Surgery in itself can be daunting, recovery is even worse. It can be quite a struggle to keep your dog’s activity restricted post-surgery, however, it’s crucial to their recovery. Mental stimulation for dogs is so important and becomes even more rewarding during this post-surgery time. Mental stimulation will ward off your dog’s boredom blues and help with burning some energy as well. In fact, mental stimulation is just as rewarding as physical exercise. Below we’ve outlined 10 ways to keep your dog’s brain busy after surgery. These ways are sure to keep your dog from experiencing the post-recovery rut.
1. Cup Game
The cup game is an easy and affordable way to provide enrichment for your dog. All you need is 3 cups and some treats. You can slowly build up to teaching your dog this game and making it more difficult. To introduce the concept, start with just one cup. Allow them to watch you place a treat under a cup. When you give your dog a cue to nose or knock over the cup, let them eat the treat. Once your dog understands this concept, move up to 3 cups and rub the treat on your hands and outside of cups to spread the scent around and increase the difficulty of the game, therefore providing further enrichment.
2. Puzzle Game
There are so many puzzle games available on the market for all difficulty levels. One of our favorite brands is Outward Hound. These games are a great way to decrease boredom and increase problem-solving skills. High-value treats are the best to use for these games to really encourage your dog to solve them. Once they get the hang of the game, move on to lower-value treats.
3. Muffin Tin Game
The muffin tin game is another simple DIY game. All you need is a muffin tin and treats. It’s as easy as placing some treats in a few of the holes and then covering all of the holes with tennis balls. Your dog must not only locate the treat but also learn how to remove the ball properly in order to reach the treat. Although it sounds simple, this game can provide hours of stimulation to your dog.
4. Long Lasting Chews
Long-lasting chews are a great tool to keep your dog entertained while their activity is restricted. As long as they’re not recovering from a mouth or jaw surgery, durable chew toys and chews are sure to keep your dog busy for a while. Bully sticks are a great long lasting option. As far as edible treats go, limit the amount given so your dog does not gain excess weight while recovering.
5. Lick Mats
Lick mats not only provide entertainment to your dog but may also reduce anxiety. The act of licking encourages your dog to calm themselves. You may fill them with peanut butter, yogurt, broth, frozen treats, etc. There are plenty of recipes to try! Additionally, the mats come in a variety of sizes and configurations so there’s an option for every dog.
6. Snuffle Mats
Snuffle mats are great to put your dog’s nose to work. In these mats, between knots, treats are embedded requiring your dog to root for and locate the treats. Snuffle mats are available in stores or can even be made as an easy DIY project. Use higher value treats until your dog understands the concept.
7. Scent Training
Scent training provides enrichment to your dog and is a lowkey activity you can teach your dog at home. A small tin with drilled holes, birch oil, treats, a plastic container, and cotton swabs are all you need to get started.
To begin, introduce your dog to identifying the birch scent. You’ll want to apply a bit of birch oil to the cotton swab and place in the tin. Hold the tin in one hand and a treat, preferably high value, in the other hand. Your dog will most likely initially be interested in the treat hand. Once he/she moves on to smell the tin hand, say “yes” and reward your pup by bringing the treat over to the tin hand. When you feed your dog at the source of the birch scent, they’ll begin to identify the scent properly. As you progress, switch hands to keep them on their toes.
Now that your dog understands the concept of identifying the scent, they can learn how to find it. Move the tin with the scent into the plastic container and repeat the same steps with identifying the scent in your hand. Once your dog masters this, move the container to the ground and repeat the process once again. Eventually, your dog will work their way up to locating the box in a hidden spot, even in a different room.
8. Canine Massage
Canine massage is not only relaxing, but also may boost your dog’s mood, especially post-surgery. However, be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian first. Typically, short sessions with gentle strokes or kneading are the most effective and safe way to massage your dog.
9. Rotate Toys
It may sound simple, but it’s an effective way to prevent boredom while your dog is recovering from surgery. This will keep the toys more interesting and will feel like a new toy is introduced throughout their recovery.
10. Change The Scenery/Car Rides Or Environment Change
A simple environmental change can make all the difference for your dog. If they’re safely able to ride in the car, take them for a bit of a drive or sit outside. This can provide some mental stimulation. However, if they are restricted to the inside of the house or a crate, consider changing the room they hang out in.