Harnessing a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving with Pets

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This Thanksgiving, the TransPaw Gear team wants to express our gratitude – for you! Thank you for being compassionate pet guardians. To show our appreciation and because we care about your pets, we would like to share some tips for keeping your precious pups safe from holiday dangers. As we welcome the season, we invite you to harness joy, fun learning opportunities, inner calm and of course, thankfulness. 

Harness Small Moments of Joy

Our dogs are such good reminders that it’s the simple things we’re most grateful for– a quick game, a nice walk, some cuddle time. Let your pup inspire you to try to find small moments of joy during this hectic time of a year that has been extra challenging for most of us. 

Harness Good Prevention

Throughout the year, and especially during the holidays, managing your dog’s environment goes a long way towards keeping pets and people safe and happy. Now is a good time to puppy-proof your home (again). Try to be thorough, even if your ‘puppy’ is an adult dog! 

Also, think ahead about what types of enrichment you’ll be providing. Why not buy your best fur friend a special toy or treat? And be sure to take a moment to enjoy watching him relish your gift. Then, mix it up. Food puzzles, bones and chews can all come in handy here. 

Unleash Etiquette Skills 

In addition to modifying your dog’s environment, think about brushing up on useful cues. Now is the time to practice and refresh some core skills such as politely greeting guests, reliable recall and ‘leave it’

  • Greeting politely: During this pandemic, even if your Thanksgiving guest list is a little cozier than previous years, it’s still a good time to brush up on training polite door manners for greeting visitors – both the human ones and other dogs.  If your dog already knows a target cue, you can teach her to target a mat near the front door. Then, practice asking your pup to “stay” until you give a release cue, such as “Go say hi!” This is a difficult step. Use extra treats to help encourage your dog to stay on the mat. If you have two sets of hands, you can have one person stay with the dog, giving rewards, while the other answers the door. Much easier! Practice keeping your dog’s harness and leash on during this step to help prevent breaking the stay (and getting inadvertently reinforced by the exciting people at the door) and to help prevent door-dashing.
  • Coming when called: For an added measure of safety, there’s no time like the present to polish up recall skills. Calling your dog to you is especially important to practice until your he has a conditioned response to the cue, in other words, responds without thinking.

When practicing recall games, remember that the sound of your voice should be music to your dog’s ears, predicting fantastic rewards. 

  • Leaving things alone when asked: Does your dog know, really know, the cue for those times when plates of treats (for people) are beautifully displayed at a dog’s eye level? The roast turkey is too close to the edge of the counter? Or a box of chocolates is left on the end table? Like a solid recall and polite door manners, ‘leave it’ is a cue that takes tons of practice (via repetition) and high-value rewards. And also like those skills, it’s more than worth the effort. A well-trained ‘leave it’ can be the difference between your dog stealing a turkey off the counter and your dinner being safe (and delicious!).  To reinforce this cue, make it clear to dogs that there is consistently something wonderful to be had if they move away from the item they are considering going for. It’s kind of like training that a “treat in the guardian’s hand is worth two on the counter,” if you will.

Need help? A qualified, force-free dog trainer can walk you through teaching your pup these valuable skills. However, if by the time the holiday rolls around, your dog doesn’t yet respond reliably and consistently to essential cues, reconsider how you can practice prevention through management. Here are some options to think about:

  • Crating – Confinement can be safe and fun when you utilize your dog’s crate wisely. Just try not to overdo crate time. 
  • Using baby gates and X-pens — Restrict access to potentially risky areas such as doors leading outside and food prep/dining areas.  
  • Tethering – This could be a good choice if you can be nearby but can’t keep a close eye on your dog’s every move.  Attaching a lead to a comfortable dog harness can help keep a pup out of trouble when you can’t be there to supervise directly. Note: Please remember that you should always be present when leaving a dog tethered. Do not leave him alone! It can lead to a dangerous situation.

Unleash People Training Skills

Additionally, to avoid some common mishaps – food being left around for easy canine access, doors and gates being left open so pets can wander off, confusion regarding pet care responsibilities, etc., be proactive. “Train” the humans in your household to:

  • Make sure that doors are fully latched as they come and go, including gates to your yard, the doors to your home and crate doors. 
  • Double-check that counters and tables have been cleared before your dog is allowed free access to the kitchen and dining areas. 
  • Have a schedule posted somewhere obvious to keep track of feeding and walking. Mark off what has been done, and when, so nothing is missed (walks) or duplicated (meals).
  • Be aware of what is safe and what is not safe to feed your pooch.
    • Many foods and other household items are toxic to dogs. During this time of year, pets are more likely to have access to foods that are unsafe for them and/or have access to larger quantities of nontoxic foods (also an unsafe scenario). For instance, ASPCApro recently posted an article detailing 4 Harmful Thanksgiving Foods for Pets: onions and garlic, cooked animal bones, bouillon cubes, and baked goods.

In light of these and other hazards, the keys to pet safety are management and training – of all the beings in your home.

Harness Inner Calm

But, what about the challenges to your dog’s emotional well-being? Think about the various kinds of upheaval this holiday season might bring to your pets’ world. Do your best to prepare them, and yourself, for potentially stressful times. Your ability to maintain a sense of mindfulness and inner peace can help your pets feel calmer too. Yes, we know. Easier said than done. The behavior of stressed-out pets – which may include eliminating indoors, vocalizing repeatedly, and seeming to forget every bit of training you ever did with them – can exasperate even the most calm, collected human. It’s okay. Go easy on yourself and try to be a little extra patient with your furry friends. 

Harness Giving Thanks

In fact, you can turn to your canine companions to lighten things up a bit. Throughout the holiday season, ensure you and your dogs are getting enough quiet time, enough me-time, and plenty of exercise and playtime to help shake off any holiday-induced anxiety. Be thankful for your best friend and take every opportunity to unleash adventures and harness fun together.

Here’s to you and your pets unleashing a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!


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