thanksgiving and your dog

How to Make Your Thanksgiving Holiday Stress-Free and Safe for Your Pup

Let’s face it. People want to take their dogs everywhere. You see them in grocery carts, on planes, trains, and automobiles. Heck, I even saw a potbelly pig in a stroller at a Starbucks just last week! While I am on the fence about this for obvious reasons, there will be times that we have to set ground rules for when and where dogs are allowed. But first, let’s make one thing perfectly clear, I do not think dogs are fur babies and while they are part of your family, they are not your kids and that means sometimes you dog must be a dog and that means different things to different people. With all of that said,

On today’s podcast we are going to talk about six tips for bringing your dog to Thanksgiving…if you have to… Hello and welcome to the show. I am your host Michele Forto. Let’s dive in…

So…How to Make Your Thanksgiving Holiday Stress-Free and Safe for Your Pup 

Thanksgiving is a time for everyone to come together and celebrate the things that they’re thankful for — so your dog should definitely be involved (within reason)! However, with the holiday season comes a lot of commotion and chaos that can easily overwhelm you and your dog.

There are a number of things that can harm a dog during the holidays, from food on the counter to decorations. You’ll also want to make sure they’re on their best behavior — especially if you’re taking them to someone else’s home.

Having your dog at Thanksgiving can make your holiday a fun time for your entire family. Here are tips to help ensure everything goes as planned.

Make Sure Your Dog Is Allowed to Attend

This is HUGELY important. If you are heading to a family or friend’s house for Thanksgiving, make sure they’re okay with your dog coming first. The host might not be prepared to have a dog in their home, or they might have concerns that their own pets and yours might not get along. It’s better to check in and make sure your dog will be welcomed beforehand to make thing easier. Do Not, and I mean absolutely not, show up unannounced with your dog in tow in a little purse or stroller and just waltz in like you own the place.

Have Some Fun Before Dinner Is Served

So, if you made it past the first hurdle and you and your dog are welcomed to stay at the family feast, take your dog for a long walk or spend some time playing together to tire your dog out before you head in for dinner. Many people in one place can create a lot of hectic energy, which can cause your dog stress. The last thing you want is for your dog to be over-stimulated, so wearing them out before dinner is served can help them stay relaxed.

Here is a bonus tip for you guys. If you are so early to your friendsgiving—whatever that is–feast to watch the Lions game—they are doing amazing by the way.  I love how Dan Campbell is coaching that team, right?!—use this time to work on a training. Here is what we suggest: When the game is ON have you dog do a down stay. When the commercials are ON, have your dog do a sit stay. If the Lions score do puppy push ups. If they are playing like they have all season, your dog will be pooped by the time the game is over.

Do the same thing during the Cowboys game too. Or better yet, during the second game, have you dog rest in his crate. Yep, you brought his crate right? With your pooch pooped out in his crate, get in the kitchen and help your host. It is the least you can do now that they let you bring your dog to dinner.

Oh, it goes without saying, if there looks like there is a favorite chair in the t.v. room, do not sit there. You will know it when you see it. It will most likely be an old Lay-Z-Boy recliner with the remote in easy reach.

Make Sure Your Dog Looks Their Best 

You want to look your best for Thanksgiving, so don’t leave your dog out! Take a fresh trip to the groomers or make time for a bath to make sure your dog is looking (and smelling) their best. I know, I know, it might be too late to do this by the time you are hearing this episode but hey, there is always next year. Book an appointment now. Like veterinarians, groomers can’t seem to get their act together and all appear to be booked months out.

Keep Your Dog Away from the Food

Don’t recreate a scene from the movies, errr, A Christmas Story with the Bumpus Hounds anyone?… Heck, do you remember Snot in Christmas Vacation? Keep your dog out of food by making sure dishes are placed well out of reach, or even use a gate to ensure that they stay out of harm’s way. With things coming in and out of ovens and off of stoves, the kitchen can be a dangerous place. There are also foods that can be dangerous to your pet, so be sure not to hand them anything under the table.

Bring Along Something Familiar

By familiar I don’t mean you should bring Aunt Edna’s favorite finger sandwiches or Sally’s deviled eggs, even if they are to DIE for. Don’t bring wine either. Bring a good bourbon. Trust me. Fun fact, Aunt Edna’s dog was named Dinky, rest his soul…

For your pooch, bring a toy or a bone, or even a blanket, that your dog uses frequently to give them a comforting item in a new place. Don’t bring pig ears or a big, smelly, knuckle bone you picked up from the grocery. They stain the carpet and that will be a HUGE problem.

Your dog might even be able to find a comfortable space in their crate if you travel with it. Otherwise, ask your host if there’s a space where your dog can relax, that way, if things start to get overwhelming, you can have a plan B to keep things from getting out of control. Do not, and I mean never, just let your dog roam in the back yard, especially if your host does not have a dog. You never know if their yard is secure, or a secret spot that your dog will inevitably find to escape the yard. They are microchipped, right?

Also, do not bring a big batch, specially made just for Max, RAW dog food that must be refrigerated. Your mutt can make it through the afternoon without dinner.

If It’s Easier to Keep Them at Home, Keep Them at Home

Some dogs just don’t do well in high-stress situations or around large groups of people. If you know your dog gets anxious or stressed, don’t force them into a situation they’re not prepared to handle. There are plenty of options for dogs who can’t attend Thanksgiving, from finding a pet sitter to boarding your dog for the day. Life is, by the way, all about sacrifices—the good, bad and sometimes even ugly.  

But…having a dog at Thanksgiving can be fun for everyone, as long as you’re prepared! 

As you probably have guessed from this episode, I am not a huge fan of people bringing their dogs everywhere. I hope you can understand. As I think about this, maybe I should become a life coach like Rick. There are a lot of true, life skills here. Did you know, and I am not lying here…I actually have a master’s degree in Life Coaching. Yep 100% honest.

Here’s another bonus tip for you. If I am invited to YOUR house for YOUR turkey day please don’t spend the entire afternoon asking me dog training questions. And for all things that are Holy do not introduce me as a dog trainer to the other guests. Inevitably if you do, it will be worse than a baby shower with everyone showing me hundreds, maybe thousands, of pictures of their dog on their iPhone. We already know he is a “good dog” and I bet they all know how to “sit.”

And you can wager, I will not show up to YOUR dinner with my dog either.

So, what do you think? Did you learn anything new about your K9 buddy?

Before we end the show, let’s press pause for a sec…maybe ask yourself, why did this resonate with me? What aspect of my relationship with my K9 buddy could I apply this to? And what am I going to do differently this week to make my dog’s training a little easier? So, take time to mull it over, talk it out with a family member or trusted friend, put some ideas down in your training journal, and then check back next week for our next episode.

And, as always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this episode. So, reach out over on X at firstpawmedia, and let’s spark a conversation. Until then, keep going! You are doing great! It is time to create the relationship with your dog that you always dreamed of.

Thanks for listening to Dog Works Radio. Find the show notes for this episode and all others at Alaska dog works (dot)com and don’t forget the freebee…We are offering our very own 100 dog training tips, just go to and get yours today.

Oh….are you still here? Make sure your dog is up to date on its vaccinations. That includes a Bordetella (kennel cough) shot. You wouldn’t want some snotty nosed kid to show up at your feast with a beast and spread his germs to your preschooler. The same goes for dogs.


We offer a FREE Discovery Call.

Click on the graphic to learn more