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11 Ways to Keep a Dog Calm & Entertained After Spay/Neutering | Pupford

January 31st, 2024

Filed under Health + Wellness

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“My vet told me that the most important thing to do right now is to keep my dog calm and still… HELP!” (This is one of the huge benefits of crate training!)

We’ve heard that plea once or twice (or a thousand times).

Whether it’s recovering from an injury, healing from getting spayed/neutered, or other procedure, there are instances where it’s best for our dogs to lay low and stay calm… but we also know that can be next to impossible sometimes, especially for younger dogs.

The best way to keep your dog engaged, entertained, and happy during recovery is to make up for physical activity with mental exercise.

Keeping your dog’s brain busy after surgery distracts them from stitches or injury sites, tires them out, and keeps them sharp -- which is super important for healing and continuing their development.

Related Reading: How to Clean a Puppy Without Bathing


Before we dive into each idea, here's a quick overview of ways to calm and entertain your dog after being spayed or neutered:

  1. Puzzle toys
  2. Muffin tin game
  3. Cup game
  4. Long-lasting chews
  5. Lick mats
  6. Snuffle mats
  7. Teach them a new trick
  8. Pet strollers
  9. Pupsicles
  10. Enrichment activities
  11. Work on training

Alright, now let's look at each idea in detail! 👇

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Enrichment toys like puzzle toys can be filled with spreads or treats to test your dog’s nose and brain.

These boredom busters engage your dog’s mind to figure out how to get the treats while providing an appropriate outlet for chewing. It's a great way to entertain your pup while keeping them from running!

Check out a few of our favorite enrichment toys here.

🧠 Work your dog's brain with our collection of mental exercise toys and games. Shop brain toys here!


The muffin tin game is an easy and inexpensive game that can be played indoors with very little physical effort from your dog.

For this game, you’ll place treats in some of the holes of a muffin tin. Then, cover each hole with a tennis ball. That’s it!

Your dog’s brain will go into problem-solving mode to figure out where the treats are and how to get them.


Short on tennis balls or need the muffin tin for actual baking? No problem -- the cup game is another great activity for keeping your pup’s brain engaged.

Start by placing 3-5 cups upside down on the floor with treats under them. Reveal the treats to your dog, letting them get the treats.

Once your dog catches on to the fact that there are treats under the cups, replace the treats -- but only under some of the cups.

Your dog will use their nose and brain to figure out which cup has a treat underneath and how to remove the cup. Reset and repeat for entertainment after spaying or neutering!


golden doodle with a bully stick | Pupford

Did you know that gnawing and chewing provides mental stimulation for your dog? Chews like beef tendons, bully sticks, split antlers, and more, provide a healthy chewing outlet -- saving your furniture, shoes from being stolen & destroyed, and sanity.

Be sure to choose a chew that’s made with low calorie & healthy ingredients that are appropriate for your dog’s size and age.

Check out our favorite dog chews here.


Lick mats are similar to chews in how they keep your dog’s brain engaged, but with licking instead of chewing.

Swipe on a tasty concoction (like natural peanut butter without xylitol and greek yogurt), pop it in the freezer for a little bit, and let your dog lick away!

Lick mats can also be helpful for keeping your dog calm and distracted during bathing, bandage changes, or wound care.

For more information about lick mats including recipe inspiration, see our Lick Mat Guide here.

a puppy using a lick mat after being spayed | Pupford
🧠 Work your dog's brain with our collection of mental exercise toys and games. Shop brain toys here!


You can turn meal time into a brain game with a snuffle mat.

Snuffle mats work your dog’s nose and brain while feeding them -- win-win!

Learn more about the snuffle mat and shop yours here.

Related Reading: My Dog Eats Too Fast! Here's How to Slow Down a Dog Eating


Despite the old saying, you absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks. Any dog can learn something new!

You can challenge your dog’s brain by teaching them a fun trick. Just be sure to pick one that aligns with the level of physical activity your dog can handle during their recovery stage. When in doubt, clear it with your vet first!

Pupford’s Dog Trick Training Courses contains instructions for teaching your pup 40 fun tricks -- building communication and strengthening your relationship in the process!


Yes, you’ll be *that* dog parent. No, we’re not judging.

Getting your dog some fresh air and a change of scenery keeps their brain working, since they’ll be processing all the sights and smells. But unfortunately, post-surgery is not a great time to hit the hiking trail or take a long wa lk.

Dog strollers are a great way to give your dog the benefits of the great outdoors without taxing them physically.

It’s also a great option for senior dogs and dogs with arthritis or other joint issues who cannot walk long distances.

Check out some pet stroller recommendations from the American Kennel Club here.


Pupsicles are a great way to show your dog a little extra love after surgery with a special treat. And with the right ingredients, they’ll also work your dog’s brain. But don’t worry, they’ll enjoy the treat too much to realize they’re being put to work!

Freezing something enticing and solid within the pupsicle will make your dog work to get at it. For example, freezing berries in a base of plain yogurt or pieces of chicken in a base of low-sodium chicken broth.

We have some great pupsicle recipes in our recent Summer Dogs article here.


using a snuffle mat is a great way to entertain a dog after being neutered | Pupford

Needing a little extra brain work is a common theme for many of the pup parents we talk to, so we made a dedicated course for Enrichment Activities.

In this course, you’ll get step-by-step instruction for 20 activities that keep your dog engaged. The course will be yours to keep, so you can utilize it well after your pup heals.

This is great because enrichment is one of the most underrated ways to keep your dog happy and busy after being neutered or spayed!

Check out the video-style course here.

Related Reading: Enrichment for Dogs Guide


While your dog is recovering, you can still work on some training with your dog, like impulse control or crate training. Keep the training sessions around 5-10 minutes to keep your dog engaged the whole time.

Related Reading: 4 Impulse Control Games for Dogs

Get access to an ever-growing library of premium dog training courses here.


dog with cone on head after surgery| Pupford

While your vet will provide specific steps for caring for your dog after their surgery, there are a few tips that can apply to all recovery situations:

  • Rotate toys, games, and activities often to keep them interesting
  • Keep your dog’s environment stimulating, but comfortable. This can be as simple as swapping in a new blanket or moving their crate to a different side of the room for a new view.
  • Keep play sessions short and sweet so you don’t overwork your dog -- they need their energy for healing!
  • Limit alone time in the beginning of recovery to ensure your dog doesn’t have any issues, or doesn’t lick/scratch at stitches. They also may be more anxious or stressed than usual following a surgery.
  • Talk to your vet -- they are here to help! Don’t be afraid to ask questions or check in with them to make sure your dog heals up perfectly.


After your dog is spayed or neutered, it's vital to keep them entertained without much physical activity. Hopefully these 11 ideas, toys, and games will help your pup have a smooth recovery!

Here's a recap of 11 tips to entertain a dog after surgery:

  1. Puzzle toys
  2. Muffin tin game
  3. Cup game
  4. Long-lasting chews
  5. Lick mats
  6. Snuffle mats
  7. Teach them a new trick
  8. Pet strollers
  9. Pupsicles
  10. Enrichment activities
  11. Work on training

Have any other tips for keeping your dog’s brain busy during surgery? Share them in the comments below!

🧠 Work your dog's brain with our collection of mental exercise toys and games. Shop brain toys here!


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