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Activities to Keep Your Dog Occupied When Recovering from Surgery

Image by Allison Peterson from PixabayWhen an active, elderly, or disabled dog gets surgery or sustains an injury, it will keep them out of commission for some time while they recover. You need activities to keep your dog occupied, and that can turn out to be a good thing.

When your dog is recovering from an injury or surgery, the vet will typically impose restricted activity, the extent of which will depend on the nature of the injury or surgery. In some cases, the vet may recommend a dog wheelchair at some point to help an injured dog stay active and help in the healing process, but even then, your dog can only spend so much time in a wheelchair.

In a majority of cases, you will need to make sure your dog moves as little as possible for a specified amount of time (ask your vet), and may even require confinement in a crate or cage to make them stay put. The big issue with a dog that has undergone surgery such as neutering when they move too much is the stitches. If they go, the wound will open and delay the recovery period, which can be several days to several weeks.

If your dog has high energy, keeping them occupied is the only way to help them get past the enforced inactivity. Dogs are particularly rambunctious, so here are some things you can try to stimulate their minds. Make sure to get your vet’s approval before you do.


No, you will not be handing your dog a gun for this activity. Targeting in dog training parlance is to teach your dog to touch an object such as your hand or a piece of paper with the nose or paw. In most cases, it involves a cue word such as “touch” or “tap” and holding the object close to the nose or paw of the dog. When your dog touches the object on command, you reward with a treat. Hand targeting is especially useful when you want your dog to follow you around by simply showing them your hand. You can follow these steps teach your dog targeting.

Teach tricks

If you have always wanted to train your dog to obey your commands, then this is the perfect time to do so. Obviously, “fetch” and “roll over” are some things you want to avoid, and “play dead” may seem like a bad joke. However, you can take this time to teach your dog the “drop it” command that could potentially be life saving. At any rate, it will teach your dog to leave your slippers and socks alone in the future. Other commands you can hammer in are “watch me,” speak,” “shake,” “quiet,” and of course, “stay.”

Puzzles and games

Puzzle games have become popular of late for keeping your dogs entertained, but the entertaining part is probably on the part of humans watching their dogs try to figure it out. Nevertheless, a well-designed puzzle can keep them occupied for a while, especially if they come with treats!

Nose work

Nose work sounds a little word, but it is a very useful skill to teach your dog because it makes them into regular Sherlock Holmes! While regular nose work training requires some physical activities and some smelly accoutrements, you can follow the same principles for your dog in recovery by hiding treats under plastic cups. It will stimulate their mind and motivate them to stay put while the cups are in place!

Toys, toys, toys!

Dog toys are not always the answer, especially for older dogs, but it can keep puppies and young dogs occupied. If you don’t want to go out to buy toy (because of the pandemic) or you’d rather not spend money on them, you can try making some DIY toys. Some are even edible! That’s always interesting.

Tranquil times

It sounds extreme, but tranquilizing your dog might be your only option if he or she is feeling pain or discomfort. They will tend to move around trying to get comfortable and are not likely to pay much attention to any of the activities above. Consult your vet about when and how to administer a tranquilizer, especially for the first few days of recovery.


Keeping your dog entertained while recovering from an injury or surgery is going to take time and effort, but it will be better for everyone in the end. Once your dog recovers fully, you will reap the rewards of an upkilled, confident, and obedient companion.

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