Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends. Dogs are often included in the festivities, and for good reason. Dogs love to socialize, and the Thanksgiving holiday is a time that brings people together. As with all things in the canine world, a little planning goes a long way in making your Thanksgiving a happy and safe one for your dog.

Prep Before You Travel

If you need to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, there are some simple ways to prep beforehand: 

  • Create a packing list of items you’ll need for your dog, such as food, bowls, toys, leashes, etc., and gather them together before you begin your journey.
  • If you’re flying, make sure your dog is comfortable with being in a dog carrier and that the carrier is the correct size for the airline. 
  • If you’re driving, make sure your dog is comfortable with being in the car and that you have a proper restraint for him or her. Driving with a dog can be stressful, and if you’re bringing along multiple dogs, you may want to consider a way to keep them separated.
  • Research your destination to make sure there are pet-friendly accommodations and activities. 
  • Check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is up to date on all vaccinations and that you have a copy of his or her medical records. If your pup is a nervous traveler, ask your vet about products to help calm them down.

Book Your Reservations Early

If your dog isn’t joining you on your Thanksgiving Holiday away from home, do book your reservations at a reputable and licensed boarding facility. Book an appointment for a tour and check those reviews. Be sure that your dog’s shots and healthcare all are up-to-date. Boarding facilities in good standing book way in advance so do make those reservations as soon as possible. If they are booked, do get on a waiting list and also have “Plan B” on the horizon, such as a pet sitter on standby.

If you don’t know of a good boarding facility or pet sitter, your veterinarian may have some recommendations.  

Entertaining At Home? Create a Safe Space

First and foremost, understand if your dog has any limitations. If they are happy-go-lucky and well-trained pup, then they can take part in most of the day. However, if you have a dog that is shy, fearful or reactive, understand those limitations and be sure to keep them safe and secure as well as your guests.

If you are hosting the festivities be sure to give your dog a special space spot. Thanksgiving is a time for people; dogs need their own space, too. It’s important to set up a safe and comfortable place for your dog to call his or her own. It should be a space where your dog can go when he or she needs to get away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday. It could be a quiet room or even a crate in another room.

If you’re unable to supervise your dog, it’s best to place them in an area where they are secure and safe. 

Many people fondly recall a holiday tradition image of a dog lying under the table during dinner. While it’s a nice  image, make certain that your dog is safe in terms of not being stepped on or they understand the “drop it” command in the event a guest accidentally spills food onto the ground.

For pet parents that want to err on the side of caution, it’s best to create that safe area for your dog on the other side of the room or in another room entirely. Again, crating is the best option. If your dog is not crate trained, then the space should be closed off with a comfortable bed and be sure your dog cannot get into any items that could be hazardous — dog proof that spot.

Make Sure Your Dog Is Entertained

Provide entertainment for your dog. A bored dog is a destructive dog. Giving your dog something to do that will keep him or her busy and out of trouble. If you have a dog crate, it’s a good idea to place one of your pup’s favorite toys in it. This can help keep them occupied.

If your dog enjoys playing, it may be a good idea to give him or her a new interactive toy. One idea is to hide a few treats inside the toy. Your dog will spend hours trying to get the treats out.

Also, you will likely have dog-lover guests who will be happy to play fetch with your pup.

Keep Your Dog Leashed

Keep your dog on a leash if they don’t have a solid place command skill. During the hustle and bustle of the holiday, it’s easy for your four-legged companion to get away from you.  A leash and collar will allow you to quickly and easily get your dog under control in any situation. 

Don’t Give Your Dog Table Scraps

Don’t give your dog table scraps. This is a big Thanksgiving no-no. Small or sharp bones can be especially dangerous for dogs. For example, a turkey bone can hurt a dog’s digestive system and cause serious health problems. Turkey (and sometimes stuffing as well) can contain a toxin called thiobarbital that can be poisonous to dogs in large quantities. Additionally, there are other foods that dogs should never eat; these include onions, garlic, raisins, grapes, chocolate, and anything containing alcohol.

Even if your dog has never eaten table scraps before, Thanksgiving can be a huge temptation to start; the smell of the turkey, mashed potatoes, and other delicious food can easily be too much. For this reason, it’s best to keep your dog in a separate room while you’re preparing and even eating your feast.

Keep Your Dog Away from Fireplaces

Keep your dog safe from fireplaces. Fires can be dangerous for dogs. If you’re going to light a fire, you should make sure that your dog (including their paws and tail) isn’t too close, so they don’t get burned or singed by flames or embers. It’s recommended that you keep your dog in rooms or areas that are well away from any fireplaces. Again, a solid place command training skill is a huge help.

Don’t Forget to Take Time Out for Yourself

Thanksgiving is a great break from work and a time for you to see familiar faces. Be sure to savor it and enjoy your holiday. If you’re mindful of these tips, you and your dog should be able to have a Thanksgiving that’s happy, healthy, and stress-free.