Dog Injury: Keeping Your Dog Mentally Active

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by jtclough on February 4, 2010

Dog injury usually means exercise restriction.  Bummer for everyone.

When your dog is used to getting exercise and an injury is preventing activity there are ways you can keep your dog’s mind busy.  It won’t be the same as physical activity but you can take the edge off of
“got nothin’ to do, think I’ll chew a shoe”…
and end up with an even sharper dog once the injury has healed.

Practicing Calm

This one sounds a bit simplistic but when you give this one a try it’s not all that easy.  For example, if you had a dog that was wild when walking on a leash what would you focus on trying to fix?

Yep. Right.  Getting your dog to walk with you.

Wrong answer.

Well not all the way wrong.  You do want to practice walking or running in a nice relaxed way on the leash, but even before that you should back up and see if you can even get your dog to sit or lay down nicely for an extended period of time.

When a dog gets injured and is on exercise restriction this is a great time to practice calm.  Especially if you have a hard time with it when your dog is healthy, this exercise will be good for maintaining a zen type relationship with your dog in all activities after the injury has healed.

The trick to this one is to engage in teaching calm.  Instead of just putting a nice big dog bed out with a blanket for your dog to feel all nice and cozy, practice having your dog stay in different areas of the house.

  • Use doorways while you are in another room.
  • Have your dog stay on a bed or place 5-10 feet away from where you are madly e-mailing or facebooking at your desk for 10 minutes.
  • Change the spot your dog is chilling out on after 10 minutes to a place near you for 15 minutes.
  • Change it up again and move your dog to another spot, only this time present a coveted nylabone for entertainment.
  • Sit or down for everything.

The great thing about dogs is just a little change in space or place and it’s an all new thing to them.  Simplify keeping your dog active by practicing calm games of moving from spot to spot.

Stationary Ball Game

Of course staying on some dog bed, blanket or other designated area can get a little monotonous.  Most dogs love a ball but the only game they have ever really played with it is …. RAAACCE to go get it.

Time to learn a new game.  Some dogs already know how to catch a ball, some don’t.  In either case this is a great game to keep your dog’s mind active and give the illusion that physical exercise is taking place.

Throw a pop fly to your dog.  Make your dog sit, then gently throw a ball an inch above the nose.  Make the target very easy for your dog to get while still sitting and keep doing it over and over until catch happens if your dog doesn’t know how to play this one already.

The key is you need to a have a good steady nice easy throw and be ready to grab the ball if it goes awry.  You don’t want your dog scrambling for it.

Dog Tricks

Teach your dog a new trick.  There are many tricks you can choose from but when picking the new trick make sure that it is a stationary game.

“Don’t Look” is a good one.  It’s a great chick or guy magnet as well when your are out and about!

Your dog can be in a sit or down when teaching this trick.  Get your dog to cover one eye with a paw on command by using a treat in one hand, telling your dog “Don’t Look”, then physically take the paw with your other hand and cover your dog’s eye with it.

AT THAT MOMENT when the dog’s paw is covering the eye, deliver the treat.

Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly your dog will offer the behavior to get the treat.

Give your dog ample time to recover and then get out and get exercising again.  It’s good for you.  It’s good for the dog.

©Jt Clough and K9 Coach, Inc. 2010

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