Crate rest

Crate rest

Crate rest summary

If your dog is recovering from injury or surgery, then your vet may have advised a few weeks of “crate rest”. Confinement to a crate or indoor dog pen helps prevent your dog from damaging him or herself by running about, jumping on and off furniture and using the stairs.

“Your dog needs to stay safe and comfortable during recovery”

This  can be a challenging time for dog owners, so do read on for more information. A quick summary of helping your dog through the crate rest period is included on this page. For more detailed information, you can follow the clickable links, or use the menu on the right hand side of the page if it is visible on your device. Advice is also available for dogs going through room rest

Above: This is a good-sized crate for a small terrier like Mac. He did well with this set-up, but some dogs would need a bed without raised edges.

Your dog will be in the crate or dog pen for nearly 24 hours per day, perhaps for weeks at a time. This space will be your dog’s world for much of this time, so do take care to set it up comfortably. For general tips on keeping your dog comfortable during the recovery period, please click here.

For social media discussion on the subjects of crate rest, room rest and recovery, you may be interested in the Recovery Space Dog Welfare Project page on Facebook, accessed by clicking here. Whether from dog owners, vets, nurses and physiotherapists, it is always good to hear your ideas and shared stories. 

Above: Running, chasing and slick floors are too risky during recovery.

A quick summary: if your dog is in a recovery crate or pen…

  • Choose a sturdy, purpose-built crate. An open-top dog pen can be used if your dog will definitely not try to escape.
  • The crate should be big enough for your dog to lie fully stretched out, to sit or stand facing in a choice of directions, to yawn and stretch, to eat, and to lick or chew at toys. If your dog is too large to fit comfortably into a crate or dog pen, then room rest may be a better option. Discuss this with your vet. 
  • Choose a position for the crate that will stay comfortable all day and all night.
  • If possible, get the crate or pen before it is really needed. Set it up comfortably with bedding, toys, food and water before showing it to your dog. Introduce your dog to the crate gradually (over several days if possible).
  • Cover the base of the crate with non-slip matting. Put comfortable bedding on top of this.
  • When opening the crate or pen door, take care that your dog does not try to run out past you. If you leave the dog with a harness on at all times, then its top strap can act as a safety “grab handle”.

Above: It’s healthy for dogs to stretch during recovery. The crate or pen should give your dog enough space to stretch and to change position comfortably. 

A few further tips on keeping your recovering dog safe and comfortable

  • For safety, most recovering dogs must avoid running, jumping, stairs, ball play, rough play and slick floors. Check with your vet as to what your own dog is allowed to do.
  • Choose hard-wearing chewable toys for your recovering dog. Food-dispensing toys such as filled Kongs® are particularly good as boredom-busters. 
  • Make a regular daily routine for your recovering dog. This should include toilet breaks, feeding times, some quality time spent with you, and quiet times for rest.
  • Reward your dog for good behaviour with praise and small food rewards. Avoid punishing your dog during recovery.
  • Whenever outside the crate or pen, your dog must be either carried, or on a lead.
  • A harness is better than a collar during recovery. A harness with a Y-shaped front is best. You will also need a fixed-length lead (not an extendable lead). 
  • Keep your fingers tucked into the harness while sitting and relaxing with your dog outside the crate, pen or recovery room.
  • Walk very slowly when your dog is on the lead. This helps your recovering dog to use each paw properly.

For more information…

Try the following links for more advice on caring for your recovering dog:

Keeping your recovering dog calm and content
Choosing a recovery crate or pen
Daily routine for the recovering dog
Bedding for recovering dogs
Flooring for recovering dogs
Toys for recovering dogs
Staying positive during your dog’s recovery


For a free printable resource on “crate rest”, click here


 The above notes are in PDF format, and include the following topics:

  • Why does my dog need crate rest?
  • Choosing a crate
  • Where should I put the crate?
  • How to make the crate comfortable
  • Bedding
  • Flooring
  • Food and water bowls
  • Toys
  • How to introduce a dog to their recovery crate 
  • What to do if your dog won’t stop crying
  • How to keep your dog safe outside the crate 
  • Daily routine for the recovering dog
  • Extra activities during recovery
  • Staying positive during your dog’s recovery



5 thoughts on “Crate rest

  1. Amy

    Thanks for the information you provide on this website. We have a German Shorthaired Pointer, Hanna, we adopted in January who we found out this week has torn her ACL. She is only 10 months old and I’m so sad this happened to her. We are going forward with the TPLO surgery as soon as we can get it scheduled and our vet is great at answering questions and providing guidance but I am trying to do some research on my own to calm my own nerves that we can all get through this. I’m a very experienced dog mom (we have 4 dogs currently) and we’ve fostered over a hundred other dogs for local rescues but I’m extremely nervous for the upcoming surgery because of Hanna’s wild, playful and sometimes anxious demeanor. Most of what you shared were things I had already learned in my past experiences but I found many things that were helpful on this site! For example, I forgot about the diffuser which I had success with before (but ran out) and in addition to ordering refills for that I have also ordered a harness for our girl to give us a few more tools to handle this upcoming recovery. We followed you on Facebook and will share a pic or two when we get a chance. Thanks again!

