How to Have the Best Thanksgiving Ever With Your Dog

We have a lot to be thankful for here at Tully’s Training – first and foremost, our amazing canine students and their families!

We know the holidays can be a stressful time for all family members, furry and non-furry. In fact, we see more dog bites and animal emergency room visits during the holidays than any other time of the year!

Here are some ways to make sure that everyone has the safe, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving they deserve:

Create a Safe Space for Your Dog

If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, a cocktail party, or just putting up out-of-towners on your couch, this is a wonderful time to create a “yoga room” for your dog. This is a calm, relaxing space that is just for them, no visitors allowed! Pick a room in your house and set it up well before your guests arrive with favorite toys, chews, a comfy bed or crate, and some relaxing music – pull out the stops! Think of what kind of retreat would make you feel safe and relaxed and most likely, your dog would agree!

This will be where he or she stays during the dinner or party – it is much easier to know that your pup is contained and happy, than try to wrangle him away from food-filled counters and tables, young guests, candles, fallen food scraps, etc., etc., etc.! You will be busy cooking, filling wine glasses, and being the best Thanksgiving host ever. Why give yourself another job?

Some fun things to try:

  • Soothing scents: Lavender oil is shown to be soothing to dogs’ nervous systems. It's most useful when applied to bedding or spritzed on furniture. It can be irritating if applied directly to their skin.
  • DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) Diffuser: this is a synthetic hormone which mimics one produced by lactating canine moms. It has been shown to have a calming effect on dogs.
  • Through A Dog’s Ear Music Series: these recordings have been scientifically proven to reduce stress in animals using psychoacoustics. They also sell a portable player that is pre-loaded with four hours of these recordings called iCalmDog – super cool!
  • A Stuffed KONG Toy: this is a perfect opportunity to make your dog an extra special treat!

→ An Important Note:

If you decide to use any of these options, make sure to practice before the actual event. The point is for your dog to be familiar with the “yoga room” and happy to go right in and hang out when you need them to!

Human Foods That Can Be Dangerous to Your Dog

We all know chocolate and sweets are bad for our pups. There some other holiday-specific foods that can cause serious health issues for them as well.

Dr. Kwane Stewart, Chief Veterinary Officer of the American Humane Association, has come up with a handy acronym to help pet owners memorize these foods that are prevalent in holiday cooking: MOMGANGX. (It’s like being back in school, right?!)

Macadamia nuts
Grapes (and raisins)

Each of these foods can wreak havoc on canine digestive, muscular, and nervous systems - some may even cause death. Avoid them at all costs!

Also, be aware of what bits of Thanksgiving turkey you share with your four-legged friend. Cooked bones can splinter and cause choking and stomach lacerations – stick with raw bones instead. Turkey skins are fatty and can cause gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis. Stick with meat and only meat!

This guy is definitely having the best Thanksgiving ever.

This guy is definitely having the best Thanksgiving ever.

A Tired Dog is a Well-Behaved Dog

Exercise and mental stimulation are always important for our dogs. It is easy to make these less of a priority with the hassle of guests, cooking, shopping, and everything else that goes into your Thanksgiving celebration. However, your dog’s needs do not change simply because it’s Thanksgiving and you are busier than normal. You wouldn’t forget to feed your kids or take them to school because you have some extra baking and decorating to do. Make these things even more of a priority than usual. Have an especially busy day of holiday errands? Get up half an hour earlier to make sure your pup gets their exercise. If you know your Thanksgiving begins at 4PM, give them a good long walk, run, or hike in the morning! Buy them a special puzzle toy just for the occasion.

Add these things to your calendar or planner if it will help you remember! You will save yourself and your dog a good amount of stress by giving them those regular opportunities to blow off steam and use their brain constructively.

Choosing a Pet Sitter for Your Dog

If you're traveling for Thanksgiving, find a sitter early – the holidays are a busy time and pet sitters book up fast! It’s best to get references from friends or family, but make sure to do your own research. Here are some good things to find out, as recommend by the Humane Society of the United States:

  • Can the pet sitter provide written proof that she has commercial liability insurance (to cover accidents and negligence) and is bonded (to protect against theft by a pet sitter or her employees)?
  • What training has the pet sitter completed?
  • Will the pet sitter record notes about your pet—such as his likes, dislikes, fears, habits, medical conditions, medications, and routines?
  • Is the pet sitter associated with a veterinarian who can provide emergency services?
  • What will happen if the pet sitter experiences car trouble or becomes ill? Does she have a backup?
  • Will the pet sitter provide related services such as in-home grooming, dog walking, dog training and play time?
  • Will the pet sitter provide a written service contract spelling out services and fees?
  • If the pet sitter provides live-in services, what are the specific times she agrees to be with your pet? Is this detailed in the contract?
  • How does your pet sitter make sure that you have returned home?
  • Will the pet sitter provide you with the phone numbers of other clients who have agreed to serve as references?

Even if you like what you hear from the pet sitter and from their references, it's important to have the prospective pet sitter come to your home to meet your pet before actually hiring them for a pet-sitting job. Watch how they interact with your pet—does your pet seem comfortable with the person? If this visit goes well, start by hiring the pet sitter to care for your pet during a short trip, such as a weekend excursion. That way, you can work out any problems before leaving your beloved pet in the pet sitter's care for longer periods.

From all of us at Tully’s – Happy Thanksgiving!