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Adjusting to a recovery suite – emergency training

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Assist Your Dog To Relax In A Recovery Suite (A suite with room service!)

Helpful tips for adjusting to a recovery suite (Pack N Play, wire crate, ex-pen) Learn the tips to help your dog with the essential rest period of conservative treatment or after a surgery.

Adjusting to a recovery suite

By Lori Kobayashi, APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers)

Helpful tips and ideas for adjusting to a recovery suite (Pack N Play, wire crate, ex-pen). Make the rest period go smoother for you and your dog on conservative treatment or post-op rest.

If your dog is on Conservative treatment (medicines and rest) or post-op crate rest, and your dog is not happy about being in the recovery suite, you’ll have to try a few different things to make them more comfortable with being confined. If your dog is making a big deal about being in the crate, I highly recommend not feeding your dog their meals from a bowl. All of his meals will be fed as part of his crate adjustment training.

Some dogs prefer to have the recovery suite in a central location in the home where most of the activity in the home happens like a kitchen or living room. Some dogs do better with the suite located to a more quiet area of the home like a bedroom or finished basement. Try different locations to see where they seem the most settled down. Ideally, have multiple suites in multiple locations. One in the main living area and one in the bedroom is a typical home setup.

Unwanted behavior

If your dog is not happy and begins barking and howling, give no eye contact. Ignore them, don’t yell at them, don’t say “no”, “quiet” or anything else. They are barking for attention- and ANYTHING you do is giving them attention. Turn your back, go to another room, no talking. When calm, use your clicker or verbal marker like “yes” to show the dog that being calm is the correct behavior and proceed to give a treat and attention. As soon as there is barking and whining again, leave. Soon the dog will learn that being quiet gets treats and attention, and that barking and whining makes you go away. You should use all of your dog’s meals to reward your dog for being calm in their suite. If your dog has a cervical disk injury, attach a bowl to the side of the the suite at the proper level, and drop the food/treats into the bowl.

Other options to calm

  • If your dog doesn’t calm down and continues to bark/whine when you leave the room you can try a few different things.Cover the suite with a blanket. If your dog pulls at the blanket , put a sheet of wood or cardboard the top of the suite that is slightly larger than the top so the blanket doesn’t drop down over the sides

  • Sit next to the covered suite with your dog’s food and some high-value treats. As SOON as your dog is quiet, click and feed your dog a treat under the blanket in the suite. The clicker is useful in this instance because if your dog is barking/whining a lot, it enables you to mark the exact moment of “quiet” which may be very brief. If your dog starts barking/whining again after you click, STILL feed them the treat but put the cover over the suite again. You should start to see an increase in “quiet” periods if you do this for many repetitions. Once your dog is quiet for 20-30 seconds, start to lift the side of the blanket closest to you. If they remain quiet, click/treat. If they bark, don’t say anything- just put the blanket back down and wait for quiet. Repeat. The key to this is patience, and complete silence from you when your dog is barking. You also want to keep your verbal praise low-key when your dog is quiet. It is fine to tell them “good dog” and “good job” etc. — BUT remember, we are trying to keep them calm and if they get all excited when you praise them, we may be undoing all the work we’ve done. You should start to be able to uncover the suite for longer periods of time. Once your dog can be quiet with the suite uncovered for about a minute, leave the suite uncovered and walk out of the room. If your dog stays quiet, IMMEDIATELY click, return and feed a treat. If your dog starts barking, return and cover the suite. Wait a few seconds and try again. Try to work on calm crate behavior at least once a day (with their meal), and preferably twice a day. The more sessions, the better. Suite in the bedroom. If your dog is used to sleeping in the bed with you, try to put a wire crate on a sturdy table or chair next to the bed so the crate is at eye level with you when you are in bed. This may help some dogs be able to see you, and feel like they are closer to you.

  • Play relaxing music or sounds for your dog. There have been scientific studies that have shown the calming effect of some types of music or nature sounds on dogs (and people!)

Positive potty training during rx'd rest

Again, use your clicker when you take the dog outside to where it has pottied before or other dogs have (during potty training, do not completely remove all previous potties, so the dog has a mark of where to go).
  • Say the magic words: Go potty and let the dog sniff around.
  • If it goes potty, immediately click and treat.
  • If it took you too long to take the dog outside, and it had an accident inside, use it! Rub a newspaper on it and place it outside to mark where the dog has to go, and take him there on the next potty break.
  • During the entire potty training, do not punish the dog, give him the evil eye, or say harsh words if he has an accident –we’re doing positive training here.

Relaxation help

If your dog continues to exhibit signs of anxiety like excessive drooling, urinating/defecating in crate (when it is known they have bladder/bowel control) or frantic attempts to escape causing physical injury you may need to discuss with your veterinarian the possibility of prescription medications. Please work with your veterinarian to decide the best medication for your dog taking into account their current medications and health. The following is a list of some medications that your vet may suggest. This is NOT meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice. It is merely a list of some medications that may be used. It is not a complete list.
  • Plain Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) ask your vet for the dose.
  • Acepromazine: For any sort of anxiety/fear behavior, this medication is actually NOT recommended by veterinary behavior experts,
  • Valium (Diazepam), Xanax (Alprazolam): You can ask your vet for a prescription that you can take to a regular pharmacy,
  • Clomicalm (Clomipramine): a veterinary drug specifically for separation anxiety. It takes 2 weeks for a therapeutic dose to build up in the body.


Put a few drops of lavender essential oil on bedding. (Caution: DO NOT use if your dog has a seizure disorder because lavender oil may be a seizure trigger.) Lavender essential oil has been proven to have a calming effect on laboratory animals. It has to be essential oils, and not lavender fragrance. DAP Plug in diffuser: DAP = Dog Appeasing Pheromone is the pheromone that is released when a mother dog is nursing her puppies. There have been no scientific studies that have shown that this works, but some owners report a benefit to using DAP, so it is worth trying and isn’t harmful. [editor’s note: Using any oral calmer in combination with a Pheromone diffuser seems to work best. It takes several days for these to start working – it isn’t immediate but they are a much better option if you can avoid heavy duty prescription sedatives such as Acepromazine, Trazodone, etc. Of course always keep your vet in the loop on all things you give your dog.

Use a DAP diffuser with one oral calmer from below:

  1. Composure Soft Chews are colostrum based like calming mother’s milk and contain 21 mg of L-Theanine. VetriScience Laboratories Composure, Calming Support for Dogs, 120 Bite Sized Chews

  2. ANXITANE® (L-Theanine) Chewable Tablet contain 50 mg L-Theanine, an amino acid that acts neurologically to help keep dogs calm and relaxed:   http://us.virbac.com/anxitane
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