Tips & Tricks

How to Keep Your Dog Entertained After Surgery

Recovering from surgery can be a tough time for both you and your furry friend. While it’s crucial to follow your veterinarian’s guidelines for restricted activity, it’s equally important to keep your dog mentally stimulated during this period. Mental stimulation not only wards off boredom but also helps burn some of that pent-up energy. In fact, engaging your dog’s brain can be just as rewarding as physical exercise!

a veterinarian checking a sick dog using a stethoscope

Understanding “Restricted Activity”

Before diving into the various ways to entertain your recovering pup, it’s essential to understand what “restricted activity” means for your specific situation. The extent of restricted activity depends on the type of surgery your dog has undergone. For example, dogs recovering from orthopedic surgery may need to move as little as possible, which could mean confinement to a crate or exercise pen and being kept on a leash during potty breaks. In some cases, such as a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, restricted activity may be necessary for up to 6 weeks!

On the other hand, dogs undergoing procedures like spaying or neutering will need to be on restricted activity until their surgical wound has healed. It’s crucial to consult with your veterinarian to obtain a complete set of guidelines tailored to your dog’s specific needs. This will ensure that you provide the right type of mental stimulation without overdoing it during the recovery process.

dog with intravenous line on his leg

1. Food-Dispensing Toys: Turning Treats into Brain Teasers

One of the easiest ways to keep your dog entertained is by using food-dispensing toys. These clever devices transform what would usually be a 3-second treat-scarfing session into a mentally stimulating activity. For instance, the Loobani Rolling Drumn Treat Dispenser Toy and Classic Spinning Bottles Treat Dispensing Toy are designed to engage your dog’s brain as they work to retrieve the food inside. Simply fill these toys with kibble, treats, or healthy carrot cubes, and watch as your pup remains entertained for an extended period.

If you’re new to puzzle toys or have a dog that needs a confidence boost, the Loobani Rolling Drum Treat Dispenser is an excellent starting point. This toy combines a simple yet engaging challenge with the thrill of treat dispensing. Your dog will need to nudge the drum with their nose or push it with their paws to release the goodies inside.

For an added twist, you can set the toy in a bamboo stand, introducing a fresh challenge as your dog figures out how to maneuver it to get the treats. The adjustable silicone plugs allow you to customize the difficulty level to suit your dog’s cognitive abilities and dietary requirements, keeping them engaged and satisfied.

For a whimsical addition to playtime, consider the Loobani Spinning Bottles Treat Dispenser. Picture a mini slot machine for your pup, filled with their favorite snacks! Fill the three solid plastic bottles with a mix of treats and watch as your furry friend learns to spin, push, and maneuver the bottles to snag the hidden treasures. The adjustable height setting ensures that dogs of all sizes, especially those with larger chests, can enjoy the fun without any awkward bending. This robust toy provides endless mental and physical stimulation, designed to keep your active dog entertained and happily occupied with hours of problem-solving play.

If your dog is new to these toys, take the time to teach them how to use them. Also, be mindful of the extra calories you’re giving your pup during their post-surgery recovery. Too many additional calories, coupled with restricted mobility, can lead to excess weight gain, which could hinder their recovery.

2. Interactive Treat Puzzle Toys: Challenging Your Pup’s Mind

When your dog is recovering from surgery, and outdoor playtime is limited, interactive treat puzzle toys become a fantastic tool to keep their mind engaged and stimulated. These innovative toys come in various shapes and sizes, making them perfect for use in small, confined spaces where your recovering pup may be spending most of their time. Two excellent options are the Loobani Twirl-n-Treat Rotating Treat Puzzle Toy and the Hide-n-Slide Brain Dog Toys.

#1. Twirl n’ Treat Dog Puzzle Toys

The Loobani Twirl n’ Treat is a flat puzzle with five food-hiding compartments partially covered by a twisting panel. Your dog must figure out how to twist the top panel to uncover the hidden treats. To get your dog started, begin by hiding treats in only a few compartments. This way, your smart pup will learn to check each spot. Before you know it, they’ll be completely absorbed in solving these puzzles and earning their tasty rewards!

#2. Hide-n-Slide Brain Dog Toys

For a more advanced challenge, the Hide-n-Slide Brain Dog Toys feature a bamboo frame with eight hidden compartments covered by four sliding wood panels. Your dog must slide the panels side-to-side to reveal the treat-stuffed spaces. Once your pup has mastered the sliding action, you can add an extra challenge by cutting clean strips of cloth, placing food in the compartments, and watching them figure it out. These puzzles stimulate your dog’s brain and satisfy their natural scavenging instincts, keeping them mentally engaged and content.

