Modified Enrichment for Dogs on Crate Rest: Tailoring Enrichment to the 5 Senses
Updated: Aug 10, 2022
Crate Rest. Did anybody else just cringe?
I genuinely salute any owner who's gone through having a pet on crate rest. Most pets are active, full of spunk, busy - the idea of having them crated for long periods of time to heal from an injury just flat out stinks. However, the crate rest stage can be imperative to proper healing when directed to do so by your veterinarian.
There are multiple enrichment activities that you can modify at home to help make your pet's crate rest a bit more enjoyable. In today's article I'll break them down by the 5 senses: Sight, Touch, Smell, Sound, and Taste. Learn more about these amazing senses in our article, here.
It may sound ridiculous, but Dog TV is a real thing (you heard that right!). Setting up a small TV in view of your dog's crate can provide them with some visual stimulation that they may be lacking on crate rest (for any dog that has a visual inhibitor, the TV can also provide sound stimulation as well).
Certain DogTV episodes on Youtube include virtual walks, episodes on wild birds, squirrels, wildlife - you name it. Modify your choices according to your dog (for example, if your dog gets really excited over rodents such as squirrels, then playing videos that feature them wouldn't be the best choice in keeping your dog laying down and calm). My go-to choice would be Virtual Walks, like this one here.
Another way to give visual stimulation? Put their crate in a safe space by a window that allows them to look outside, and/or allow your dog small, supervised "fresh air breaks" in the yard (if able).
Enrichment for Sight Recommendations: DogTV, having access to a window, and fresh air breaks (can be within the backyard, or a small walk in a carrier or wagon).
There are two forms of touch that can be used during crate rest, and those are: touch from you to your dog (i.e. petting), and touch from your dog to something else (i.e. chewing something).
Positive touch from you is beneficial for many reasons, whether it be a soothing pet to calm your furry patient down, a nice scratch behind the ears, a massage, or a good brush.
How your dog touches other things is another factor that you can fold into positive crate experience. Having plenty of chew toys available, as well as soft blankets and/or a cozy crate pad can help set up the healing environment. Enrichment toys such as lickimats that promote the act of licking can also be incredibly helpful, as licking promotes calmness in k9s.
Touch Enrichment Recommendations: Try chewable enrichment toys made of different materials. The Sodapup Corn on the Cob Nylon Chew that can withstand power chewing is a good start - this toy also has small divots for smearable treats (win win for both Touch and Taste Enrichment). Lickimats are another great idea and can be relatively inexpensive. Try zip-tying them to the side of the crate in instances where your pup should keep his head up and level.
Smell is a dog's most prominent sense of all five senses, and there are so many ways that you can utilize this sense during crate rest. It's estimated that a dog's sense of smell ranges from 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than a human's sense of smell - so use this to your advantage!
Setting Up Your Crate: Use your dog's favorite blankets and well-loved toys when setting up their crate space. Unless their favorite blankets are absolutely soiled and dirty, avoid washing them. Having a known, well loved smell in their crate can help ease stress and tension.
Swapping Scents: While on crate rest, think about scents as the "Netflix for the senses" for your dog. Swapping in different things for them to smell is like playing a new episode on K9 nose TV! For example: Bring a blanket or piece of fabric out and about with you. Whether it be to a pet store, to a family member's house (bonus points if it's someone your dog really loves!), to a farm and/or anywhere where there are other interesting animals at play. Bring this blanket home to your dog and watch their nose go wild.
Smell Enrichment Recommendations: Scent swapping, snuffle mats, car rides with the windows down (when able), snuffle snakes, opening the windows in the area around the crate (when able).
Ever notice that once your dog finds the squeaker in a new toy, that they just won't stop squeaking it? That's because that shrill squeaking sound is satisfying and enjoyable to them (even though it may not be for us).
Sound is another way dogs find enjoyment and interpret the world around them. It can be used in auditory enrichment to provide a sense of calm by buffering stressful noises around the crate, or by creating a calming atmosphere in and of itself. A study on playing classical music for dogs found that classical music reduced stress levels and increased resting sleep in dogs.
Sound/Auditory Enrichment Recommendations: Calming music (such as DogDogZen on Spotify), access to toys with squeakers and/or other audible sounds (when able).
Taste is probably one of the first senses that comes to mind when we think about canine enrichment. This is because dogs can be incredibly food motivated, and it shows!
When it comes to taste, there are so many vehicles to keep your dog in one spot through the use of enrichment feeding toys. Not only are these toys engaging, but they provide some much needed mental stimulation as well.
While taste is one of the easiest senses to use during crate rest, try not to rely on this sense too much. Remember: Your dog has very limited access to physical exercise on crate rest, and therefore is more susceptible to weight gain during this period.
Try and stick to low calorie treats and goodies as much as possible. No idea where to start? Head over to our Beginner's Guide to Enrichment Stuffing.
Taste Enrichment Recommendations: Kong Classics, West Paw Products, Lickimats. Another option that can actually be attached to the crate itself is the Diggspet Groov.
Now that you've read through these modified crate rest suggestions, we hope that you're able to find the perfect modified enrichment type for your individual dog! Crate rest can be a hard situation for both K9 and owner, but if you push through it - your dog will be ready for success once they're given the okay to go back to their normal, rambunctious selves. For more suggestions and information on how to increase your dog's mental stimulation (with examples) check out calmingdog.com.
Have any questions or suggestions? Contact us here.
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