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6 Essential Tips for Your Puppy’s First Thanksgiving

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You want to show your adorable new puppy off to your friends and family on Thanksgiving. I can relate.

However, if this is your first puppy then your pup’s first holiday season may not be as easy as you think.

When I get a new puppy, I can’t wait for everyone to greet him.

But there are many things to consider when having people meet your new addition–especially during busy holiday times.

When I host a holiday party, there’s so much more to consider than just what everyone will eat.

Thanksgiving Puppy - puppy playing in the leaves

When my sheltie Duffy was a puppy, I made sure that he was safe and wouldn’t escape as friends entered the house.

 And I had to make sure that he didn’t eat any forbidden foods. After all, he was a “foodie” and would scarf up any errant food if given the opportunity.

In this article, I’ll give I’ll share 6 essential tips for your puppy’s first Thanksgiving. You want your guests and your pup to have a great holiday. 

Tips For Your Puppy’s First Thanksgiving

So you’ll have to be sure that your puppy’s safe and not overwhelmed by the event. Preparation is the key to success.

I’m assuming that you’re hosting the Thanksgiving festivities at your home. If you should be visiting a friend or family member instead, the same general principles discussed below still apply. 

Keeping your puppy safe and meeting his training, exercise, and rest needs still apply. But you’ll also have to get him accustomed to traveling. 

Go on very short rides to positive places well in advance of your Thanksgiving holiday, And get him used to whatever safe way he’ll travel This may be in a seatbelt harness, crate, or safety barrier. 

You don’t want him to be stressed on your Thanksgiving excursion. So preparation is the key to the beginning of a fun, productive holiday. 

Of course, make sure that your host is open to you bringing your pet. If not, have a trusted friend or pet-sitting service watch your puppy at home.

Or board him at a reliable, safe, experienced boarding facility.

1. Prepare Your Home

Puppy-proof your home just as you did when you got your puppy. Make sure that he can’t reach any foods or decorations.

They may be dangerous for him. And don’t forget to have the trash out of his reach.

Also, prepare a safe room or area. You can put a gate on an existing room or even shut the door in an area that’s been puppy-proofed.

Or you can place an exercise pen in a safe, quiet area. 

I recommend getting your puppy used to this type of confinement prior to the Thanksgiving festivities. This is so that your pup can chill out away from the festivities if necessary. 

Even a very friendly, outgoing puppy can be overwhelmed by the noise and commotion of the holidays. This can lead to him being over-stimulated and behaving in ways that you don’t want. 

He may jump all over people, tug at their clothes, nip at their hands, and bark. Children visiting may even be knocked down by a puppy who is so excited. 

At the other end of the spectrum, a shy, noise-sensitive puppy can become extremely fearful. This can make a long-lasting impression on such a pup. 

The safe room or area can be used for your puppy the entire time guests are present. Or, depending on the situation, he can be placed there as necessary–such as when you’re eating. 

Have enrichment items, such as a stuffed Kong, ready so that he won’t be bored and see the confinement as a negative experience. 

Be sure that he has plenty of freshwater. And make sure that he’s taken out to potty when necessary.

Make the safe room or area a calming space for him to settle down when necessary. 

Have a comfortable bed (as long as doesn’t see them as a big chew toy). Play calming music such as Through a Dog’s Ear or white noise.

If some guests don’t like dogs, using such an area can be useful. But, if possible, have your puppy out some of the time so that he learns that guests are a positive thing. 

You can have him on a leash with you some of the time and have him calmly engage with dog-loving guests. You can give them safe treats to give the puppy when he’s calm. 

You can also reward him for calm behavior. As another safety measure, have a gate that opens and closes as guests enter so that your puppy can’t inadvertently run out the door should a guest enter or leave without your pup being contained. 

Have a leash ready by the door to place on your puppy so that you can safely have people enter without your pup dashing out the door.

2. Prepare Your Puppy

Of course, depending on your puppy, having people over can be great socialization for your puppy. 

But make sure that he has been trained to commands that will help him during the holiday.

Socialize your puppy to new people and situations including guests to your home prior to the holidays, so that he sees Thanksgiving as a positive experience for which he’s thankful. 

Also, just in case the unimaginable happens, and your puppy escapes, make sure that he wears identification tags.