3. Long-Lasting Chews: Keeping Your Dog Occupied for Hours

Long-lasting chews are another great way to keep your dog entertained when their physical activity is limited, as long as they’re not recovering from a mouth or jaw surgery. Tough chew toys and chews, such as bully sticks, are sure to keep your dog occupied for a while. However, when it comes to edible treats, limit the amount given to prevent excess weight gain during recovery.

black and white short coated dog lying on cotton surface

4. DIY Calming Lick Mats: Soothing and Engaging

When your dog is recovering from surgery and needs to relax during quiet time, a lick mat can be a lifesaver. These silicone mats with ridges are perfect for holding tasty spreads like peanut butter or pumpkin purée, keeping your furry patient laser-focused on licking the mat clean. 

The repetitive licking action is not only calming and soothing for pups but also provides a much-needed distraction from any discomfort or anxiety they may be experiencing post-surgery. Lick mats are an excellent way to keep your recovering dog occupied for a good stretch of time without putting any strain on their healing body. 

Plus, it’s an easy, no-mess activity—simply load the mat up and let your dog enjoy a tasty treat while they rest and recover. This simple yet practical tool can be a game-changer during the post-surgery period, helping to keep your dog’s spirits up and their mind engaged while their body heals.

5. DIY Snuffle Mats: Putting Your Dog’s Nose to Work

Snuffle mats are excellent for putting your dog’s nose to work. These mats have treats embedded between knots, requiring your dog to root around and locate the goodies. You can purchase snuffle mats from stores or even make them as an easy DIY project. Use higher-value treats until your dog understands the concept, and watch as they enjoy the mental stimulation of sniffing out their rewards.

dog snuffle mat

6. Rotate Toys Regularly: Keeping Things Fresh and Interesting

A simple trick to prevent boredom during your dog’s recovery is to rotate their toys. Introducing fresh toys keeps their environment stimulating, and there’s nothing quite like a brand-new toy to cheer up your furry friend. 

After your pup’s surgery, consider buying around five new toys of different varieties and present them to your dog one at a time, each day. 

Each time you introduce a new toy, replace the one from the previous day, continuing this rotation to maintain high interest levels. Your dog will be thrilled to have an exciting “new” toy every day of their recovery.

7. Play Low-Activity Games with Your Dog: Engaging Your Pet’s Brain

Just because your pet can’t run and jump doesn’t mean you can’t have fun together. There are plenty of games that don’t require much action but instead work your pet’s brain. Some of these games include:

1. Which Hand: In this game, your pet must choose which hand you are holding the treat in. It’s a fun activity for both pets and their owners.

2. Muffin Tin Game: All you need for this simple DIY game is a muffin tin and treats. Place some treats in a few of the holes and cover all of the holes with tennis balls or soft toys. Your dog must not only find the treat but also figure out how to remove the ball properly to get to the treat. While it may sound easy, this game can offer your dog hours of mental stimulation.

diy muffin tin puzzle game

3. Cup Game: This game evolves to become more difficult as your dog gets better at it. Start by letting your dog watch you hide a small, tasty treat under one of the plastic cups on the floor. Give them the go-ahead with a simple “okay” or “find it,” and when they nudge or knock the cup over, they get the treat inside. As your dog masters each level, increase the difficulty by adding more cups, sliding the cup with the treat to a different spot, or even swapping two cups and seeing if they can track the one hiding the treat. Not all dogs can master the most advanced levels, but if yours can, you’ve got one impressive pup!

dog cup game

8. Watch TV Together

It’s the perfect excuse to lounge on the couch with your pup and binge-watch TV. Some dogs love watching animal shows, movies, or action-packed sports like hockey or soccer, as the fast movements capture their attention. 

Even if your dog isn’t much for screen time, they’ll still enjoy the snuggle session. Cozy couch potato days are a wonderful way to bond when going outdoors isn’t an option. Fire up your favorite flick and settle in!

popcorn girl food dog eating

9. Canine Massage

Never underestimate the significant power of loving touch in the healing process. If you notice your dog feeling a little down during recovery, purposeful touch can significantly improve their mood while enhancing circulation, reducing stress and anxiety, alleviating pain, and soothing both their physical and mental states. There are plenty of online resources available to help you grasp the basics of massaging your dog, including the hows and whys.

Moreover, canine massage serves as an exceptional therapeutic aid throughout their recovery period. Your vet might be able to teach you specific massage techniques tailored to aid your dog’s recovery. It’s important to remember that it’s not just the injured part of the body that benefits from a healing touch. Often, a dog compensating for an injured limb will overuse other muscles, putting undue stress on various parts of the body. Thus, massaging your dog during their recovery can bring relief to their entire body. At the very least, spending quality time massaging your dog will undoubtedly brighten their day.

