Activities For Dogs With Head Injuries

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Introduction

Sometimes, your dog's activities may be restricted while they heal up after a surgery or a traumatic event.  Your veterinarian will order restricted activities and give you a timeframe for when your dog may resume normal activities.  There may be a lot of waiting for you and your dog before your dog can resume normal behavior and it is important to know what your dog can do, especially when they are healing from a head injury.

Scent Work

Popular
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Any Day
Cheap
Normal
15 - 30 min
Items needed
Small Boxes
Plastic Container
Smelly Treats
Activity description

Healing for a head injury usually requires restrictive activities, which can be boring for your dog.  As a pet owner, you want the best for your pooch so engaging their minds is a great way to burn mental and more physical energy while stimulating their intellect.  Scent work is a perfect way to engage a dog because their noses are so sharp.  Scent work also helps build your dog's confidence and will occupy their minds while they heal. Scent work activities for healing dogs occurs mostly inside where you can control the environment, so the weather does not play a role in this activity.  You will need three or four small cardboard boxes and one plastic container that you can cut holes into.  Additionally, you will need some smelly treats that your dog can identify.  It's best if these are your dog's favorite treats because it will serve as additional motivation during the scent work.  

Step
1
Set up your boxes
You will start by setting up three to four small boxes in a separate room from your dog. If you are going with three boxes total, two of them will be empty, and the third will have the container that has the dog treats. The container should have holes in it so the scent can reach your dog's nose from within the concealed cardboard box.
Step
2
Show your dog the boxes
Either bring your dog to the three boxes or bring the boxes to your dog. Either way, the three boxes need to be in front of your dog. Your dog will smell each one and should indicate to you which box contains the goodies. Look for subtle indications that your dog knows the correct box because they might not put their paw on top of the box. A push with their nose or extra sniffs around the correct box will indicate they know the box that contains their favorite treats.
Step
3
Reward your dog and repeat
Once your dog indicates the correct box, let them have their tasty treat. Tell them they are a good dog and give them lots of praise you uncover the box and reward them. This will help them understand the game, and you can reset the boxes for round two. You can do this a few times to help stimulate their minds and work on their scent abilities.
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Dog Massage

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
30 - 60 min
Items needed
Familiar Blanket
Activity description
Dog's with head injuries will most likely have some disorientation and possibly discomfort in their heads.  They will feel confused and are often scared.  Do not under-estimate the power of touch in these cases.  Today, many pet-therapists offer in-home or in-office massages for pets.  In-home massages are ideal in the case of injury because your dog will not have the added stress of being in a new place with new smells.  Weather conditions do not play a part in this activity since it is conducted indoors and the cost can range from affordable to expensive depending on the pet massage therapist's fees and travel time, if applicable.  You can massage or pet your dog yourself, but it's best to avoid their head if they've sustained a head injury.
Step
1
Decide on a massage location
Many pet massage therapists offer in-home visits if you don't feel your dog is up to a car ride. In-home visits are ideal but if you decide your dog is well enough to travel, it's best if you secure them in the car and allow them to lay down on a blanket. You want to prevent them from becoming excited in the car as well as looking out the window.
Step
2
Order your dog's massage
After deciding if you'll bring your dog to a therapist or bring the therapist to your dog, get ready for the massage by getting a familiar blanket and some treats, preferably soft treats. You want to make your dog as comfortable as possible while they are with the therapist. Give your dog plenty of time to acclimate to the new person and stay with them, so they feel safe. Your therapist or dog trainer might give you some tips for at home massage that you can do as well so don't be afraid to ask questions.
Step
3
Get tips for touch
Your dog loves your touch. Pats and scratches feel good, but you can also ask your dog's massage therapist or trainer for some tips on how to massage and touch your dog to calm them down. The dog professional should be able to give you tips for five minute calming sessions that you can use on your dog to settle them down if they are scared or overactive during their healing process.
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Puzzle Games

Popular
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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
1 - 2 hrs
Items needed
Puzzle Toys
Activity description
If your dog has their activities restricted due to a head injury, they will have to modify their lifestyle.  This requires oversight by you and you will have to be extra careful not to let them get bored.  Getting your dog a puzzle game or toy will occupy your dog for a long time, depending on the level of the puzzle and your dog's individual attention span.  Puzzles that have tasty rewards inside will keep your dog more mentally engaged as they attempt to release the treat inside.  Even some chew toys can offer an intellectually engaging activity that will reduce your dog's activities and keep them mentally engaged while they heal.
Step
1
Know your dog's restrictions
Following a head injury, your veterinarian will tell you how long your dog's activity restrictions are and to what extent activities are restricted. Some dogs may only have to reduce the energy used at playtime while other will have to stay sedentary for a time. Understanding how long and to what extent your dog's activities are restricted may affect what toys you introduce.
Step
2
Purchase puzzle games and toys
Puzzle games and toys for your dog are always excellent ways to engage their minds, with or without head injuries. However, when your dog is experiencing head trauma, you have to help them heal by reducing their energy outputs and keeping them mentally stimulated. Buy at least two different puzzle toys that will engage your dog and introduce them one at a time when you see your dog becoming restless or even depressed.
Step
3
Engage your dog in games
Your dog may need a little helping hand from you to gain interest in the chosen toy. Dog's with head injuries require more attention than those without. Since you want to monitor their recoveries, engaging with your dog will also help you stay active in their healing process. It will also help your dog adjust to their new, restricted lifestyle.
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More Fun Ideas...

Learn New Tricks

You can teach your dog and work on some simple tricks like nose licks and ears up.  These are not overly active tricks that require a lot of energy, but they are mentally challenging for your dog.

Practice Settle

While your dog is on restrictive activity, you can practice settling techniques.  Settling is not exactly a trick but a training exercise where you dog learns to calm down and settle on the floor.

Conclusion

Following a head injury, your pooch will have restrictions on their activities.  This is for their health and healing process, and often requires additional oversight by owners.  The key to a speedy recovery is in following the veterinarian's instructions and letting your dog rest.  However, you must also keep their minds active, so they don't get bored and resort to overactivity.