  2. Lola

    So glad I found this site. Tho I wish I found it sooner!
    Our very busy dachsund cross went down paralyzed from a ruptured disc. Thankfully immediate surgery went well. However, he was a really tough nugget to keep safe after surgery. He started bolting before we knew he could walk at all. He basically dragged himself like a bowlingball set free. He also was doing a lot of digging in his crate- to the point he’d displace the bedding and be on the slick pan under it. We tried an open top situation first, but, even though he couldnt walk, he’d manage to stand up on his back legs then pitch over backwards when they couldnt hold him.
    He’d toss his bandaged back at the wall also- i guess thinking there was a big big bug on it biting him. He hated being held to go outside because it hurt and would try and reverse back dive out if our arms.
    Eventually he was sedated more. And we had to basically watch him like a human infant in the ICU! If he wasn’t sedated.
    His recovery was very painful due to his constant antics.
    Oh and Even on very short leads he realized if he cut across in front of me he could get some running in (he prefers to run for balance).
    I’m using an elastic lead now and just figure his recovery will be punctuated with various outbreaks of pain due to his craziness.
    ….But he walks pretty well just 4 weeks post surgery and I imagine his undying energy is some part of that.

    1. animalrehab1 Post author

      Glad to hear your dog is now walking pretty well. With a lively dog like this, it’s helpful for the dog to wear a well-fitting chest harness (see here). When walking, attach the lead to the top of the harness for safe control. The best lead to use is a fixed-length one that feels comfortable in your hand: ideally not an elastic one and definitely not an extendable lead. Keep two hands on the lead, one holding the end of the lead and the other hand holding the lead a bit closer to the dog. If your dog pulls, leaps or spins, then this system means his weight will stay safely over all four feet rather than twisting his back. Many dogs are fine with the harness left on through the day at home too. Just check it fits snuggly so that it doesn’t chafe or get caught in anything. The top of the harness acts as a grab-handle for you as the dog tries to rush out of his cage when you fetch him, or if you’re sitting with him.

      Regarding sedation during recovery, I personally try to avoid it if at all possible but it can be useful in occasional dogs. For a jumpy dachshund who needs a closed-top crate, an XXL or even a giant cage is best. I’d remove the slippery try from the cage and instead line the base with non-slip matting topped with vet bed or other fleece. Dachshunds like to dig through layers of blankets or fleece with their front paws. That’s safe for most of them during recovery: it gives them something to do, and it encourages them to balance on and therefore strengthen their hind limbs. Filled Kongs and other food-dispensing toys are also useful for energetic dogs.

  3. Emily

    What a great article, can’t believe I only found this now (11 days post tibial crest avulsion surgery). I have an energetic puppy who’s 4.5 months old. He’s generally happy and sleepy in his crate, but has a couple of crazies per days around the same times. He loves to stand on his back legs (the left hind leg is the one having had surgery), and tends to do that when he wants to be out of his crate. Should I be worried? Is that a movement that’s generally safe for a puppy who got pins and wires in his knee? Thanks so much!

    1. animalrehab1 Post author

      Hi Emily, standing up on the hind legs now and then is very unlikely to cause any damage. But really boisterous behaviour such as repeated bouncing up and down (leaping up off the floor and jump-landing, or running about loose in the room) might make the joint inflamed or even cause the pins to slip. Puppies will be energetic, and all you can do is to keep yours as calm as possible.
      Minimise the risk of him going crazy at out-of-crate time by giving him plenty of filled toys/food dispensers to keep him busy within the crate, and by keeping your voice calm and low pitch when you fetch him from the crate. Injury is more likely to happen if the pup rushes out of the crate at top speed when you open its door. Be ready to restrain him as you open the crate door: I tend to fit my patients with a good harness and, unless I’m worried about it getting caught up on something, I leave the harness on the crated dog so that the owner can grab the top of the harness on opening the door of the crate.
      Best of luck with your pup’s ongoing recovery.

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