A microchip that’s registered to you can also help him be returned to you should he slip out the door. 

3. Teach Commands 

Teach him to sit and not jump on people, including as they enter your home. 

Make sure that he knows the “leave it” command so that won’t take potentially dangerous items such as some foods.

Make sure that your puppy has a great recall, should you need him to come to you immediately. 

It’s also important that he be trained to be confined as necessary to a crate, exercise pen, or safe room well before you need them. You can also teach your puppy how to calm down.

Teach him to stay or wait by a door so that he doesn’t run outside potentially getting lost. 

Depending on his age and abilities, you can even teach your pup to go to a dog bed or mat and stay there until released when necessary, such as when people enter or when you’re eating.

4. Exercise Your Puppy

Prior to your guests arriving, make sure that your puppy had enough exercise. It’s important that he isn’t too energetic or he probably won’t have enough impulse control. 

That’s when he’ll engage in unwanted behaviors like jumping and barking. I’m sure that you’ve seen it when your puppy doesn’t get enough physical exercise. 

He’ll jump, grab clothes, and bark at you. So, instead, head him off at the pass and make sure that he can handle the excitement of guests arriving and staying.

This includes physical and mental exercise. Both take the edge off and help prevent unwanted behaviors. 

Take him for a walk. Play fetch. Do some obedience exercises. Engage in enrichment exercises like activity toys.

It’s important not only to exercise your pup prior to your guests’ arrival but also while they’re at your house. 

If someone can take him for a walk while they’re there, that’s great. Then, he can be ready for the rest of their visit. The old adage that “a tired dog’s a good dog” still rings true!

Also, as much as possible during the holidays, try to keep to your dog’s normal routine. Feed him at the same time you usually do, exercise him, and still train and play with him. 

With all you have to do, it’s sometimes easy for a puppy to get lost in the shuffle

5. Socialize Your Puppy

It’s important to accustom your puppy to new people, noises, and events that he’ll have to face when your guests descend on your house for Thanksgiving. 

So well in advance, have friends in and simulate a celebration. Do the techniques discussed in this article to make the visit a success. 

The more successful set-ups that you do prior to the real celebration, the more stress-free your Thanksgiving will be for all–you, your guests, and especially for you pup;

“Train” Your Guests: No Table Scraps or Encouraging Bad Behavior

This sounds funny at first. But it’s important to remind your guests not to open external doors when the puppy can escape.

And ask your visitors not to give them any human food. Some of it can upset your dog’s digestion. And some can even be toxic. 

I’ll discuss what foods are dangerous below. Even for safe foods, feeding a puppy from the table can create a begging habit you won’t want to live with. Believe me. 

One of my friends slipped my Lhasa apso Mikey food from the table. Mikey had been a stray found on the streets.

So food was extremely important to him since he never knew when his next meal was coming. 

Mikey was the original definition of a foodie. So he started to beg at the table. I had previously worked with this habit and he learned that he got something better–a stuffed Kong or chewie–when we ate. 

After I saw my friend give the beggar Mikey food, I informed her why she shouldn’t. Sometimes the people need to be “trained.” 

Many think that giving a puppy table food is cute and don’t realize the Pandora’s box they’re opening when feeding the pup from the table. 

Of course, you can sequester your puppy during mealtime. But not feeding from the table also includes any snacks from other areas such as coffee tables. 

I’ve found that most people will happily assist you by appropriately engaging with your puppy.

You can also ask your guests not to acknowledge or pet your puppy unless he’s calm. 

So many people get as excited as a puppy does when meeting your furry bundle. They’ll say ”What a cute puppy!” in a high-pitched tone.

 And the puppy will jump, squeal, and generally be out-of-control. So try to have your guests be calm when engaging with him.. 

Informing people of your “rules” can go a long way to having a pleasant, dog-inclusive Thanksgiving.

If there are children, they can also help make sure that interactions with the puppy are appropriate.

Assuming that the child is mature enough to understand what you say and will follow your directions, she can engage with the puppy. 

Of course, all interactions should be carefully supervised. Make sure that any children interacting with your puppy understand that he’s a living being and not a stuffed toy. 