10. Homemade Treats

If the outdoor time is limited, why not do a little baking for your very best friend? Whipping up a batch of dog-safe treats is a great way to pass the time, and your pup will be eager to taste-test your creations. 

When baking for your recovering dog, it’s crucial to choose dog-safe ingredients and avoid anything toxic, such as chocolate, xylitol, raisins, or macadamia nuts. Stick to dog-friendly basics like whole wheat flour, pumpkin, and peanut butter, which are gentle on your pup’s digestive system and unlikely to interfere with any post-surgery medications or dietary restrictions.

You can discover a variety of healthy dog treats recipes online or on YouTube channels like Proud Dog Mom, which offer a treasure trove of ideas tailored to your dog’s specific needs. Whether you’re looking for soft, easy-to-chew treats or nutrient-packed snacks to aid in recovery, there’s a recipe out there for every pup.

11. A Change of Scenery

If your dog’s recovery process involves being confined to their crate or exercise pen all day, staring at the same walls can cause restlessness and even sadness. It’s important to find ways to keep your pup’s environment interesting and engaging during this time.

One simple way to combat boredom is by placing fresh items in your dog’s line of sight. This could include houseplants, pieces of artwork, or even new furniture arrangements. The goal is to provide your recovering dog with a variety of interesting things to look at, helping to keep their mind active and engaged.

Consider hanging a bird feeder outside a nearby window or placing a fish tank within view of their crate. The movement and colors of the birds or fish can provide hours of entertainment and help alleviate the tedium of confinement.

If possible, try moving your dog’s crate or exercise pen to different areas of the house throughout the day. This change of scenery can work wonders in preventing boredom and providing new stimuli for your recovering pup. For example, you might place their crate in the living room in the morning, allowing them to watch the hustle and bustle of your daily routine, and then move them to a quiet bedroom in the afternoon for a more relaxed atmosphere.

12. Push Your Pet in a Stroller

Getting outside will go a long way towards helping your pet cope with the monotony of the recovery process, even if they aren’t ready to take a walk just yet. Invest in a pet stroller and push your fur baby around the block. The fresh air and change of scenery will work wonders by preventing boredom and raising your pet’s spirits. Both of you will feel so much better after spending some time outdoors.

a dog in a stroller

Why Dogs Needs Mental Stimulation During Post-Surgery Recovery

Mental stimulation is just as equally important to a pup as physical activity, and keeping their brains occupied during this challenging time will not only prevent boredom and release any pent-up energy but also boost your dog’s confidence, sharpen their memory, enhance their intelligence, and improve their trainability.

Many well-intentioned pet owners may overlook the significance of mental stimulation, focusing solely on their dog’s physical needs. While activities like playing fetch or engaging in a game of tug-of-war are certainly important for a dog’s overall well-being, they don’t provide much cognitive stimulation. It’s essential to recognize that dogs are intelligent creatures with an innate desire to engage in mentally challenging tasks.

Throughout history, dogs have been bred to fulfill specific roles, such as hunting, herding, or guarding. These tasks required them to use their minds and problem-solving skills, giving them a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Even though most modern dogs no longer undertake these traditional roles, the need for mental stimulation remains deeply ingrained in their nature. Without proper cognitive engagement, dogs may become frustrated, restless, and more prone to destructive behaviors.

erson holding black and brown dog

Fortunately, there are lots of fun games and activities that you can enjoy with your recovering dog to provide the mental stimulation they crave. These engaging activities can be tailored to suit your dog’s specific needs and limitations during their recovery period. While it may not be feasible to simulate their ancestral roles, engaging your dog in brain games and puzzles can challenge their cerebral cortex and provide them with a sense of accomplishment.

This is especially beneficial for dogs in post-surgery recovery, as it can help distract them from any discomfort or pain, alleviate boredom, and provide a healthy outlet for their energy. 

Final Words

Entand ertaining your dog after surgery involves a blend of creativity, empathy, and attentiveness to their physical and emotional needs. By utilizing interactive toys, engaging in gentle mental exercises, and offering your unwavering support, you can help your dog navigate their recovery with ease. It’s about finding joy in the quiet moments, celebrating progress, and looking forward to the adventures that await once your dog is fully healed. Through patience, understanding, and a bit of ingenuity, you can ensure this challenging time is as enriching and comforting as possible for your beloved pet.

Do you have a special game that your dog absolutely loves? Or maybe a favorite toy that keeps them entertained for hours? We want to hear all about it! Share your tried-and-true tips and creative hacks in the comments below.