As a dog owner who has experienced crate resting a young, active dog I know how difficult it can be - the thought of keeping your active dog still in their crate for days, weeks or even months can seem like an impossible task!
Keeping your dog confined like this can make you feel really guilty (not helped by the whimpering and puppy dog eyes!) and it can be tempting to give your dog a bit of freedom to help cheer them up, but if your vet or therapist has recommended a specific period of crate rest then it's likely to be crucial to your dogs recovery. Although letting them out can seem like a good option when your dog is crying all the time and trying to escape, it can be really detrimental to their recovery and long term health.
If you're finding crate rest a struggle, we've put together some of our top tips to help keep your dog calm and relaxed so you can relax knowing your dog is happy and you're giving them the best possible chance to recover.
If your dog is finding crate rest stressful they're likely to show this in a variety of ways:
⦁ Crying, whining and barking
⦁ Hyperactivity and being unable to settle
⦁ Appetite Changes
⦁ Destructive behaviour such as chewing and digging
⦁ Hyperactivity and being unable to settle
⦁ Trying to escape
⦁ Lethargy and depression
If they've recently had an injury, illness or surgery, there are so many things they might have found stressful. Whether that's the injury/ illness itself, a visit or stay at the vets, any pain or discomfort they might be in, all topped off by being contained in a crate - it's easy to see why they might not quite be themselves!
The first step in ensuring a calm and relaxed period of crate rest is making sure your dog is happy in their crate. In an ideal world you would begin crate training in advance of your dog needing crate rest, but accidents happen and this isn't always possible yet there are still lots of things we can do to help.
Crate Training Tips:
⦁ Position the crate somewhere quiet, but where they can still feel part of the family - hallways and doorways are best avoided. If they have a quiet corner they normally like to lie in this is a great place to start.
⦁ To begin your crate training make sure the crate door is left open - you want your dog to be happily entering and leaving the crate of their own free will, and shutting the door too soon so they can't escape can create a negative association.
⦁ Make the crate comfy, cosy and inviting for your dog.
⦁ Feed them in the crate - most dogs love their food so it creates a really positive association with the crate
⦁ If you can, build up the amount of time they spend in their crate gradually and alternate between short and long stays - we don't want them to associate going in the crate with being left alone for long periods.
Once your dog is happy to spend some time in their crate, we can start to add in some enrichment and training activities to give their brain a work out and help prevent boredom.
One of the best ways to keep your dog entertained in their crate is to get creative with how you feed them. If you normally feed your dog from a bowl once or twice a day then crate rest is a great time to change this around. There are lots of things we can do to help keep them mentally stimulated:
⦁ Scatter feeding - as simple as scattering your dogs food on the floor and letting them use their incredible noses to find it. If they're enjoying this you can make it more interesting by wrapping their food in some twisted news paper or toilet roll tubes.
⦁ Puzzle toys - there are lots of these available to buy, but you can also easily make your own using a muffin tin and some tennis balls. You can find a step by step guide to this in our free enrichment guide - just pop your email address in the contact form below and we'll send it straight over to you!
⦁ Sniffing - if your dog is able to get out for a short stroll, or even just head out to the garden to go to the toilet, try taking them to their favourite sniffy spot! Dogs love to sniff, it's how they explore the world around them, so letting them have a good sniff is great mental stimulation for them
- Licking and Chewing - licking and chewing are naturally calming activiites for dogs, so it's a great way to help them relax and keep them occupied. There are lots of healthy long lasting chews on the market, and Kongs are a great way to feed them too.
⦁ Training - training is a great way of spending some quality time with your dog and strengthening your bond. The kind of things you can do will depend on your dogs conditiion, but you could start with some simple commands like sit and lie down, or try something like paw targeting or nose touches if they're less able to get around.
⦁ Spending some quality time together - whether it's training, enrichment or just chilling out together your dog will love spending some time with you.
One of the most common problems owners face during crate rest is constant barking and crying. The best way to overcome this is to quietly reward your dog for the times they choose to lie down quietly. To do this use a low value treat such as their normal food, and quietly place it down on the floor in front of them while giving some calm praise. The key here is to make sure we don't make the reward or the praise so exciting that they're going to want to get up! This exercise takes patience and it might take time to see results, but with consistent practice you'll start to see improvements. A great time to practice this is when you're watching TV - you want to reward your dog for choosing to settle down quietly on their own so you need to find a balance between keeping an eye on them but not actively giving them attention.
For a more detailed guide to crate training, you can order our 'Crate Rest Survival Guide' either on it's own or as part of 'The Recovery Box'. The guide takes you step by step through everything you need to know about stress, crate training, enrichment activities, training activities and much more to ensure that crate rest is happy and stress free for both you and your dog. You can find our more about the guide and The Recovery Box here.