Tips for a pet-friendly Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for family and friends to get together and enjoy one another’s company while eating the most delicious feast. Here’s how you can include your dog in the festivities!

Thanksgiving is a hectic time, and it’s easy to forget about your dog in all the chaos. But she’s part of your family too, so it’s important to include her in the fun whenever possible! Rather than sticking her in a crate, follow these tips to integrate her into your holiday schedule – no matter how hectic.


If you’re going to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving, there’s no reason to leave your dog behind! To best prepare, take the following steps:

  • Ask yourself, ‘how does Rover act on normal car rides?’ Some dogs require an anxiety remedy while they travel. Initially, the thought of calming your frightened pet prior to transport may seem overwhelming, but there are plenty of natural products you can reach for! Try Bach Rescue Remedy, or lavender essential oil – just make sure it’s high quality.
  • If you’re traveling long-distance, unexpected turns and delays are not uncommon. Don’t forget to bring extra food, water, and snacks for your canine companion.

Family introductions

During the holiday season, it’s not uncommon to have multiple people coming in and out of your home. When introducing your dog to a new person, keep him on his leash and ask him to sit. Use healthy treats to reward him when he does what he’s asked, and withhold the treats if he tries to jump up.

Invite the person to pet him and give him lots of praise. If he shows any signs of being uncomfortable, try again another time. If all goes well, you can let him off his leash to socialize!

Guest dogs

If any of your guests bring their own canine companions to your house, it’s a good idea to introduce them to your dog away from her territory. Find a neutral location, like a nearby dog park, or take them on a short walk together.

While both dogs are leashed, allow them to approach each other slowly. Use treats to reward calm behavior. If neither dog is displaying any signs of discomfort (stiffening, direct eye contact, and/or or raised fur/piloerection) allow them to sniff.

Next, proceed to the indoors. Keep the dogs on leash for a few minutes and continue to observe their body language. If both dogs appear to be happy with one another, you can allow them to interact off-leash. Dog-friendly football, Tug-of-War, or a romp in your fenced-in back yard will allow them to get rid of some excess energy and enjoy their Thanksgiving playdate.

Sharing food

It’s tempting to share your Thanksgiving meal with your pup, but be aware of the dangers of cooked turkey bones. Any type of cooked bone can be brittle, sharp, and can easily get stuck in your dog’s intestines. Turkey bones are especially dangerous because they’re hollow and splinter easily.

If you don’t want the turkey bones to go to waste, you can use them to make a delicious broth to be poured over your dog’s food. Just be sure not to use any onions, which are toxic to canines!

If you want to make your dog her own Thanksgiving plate, cooked turkey is safe for both cats and dogs, but it must be unseasoned. Add some potatoes or sweet potatoes, and a few carrots or green beans. While stuffing often contains onions and is too high in sodium for your pup, you can add a couple bites of plain, whole grain bread to fill her belly and give her a boost of fiber.

Post-dinner activities

After dinner, take some time to relax with your pup. Once you’ve had a chance to digest, take a stroll to burn off some of those calories – and excess energy. Toss around a football, or get your dog involved in a friendly game of capture the flag.

This Thanksgiving, don’t let stress distract you from enjoying your family – four-legged members included! Help your dog have fun throughout the day, and you’ll have more fun too!


Amber is a Canine Behaviorist assisting dogs and pet parents around the world resolving the most complex behavioral issues. She has written articles for a variety of magazines, rescue organizations, pet insurance companies, and large corporations. In addition to experience in her field, she holds a doctorate-level education and has over a decade of experience working with dogs. She has published two books with Barnes and Noble regarding canine behavior and nutrition.