Top Tips for a Happy Thanksgiving With Your Dog

Dog running through leaves outside
For many, Thanksgiving is a time for celebrations and an opportunity for friends and family to get together. Although dogs are part of our family, we should remember that they have different needs from humans. Big changes to their environment, routines and people can cause stress and anxiety. 

It’s worth spending time ahead of Thanksgiving to make plans so they stay healthy, safe and relaxed during the celebrations.

Here you'll find some practical tips to help to prepare you and your dog for Thanksgiving.

Routines

Dogs tend to thrive on an established routine, giving them consistency and familiarity. Even during celebrations such as Thanksgiving, sticking to an established routine will help your dog to cope with any changes and unfamiliar activities. The following are a few considerations:

Illustration of a dog on a lead

Walking

Your dog needs walking every day and special occasions shouldn’t be any different. Take the time to take your dog on their usual walks. The exercise will release some of their energy and is also an opportunity for them to take time away from any unfamiliar or busy situations at home.

Illustration of a sleeping dog

Resting

If your dog often rests during the day, remember to give your dog the chance to sleep in their own space. Ideally, their bed should stay in its usual place to keep everything as normal as possible. However, if there is likely to be a lot of activity happening where they usually rest, consider moving the bed to an alternative, calmer location. Try moving the location several days before Thanksgiving so that your dog is familiarized with the change beforehand. 

Illustration of a bowl of dog food

Mealtimes

Mealtimes are an important part of our day, and the same is true for your dog! Stick to their usual mealtimes to keep things consistent and give your usual food choices wherever possible to avoid stomach upset.

Feeding and Diet

During the festive period, it's easy for routines and habits to change and this often includes our diet. However, it's important to ensure your dog's diet and feeding routine remains consistent to help them stay healthy.

Illustration of a plate

Avoid Human Food

It can be tempting to indulge your dog, however, we need to remember that their diet is different from our diet for a reason. Some human foods can be harmful to your dog and knowing which foods are toxic can help you better protect them from getting sick.

Illustration of a bag of dog food

Safe Food

While it is best to not feed your pet anything other than their regular diet, if you do want to treat your dog to a bit of festive food then a small amount of cooked turkey is acceptable. Just remember to remove any bones. Cooked bones are more brittle than uncooked ones, they can splinter into shards which not only can be a choking hazard, but can also cause serious damage to the mouth, throat and intestine.

Illustration of speech bubbles

Educate Your Guests

Given there is likely to be an influx of guests during the festive period it may be difficult to keep track of what your dog is eating, especially if some guests are likely to 'treat' your dog to a few scraps.

If this is the case, make sure your guests are also aware of which Thanksgiving food is safe for your dog. This will help avoid any trips to the emergency room!

For more information on foods which are toxic for your dog, check out our article. And if you're unsure about any particular food, keep it away from your dog until you have consulted with your veterinarian.

Toxic Foods to Avoid

Welcoming Visitors

If you are expecting a lot of guests or are planning to take your dog to the homes of family and friends, make sure you take the necessary steps to keep your dog comfortable and relaxed.

Some dogs are naturally more confident around big groups of people and other animals, however, if your dog is likely to be anxious you should do everything you can to prevent any stressful situations.

Make sure there is a safe and quiet place in your house, away from guests, for your dog to retreat to if the social situation becomes too much for them. Practice moving their bed beforehand so they are already used to its temporary location.

If you're visiting family and friends, taking your dog's bed, blanket and water bowl provides a bit of familiarity in what could be a stressful situation for them. Asking your host in advance if there is a quiet and safe space for your dog means your dog can retreat from large groups of people if they feel overwhelmed.


Going Away?

If you’re planning to visit friends and family during Thanksgiving, either you’ll be taking your dog with you or you will need to find suitable accommodation for your dog whether that be with a family friend or at boarding kennels.

Dog sat in a carrier

How to Travel With Your Dog - Advice If You’re Taking Your Dog With You…

If your dog isn’t used to traveling, you should try to familiarize them with the experience as soon as possible. Whether you are flying or driving, always make sure your pet is secured in a pet carrier.  This protects your pet from sudden movements or in the event of an accident. 

Some dogs, especially if they’re not used to travel, can get stressed and anxious at the experience and some dogs can even get car sick.

It’s worth knowing how they respond to car travel well before you leave so you have time to make alternative arrangements if necessary. 

On the journey itself, it can be a good idea to put a familiar blanket or toy in the crate to settle them down. Plan regular stops in advance too so your dog can relieve themselves and get some fresh air.  Take fresh blankets and towels with you, just in case you need to clean up. Always remember to frequently offer your dog water during the journey.

You should try to take their own bedding and food with you to keep things as familiar as possible. Changing a diet too quickly can result in a severely upset stomach so it’s always best to stick with their regular food. Remember to keep to their usual routine as much as possible so that they remain relaxed and confident – meal times and walk times especially.

If your dog is used to a quieter environment at home, it is helpful to find somewhere similar at your destination so that they can be as calm and comfortable as possible during your stay. 


How to Prepare Your Dog for Boarding

The alternative to taking your dog with you is to find somewhere close to your home who will take care of your dog while you’re away. If your dog hasn’t experienced a boarding environment before, here are a few tips to consider to make their stay comfortable.

Illustration of a clock

Take Time to Choose a Boarding Facility Carefully

It’s important to ensure the boarding service you choose has staff who are experienced and knowledgeable. The facility should be clean and well-run. Ask about their procedures for supporting anxious pets. Visit several facilities to see which you feel is the best environment for your dog. Do this well in advance of your trip away.

Illustration of a red house

Visit Several Times 

Take your dog to the boarding kennels a few times. Meet the staff and get them familiar with the environment. You could even book them in for a trial day or an overnight stay beforehand. This way, your dog will build their confidence which in turn means they’ll be more comfortable when the time comes for them to stay for a little longer.

Illustration of a female

Talk to Staff

The more information the staff have about your dog, the better. How do they prefer to be handled? Is there anything that causes them anxiety or stress? What is their typical routine? Do they experience separation anxiety when they are left alone? Understanding your dog’s individual needs means they will be able to make your dog as comfortable as possible during their stay.

Illustration of a blanket

Bring Familiar Blankets and Toys

When your pet is going to stay somewhere new, pack a little bit of home to go with them! A favorite toy or blanket will smell like you and your home and will be a welcome comfort for them as they settle into their holiday accommodation.

Illustration of a vaccine

Ensure Your Pet’s Vaccinations and Medications Are Up-to-Date

Most kennels will not accept an animal unless they have had all their vaccinations to ensure they are not susceptible to infectious diseases. If they take any regular medications, remember to take them when you drop your dog off.

Whatever your plans are over Thanksgiving, make sure to take a moment and plan ahead for your dog. Doing this well in advance will mean that both you and your dog feel confident, comfortable and ready for the experience. If you have any doubts or concerns, always consult your veterinarian who will be able to give you specific advice for your dog. 

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