For all the excitement and nostalgia in the air, the holidays can be an overwhelming time of year, especially for dog owners. Between planning trips and dinners, it can be hard to keep the family dog in mind, but you shouldn't stress. There are easy ways you can make thanksgiving enjoyable for everyone in your household!
Start Doing Now
If you have a young dog or a dog that doesn't do well in new situations, you should start working on some simple training exercises to get your dog comfortable with new faces while it's early.
- The Name Game is an easy exercise that rewards your dog for looking at you when you call his name. This is a great primer for any dog who struggles with focusing on you, whether at home or out and about.
- If you don't think your dog would enjoy Thanksgiving with the family, invest in a crate and start conditioning your dog to it now. Simply putting him in the crate with a tasty treat for short periods (5-10 minutes) is a great way to get started.
- Brush up on your socialization and front-door skills by taking your dogs on walks, and encouraging calm behavior around the front door. Establishing positive habits around the door not only makes greeting guests easier, but regular walks, too.
Many Thanksgiving foods are safe for dogs and can be fed alongside or as a substitute for your dogs regular dinner. Table scraps are not necessarily bad for dogs, and on the contrary, introduce freshness and variety to your dogs diet that he probably isn't getting in his regular kibble. Some common thanksgiving treats that your dog will love include:
- Turkey fed raw or cooked is a great treat for your dog. You can feed your dog the raw organs, innards, and unused trim as well as raw neck bones, feet, tail, and skin. Fresh, uncooked raw meat is perfectly safe for dogs and can be set aside while you're preparing your bird and before it's seasoned. Of course, you can also feed your dog cooked turkey leftovers, (excluding cooked turkey bone, which cannot be fed.)
- Sweet Potatoes are high in beta-carotene, vitamins A & C, and fiber. Cooked, unseasoned sweet potatoes are a great meal topper and can be fed in small amounts alongside your dogs dinner even outside of Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, due to the harmful artificial sweeteners found in marshmallows, sweet potatoes that have been baked with marshmallows should not be fed. (They contain an unhealthy amount of sugar for dogs, besides.
- Mashed Potatoes are OK for your dog to eat, but they provide little nutritional value and the addition of cheese and gravy can upset your dogs stomach. That being said, a spoonful of leftovers probably wont hurt.
- Cranberries are packed with antioxitants and vitamins and have proven infection-fighting capabilities and can be fed in small quantities. Avoid the cranberries that come from a can, and finished cranberry sauces which can have additives like sugar and liquor that are unhealthy for your dog.
- Pumpkin fed cooked or raw is a staple for homemade dog treats. You can give your dog raw pumpkin puree if you're making fresh pies, but you should avoid giving your dog the sweetened, finished pie.
Before Guests Arrive
If you're going to be up early to start cooking anyway, it's a good idea to take your dog on a long walk —or even better, go for a run at the park. The old adage bears repeating: “A tired dog is a good dog.” The more time you can spend with your dog in the morning before all the activity starts, the better.
It's also a good idea to stock up on some creature comforts to keep your dog busy, either while he's in his crate, or while everyone is eating. One of the easiest ways you can prevent your dogs bad behavior is to teach him new, good ones. If you give your dog something to do, like chew on a tasty bone, it's unlikely he'll spend too much time bothering you.
If your dog likes a crowd, he'll love Thanksgiving. You can help keep his energy under control by providing him with things to do that don't include barking at the door or chasing the kids. Periodic alone-time in the backyard or crate (with a treat or toy, to minimize stress) is a great way to let your dog relax. Keep in mind that even if your dog normally does very well with lots of people, he can still be overwhelmed by all the activity during the holidays.
We're big fans of baby gates and other easy-to-install barriers to keep your dog in the same room without begging or stealing from the table. Your dog may need to be conditioned to the gate (especially if he's a big dog) as many dogs can jump over baby gates —and will —given the opportunity. These kinds of barriers are great for older dogs, and for when your company has dogs.
No matter how Thanksgiving went, its important to treat your dog to some personal time after the big day to unwind and get back into your regular routine. You and your dog will both enjoy a nice walk after all that eating! And don't forget to separate some leftovers for your dog! Cooked turkey and sweet potatoes make great training treats, and you can even freeze many of your left overs or stuff them into kongs and other puzzle toys to keep your dog occupied long after Thanksgiving is over.