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As you sit down to your turkey dinner this Thanksgiving, I'm sure you will be including your dog on the list of things you're thankful for. And if you're hosting friends and family, you — and your guests — will be even more thankful if he's on his best behavior during the meal.
You can help your dog be a good host by offering guidance for him on the big day. Here are simple ways to help your dog mind his manners on Thanksgiving Day.
Designate a dog handler. If your dog is prone to potentially problematic behaviors like mouthing, stealing items and being overly rambunctious — especially when he's excited — he and your guests both may benefit from having someone mind him during the festivities. The handler should be an adult who your dog knows, gets along with and listens to—ideally either a family member or a friend who spends lots of time with your dog, or, if needed, a familiar and trusted dog walker or dog sitter who you can hire for the day. A designated handler can also be helpful if you are concerned about your guests’ behavior around your dog, particularly if you have small children coming for Thanksgiving. Interactions between kids and dogs should always be closely supervised. If your handler needs a break to eat or socialize, make your dog comfortable in his crate or in a dog-safe part of your house that is off-limits to guests.
Monitor greetings carefully. Your dog may be just as excited as you are to have friends and family around for Thanksgiving, but that's no excuse for jumping up or barking at every arrival. Help him get ready to greet guests by working with him on keeping all four paws on the floor during greetings. You can also teach him to hand target or shake as an acceptable way to say hello. If he’s prone to jumping or zooming around during greetings, consider keeping him on leash until everyone has arrived and he’s calmed down.
Help your dog be a good host. Your guests may be happy to see your dog, but they may not want him climbing into their laps or leaning against them. If your dog is an attention hound who adores the spotlight and will do anything possible to get guests to pet or play with him, train polite behaviors to replace potentially irksome habits like pawing or attention barking. And if you have guests who would rather not interact with your pooch, redirect his attention to a food puzzle or favorite toy, or by asking him to do tricks for guests who are dying to spend time with him.
Say no to food stealing. Faced with an unattended table of hors d’oeuvres or an abandoned plate of Thanksgiving feast remnants, even the most well-behaved dog may give in to temptation and help himself to a festive snack. Some dogs may do just fine with careful supervision and a refresher of the "leave it," "drop it" and "off" commands, but others may need to be kept on leash during dinner. Making your pooch comfortable in a dog-safe space away from the festivities is also a good way to put a stop to food stealing. And keep in mind that some holiday foods can be dangerous for your dog — so preventing unsupervised snacking is more than just good manners.
Put an end to begging. Mooching from dinner guests is never good manners. Start practicing strategies to decrease begging before Thanksgiving. Training an alternative behavior, like resting on a mat, or redirecting his attention with a food puzzle can turn your mooch of a pooch into a welcome guest in the dining room. This can also help him to resist when guests — especially your littlest guests — drop food on the floor or offer him a mouthful.
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