attention seeking or separation related problems
- Handling problems – learned expectation of pain
Dog crate rest – physical needs
In many cases when physical activity is restricted, as the recovery period progresses there may be an increase in allowable physical activity. Advice is given on:
- Using the crate appropriately
- How to lift / support your dog
- Loose leash walking – or appropriate use of harness
- Making the most of your space
- Meeting daily physical needs
- Short walks
- Hydrotherapy and Physiotherapy
- Reducing calorie intake
Back to normality after crate rest
If you’re given the go ahead to get back to ‘normal’ then it’s time to reassess your dog as the period of restricted activity comes to an end, and to slowly increase physical activity in appropriate ways.
Some things to consider are:
- Behavioral considerations as exercise increases
- Maintaining mental stimulation
- Longer term restrictions.
A period of restricted activity need not be stressful, but it does require some thought, changes to established routines and ongoing reassessment to meet your dog’s needs while they are confined.
The crate rest help guide – “No walks? No worries!”
Her book “No walks? No worries?” has saved hundreds of dog owners from the misery of coping unassisted with a crate-bound dog.
It’s packed with important information and advice
No walks, no worries won’t make your dog’s crate rest time any shorter, but it will certainly help it pass quicker and more painlessly.
For both you and your dog
With several years of training experience and after completing her MSc, Sian worked as a behavior counsellor and trainer in the University of Lincoln Animal Behaviour Clinic, where she was able to apply her MSc research in to Self Control in Pet Dogs to her behavior and training work.
Sian owns and runs the Developing Dogs Training and Behaviour Centre in Cambridgeshire, as well as giving seminars and workshops nationally and internationally. No Walks? No Worries! was her first book and was published in September 2014.
Photo above credit: Peter Baumber