When guests are coming to town and festivities are planned, it’s important to remember that your dog needs special attention to make his holiday enjoyable and hazard-free. Keep it safe and make it fun for your dog this Thanksgiving with these dos and don’t for pet parents.
In just a few days your home will be filled with family and food. Holidays are very hectic, and they can be extremely stressful for pets. Of course you'll want to focus on your guests, but you can't forget about your pup and his needs.
You may even be traveling with your dog for the holiday, which can lead to a whole other list of safety concerns. No matter how you're celebrating this Thanksgiving, be sure you're paying just as much attention to your Fido as you do every other day of the year.
Thanksgiving with Dogs: Here are 20 Dos and Don'ts for Pet Parents
Making it Fun
DO supervise children at all times with your dog. While your nieces and nephews may be delighted with your pet and are trying hard to be gentle, many of them (especially those who are less familiar with pets, and your dog in particular) may be unintentionally rough or handle your dog in a way that bothers him. For everyone’s safety and comfort, make sure that your dog isn’t left unsupervised with children.
DON’T expect more of your dog than he can handle. For a dog who’s used to spending a significant amount of time alone, or just with your family, it may be overwhelming to find himself in a room full of chattering relatives and active children. Find time to let him be alone if you possibly can so that he doesn’t panic.
DO consider setting up a special room for your dog to play in during the meal. You’ll be busy refilling drinks, carving the turkey, clearing away plates, and slicing pie. You’ll have a much easier time without your dog trying to get your attention the entire time.
Set up a comfortable bed or crate, your dog’s favorite toys, and perhaps try some relaxing music. Test this ahead of time to make sure that it doesn’t have the opposite effect and make your dog bark.
DO include your dog in the sporting activities. While everyone’s tossing around the football, you can engage your pooch with a frisbee or rubber ball. Make sure to get one that’s hard enough to bounce, but soft enough to be safe for his teeth and jaw.
DO get your dog a special toy to enjoy while your guests are talking and watching television. One option is getting a Nylabone Turkey & Cranberry–Flavored DuraChew. If your dog prefers a favorite toy or game that you already have, make sure to get it out for him to play with. This can be a stressful time for him and you want him to be aware that you know he's doing his best.
DO make the time for a walk or a game of fetch, especially if the weather’s good. After a hearty meal, some exercise will be just what your dog needs to recharge. It’s also a good idea to wear your dog out in the morning before guests arrive so he won’t be as tempted to jump on everyone who walks through the door.
DON’T let your dog snack all day long. Even if the treats are healthy, your dog can get pretty sick if he has too much to eat. Instead, get him a dental chew or an interactive toy to keep him busy while everyone else is watching a movie.
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DO ask your guests (or relatives) not to sneak your dog food from the table.
DON’T expect your dog to entertain himself when the counter tops are covered in tempting food. Locking him in another room while delicious aromas waft his way will make him over-excited and frustrated. Instead, find a friend or family member to play with him while you’re finishing up the details of the big meal.
DO prepare your dog something he really enjoys. There are hundreds of ideas online for everything from complete Thanksgiving turkey dinners for dogs to healthy, pet-safe pumpkin pies.
DO give your dog his special meal before everyone else sits down at the table. This way his tummy will be full and he’ll be less tempted to beg for scraps.
DO keep your dog entertained while everyone else is feasting with a toy that hides a treat, a food-filled Kong, or a long-lasting stuffed bone.
DON’T give your dog human food. It is frequently bad for dogs and can make them ill very quickly. Some things you’ll want to avoid:
- Rich, fatty foods like turkey skin and gravy
- Filling from the turkey like onions and sage
- Grapes, raisins, and currants
- Nuts, especially macadamia nuts
DO feel free to offer your dog limited options from the Thanksgiving table that are good for him, including:
- Skinless, boneless cooked turkey
- Steamed, plain green beans
- Steamed, plain carrots
- Plain mashed sweet potato, pumpkin, or butternut squash
- Gravy free of onions, spices, herbs, and sweeteners
DO watch out for non-food (or non-edible) hazards that he may be able to reach, like the following common Thanksgiving items:
- Baking strings – used to secure the turkey and can cause obstructions if your dog gets a hold of them.
- Cooked turkey bones – can splinter, causing your dog serious problems that may require surgery or could even cause death.
- Corn cobs – can be a major choking hazard for your dog.
- Holiday decorations – very dangerous for dogs; flowers can be ingested, candles can fall and start a fire, and flameless candles with batteries can be swallowed. It’s fine to enjoy holiday decor, but make sure that it’s out of the reach of your pets.
- Turkey brine – should be discarded immediately after use. This salty, sugary solution may make your turkey moist and juicy, but if your dog drinks it he can get salt toxicosis, which results in brain swelling.
DON’T leave trash cans open. Open trash cans are an easy target for your dog to get into trouble quickly. Even a small dog can knock an open trash can over and get themselves into trouble quickly. Close all trash cans and take tempting-smelling trash out of the room where your dog will be spending time so they don’t paw it all day long.
DO keep your vet’s phone number and the Pet Poison Helpline number close at hand in case an accident does occur. You won’t want to spend a single second looking it up if your pet is in trouble.
FURTHER READING: Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Dog Owners
DO make sure that your dog is wearing a collar with an ID tag. If you’re traveling, this is absolutely essential. Even if you’re home, hosting guests means that doors are opening and closing, and not everyone may be aware of whether your dog is coming or going, or fully understand your rules about where they’re allowed to do.
DO update your dog’s microchip. Again, it’s easy to lose your pet when you’re out of your normal routine, and whether you’re at home or traveling, it’s so much safer to have his microchip up to date.
DO make sure that you leave your pet with a friend, dog boarder, or kennel you can trust. If you leave your pet home alone, accidents can happen without your awareness. It’s impossible to know when your home or apartment could have a problem with heating or air conditioning, or when a pipe could burst or a fire could break out.