Your four-legged family members may not be able to read a calendar, but they realize something’s afoot when delicious aromas start wafting through the house and all their family is around. They begin getting excited when friends start showing up at the door, carrying more sweet-smelling treats. With all the extra food and people around, Thanksgiving can be a dangerous holiday for our dogs. Unless we prepare them, and our guests, in advance.
Here are some great ways to prepare for guests:
- Let your guests know ahead of time that your dog will be at the party.
- Brush up on your dog’s manners during the weeks leading up to the event. Some helpful commands are ‘Settle’, ‘Place’, ‘Off’, and ‘Leave It’.
- Think about who and how many are coming. Are there going to be any children? How about any other dogs? Has your dog met the people and/or pets before? How does your dog react in these situations? What is their stress threshold. What could make them nervous?
- Make sure guests know the best way to enter your home. Sometimes doorbells or knocking sounds can cause dogs to be protective or become overly excited. You can let all you guests know in advance that the door will be open, can tape over your doorbell to ensure no one uses it and/or can put a sign on your door with instructions not to knock.
- Create a safe space for your dog to retreat in case they get overwhelmed or stressed. It should be a quiet space away from the hubbub of the kitchen, the table and all the guests. It would be best to have their crate, bed or favorite blankets there for them to cozy up to. Maybe play some soothing music and have something for them to chew or lick to help sooth their anxiety. Show them the space before anyone arrives and make sure they have access to it even during the big event so they can excuse themselves if they want to. Understand and recognize stress signs in your dog and escort them to their safe space when needed. You may also want to think about making a plan to have a friend on call who is willing to take your dog for the day if they have an extreme response.
What if your guests include some of the four-legged variety? Well, here are some ways to ensure those interactions go smoothly as well:
- Dogs should always meet on neutral territory, so do not let dogs your dog has never met before into your home. Taking them on a walk together where they can get to know one another without being forced to interact is a great first meeting. Make sure to do this well in advance of the holiday so you don’t add extra stress to your day.
- Set your house rules and communicate them to your guests. You definitely don’t want your sister’s dog on the couch if the dog of the house isn’t allowed to do that. And no pets should be fed from the table (but they can share in the holiday, read below for some ideas)
- Just like your dog should have a safe space set up in advance, there should be one for each dog entering the home as a guest as well. That way they can each be separated to calm, relax and feel safe. Understand and recognize animal body language to know if these spaces are needed in the moment.
- Make sure you have enough treats and toys to give each dog their own. Some puzzles or long-term chews can be a good option to get them engaged and busy. However, some dogs don’t like to share, so keep a watchful eye and be prepared to pick up all toys, treats and chews if they become a problem.
- Be aware of the four most common triggers for dog aggression: food, toys, tight spaces and your attention. Affection is a resource, and not all dogs like to share. When giving out attention, food or toys make sure to keep an eye out. Try to keep the dogs in areas of the home that have more room for them move around. And be ready to escort the dogs to their safe places of the home if needed.
We recommend you set some strict rules about feeding, as many traditional foods can be harmful to them. Make sure your guests know not to give any of the following foods to your dog:
- Grapes and raisins are severe and potentially fatal for your pup’s kidneys. Don’t ignore the many salads that might come in loaded with grapes and/or raisins, such as Waldorf, ambrosias and fruit salads.
- Chocolate can be fatal to your dog. And most dogs love the smell. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is to canines.
- Stuffing may seem about innocuous as it gets, but most stuffing recipes call for scallions, onions, or garlic, all of which can be deadly to your pooch.
- Turkey bones are perhaps the most well-known danger on Thanksgiving for your dog. The sharp bones can perforate abdominal walls or intestines and the ensuing infection may be fatal.
- Ham is a popular item on many Thanksgiving tables but keep all pork products away from your dog. Pork can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and even pancreatitis.
Sharing the bounty of the Thanksgiving holiday with your dog can be fun. The following foods are great for dogs and worth sharing:
- Turkey meat (no bone or skin)
- Plain, cooked potatoes or sweet potatoes
- Plain, cooked pumpkin
- Plain peas
- Apples (no core or seeds)
- Green Beans
You can also make Thanksgiving for your dog very special by mixing up some homemade treats while you’re cooking in the kitchen. Here’s one of our favorite recipes:
Pumpkin Spice Dog Treats
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
- 3 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all the ingredients to form a dough. Gather it into a ball. Sprinkle the surface with extra flour and then roll out your dough. Use a puppy-inspired cookie cutter to punch fun shapes from the dough. Place the treats onto a baking sheet and bake 15 to 20 minutes for softer treats and 30 minutes for harder treats. Yum!!
We hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family, friends and pets. With these tips, everything should go off without a hitch. Enjoy your big feast!