Crate Rest

by Chelsea Martin // August 2017

Crate Rest

Recently this past March our Head Coach, Chelsea, had to rush her 9 year old miniature Dachshund, Apple, to Dovecote Veterinary Hospital for emergency MRI and surgery due to severe disc herniation in her lower spine. Unfortunately, a major accident didn’t cause this injury, it was due to Apple’s age and long time wear and tear throughout the years. Apple had become paralysed in her back end after being picked up from bed. Chelsea immediately recognised Apple’s lameness as she had experience working in a veterinary hospital before in the US, and immediately took Apple in for professional observation – where she was then referred out to Dovecote.

After Apple had gone through surgery, she was under strict orders by her veterinarian to begin “crate rest”. This is the consequence of an injury or major surgery, which means the dog must be kept under tight restrictions – in a crate, only allowed out to toilet while on lead, and then straight back into the crate. As jumping, running and playing are strictly prohibited during this time of recovery – even going out for walkies is discouraged. What makes this even more difficult is that this period of limited or restricted activity can be prescribed for anywhere between four to six weeks. Knowing that some dogs receive inadequate exercise already, it’s very challenging to keep healthy and active dogs settled under mandatory crate rest for several weeks. During this time it’s more important than ever to make sure your dog doesn’t become bored and restless. These are Chelsea’s recommendations on how to get your dog through their daunting “crate rest” days:

Top 5 things to do when your dog is on crate rest:

  1. Mental Exercise: This is a great opportunity to do more training with your dog! Practicing non-active behaviours such as touch, stay, settle, shake, find it, polite leash walking and more. You can also keep your dog’s mind and body well exercised through use of puzzle toys. Mental exercises can be just as exhausting and challenging as physical exertion.
  2. Quality Time: Be sure to put on some relaxing tunes or audio CD’s like “Through a Dog’s Ear”, dim the lights to create an atmosphere that helps encourage your dog to remain settled and relaxed, and snuggle up with your dog. Keeping them in a busy or active room will only entice the dog to push to come out of its crate. Using aromatherapy lavender candles or plugging in diffusers with calming effects can help your dog relax. Your dog will appreciate having some quite one-on-one time with you, unless they find cuddling to be aversive – if this is the case, then you’ll want to skip this last bit.
  3. Massage: If you have a dog that doesn’t particularly like being fussed, they can benefit from TTouch or calming massages. There are several TTouch practitioners that can be found online who can book on sessions with you in the home, or find a canine massage practitioner. Put on your calming CD, light your aroma therapy candle or plug in your diffusers and start massaging your dog. Be mindful that all calming massage should be slow, light pressured, without vigorous rubbing or patting. Keeping your voice low and calm will maintain and quiet dynamic as an excitable and loud voice can increase your dog’s enthusiasm.
  4. Chewing Outlet: Make sure to have lots of sturdy and stuffable toys readily available for your dog. Raw meaty bones are great too. Anything like this can keep your dog content and happy while you cannot personally attend to their needs. Dogs utilise chewing as a natural de-stress activity, so be sure to allow them the opportunity to relive some stress by chewing in their crate. Rotating through these items will help keep each object new and exhilarating to your dog, you can pre-stuff the hollow toys and store them in the fridge or freezer for the days that you tight on time.
  5. Environmental Aids: Using aroma therapy and CD’s like “Through a Dog’s Ear” are great during “crate rest”, but pairing these with Adaptil spray, which mimic calming pheromones a mother dog emits when she is nursing her puppies – have a calming effect. Calming herbs such as chamomile can be useful. Commercial herbal calming products also include Pet Remedy or Rescue Remedy. Your vet can prescribe a short course of sedatives to help get your dog through the initial few weeks – when rest is most crucial. But you must discuss this with your veterinarian.

Chelsea survived three months of Apple being on strict “crate rest”, very limited activity by making use of all five of the recommendations above. Her healing exceeded her veterinarian and physiotherapists expectations, and were able to increase her mobile activity and begin hydro therapy sessions.


We wish you all great success if you and your dog find yourself going through “crate rest”.