No puppy should be subject to any harsh interactions. No one should: pet him if not gentle; ride on him; pull his ears or tail; scream at him; or otherwise handle him in a harsh manner. 

This behavior can scare a puppy and even make him feel that he needs to defend himself.

Children who haven’t been trained how to engage with a puppy may do these things without even realizing they’re not right. 

So you have to “school” them or not have them engage with your puppy.

Such unpleasant, harsh interactions are not only cruel but may also color the way your puppy sees small humans in the future.

A child can play “find it” with the puppy, where you give her a few pieces of kibble to gently toss while saying “find it.”

This game should be played only if your puppy won’t then attempt to take treats out of the child’s hand or jump on the child. 

You can also have the puppy sit and give him a treat for sitting near the child.

Caution: with very young children, especially those who are new to the puppy, it’s best to have the puppy on a leash so that he can’t jump on or otherwise injure a child.    

If your guests are dog-friendly, you can even have them play with your puppy as long as the game doesn’t over-stimulate him. 

You want to be sure that guests are a positive experience because their view of the world is shaped by each interaction he has. 

They can even cuddle with him if you want them to and if your puppy’s calm and accustomed to this as a positive experience.

6. Recruit a Puppy-Watcher

Since you’ll probably be extremely busy attending to your guests, it can be very helpful to ask a friend or family member to help watch your puppy.

It’s important to have someone chosen in advance of the festivities. 

Of course, the friend should be dog-savvy. If possible, try to get someone who already knows your pup and who your pup feels comfortable with.

This person can make sure that your puppy’s safe and help your puppy engage properly with your guests.

Which Thanksgiving Foods Are Safe For Your Puppy?

Just the thought of Thanksgiving can make me salivate. There are so many yummy foods! 

Some are safe for our canine companions in small amounts. Others can be deadly. 

Of course, it’s never good to feed your dog from the table.

Doing so can create a begging habit. And it can also create a food-stealing habit because the puppy can think that whatever’s on the table is fair game. 

As a precaution, have the contact information for the pet poison control hotline ready. 

And have information regarding any local emergency vets on hand should an emergency occur.

Foods that are toxic or dangerous to dogs include the following:

  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Avocado (especially the pits and skin)
  • Coffee
  • Caffeine
  • Onions and scallions
  • Garlic
  • Chives and many spices
  • Raw/undercooked meat, eggs, and bones
  • Coconut and coconut oil
  • Milk and dairy
  • Salt and salty snack foods
  • Xylitol (also called birch sugar)
  • Yeast dough
  • Nuts
  • Raw/Undercooked meat
  • Turkey bones
  • Citrus
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Fatty foods like turkey skin
  • Sugary food like pies, cakes, or cranberry sauce
  • Mashed potatoes laden with butter or gravy
  • Casseroles
  • Creamed vegetables
  • Ham
  • Stuffing
  • Gravy

Other Dangerous Thanksgiving Items

So many items are alluring to your puppy. After all, a pup explores the world with his mouth.

And many plants and decorations can harm or be deadly to your precious furry friend.

These include:

  • Pinecones
  • Acorns from oak trees
  • Autumn crocus
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Light strands
  • Electrical cords
  • Lit candles
  • Many decorations

And other household products and medicines can also be toxic and should be kept out of your pup’s reach.

Can You Give Any Thanksgiving Foods To Your Pup?

In very small quantities, some foods are safe for most puppies. Of course, you shouldn’t feed him from the table unless you want to live with a beggar while you eat. 

But, if you want your puppy to taste a few small tidbits of the Thanksgiving bounty, go ahead. 

I don’t recommend adding it to his kibble. You don’t want to create a picky eater when he discovers how tasty our food is. 

I’ll give my dogs a taste (just a shred, really) of some Thanksgiving foods. But I make them “work” for it. 

They can sit for a shred of white meat turkey, for example. I have them perform their training exercises away from the table. 

By doing this, they think of the tasty morsels as a treat, not part of our meal. The foods should be plain without sauces, added fats, sugars, spices, skin, or bones. Safe foods include:

  • Plain turkey meat without bones or skin
  • Plain sweet potatoes without sugars or spices
  • Apples without the core or seeds
  • Plain green beans
  • Plain pumpkin (or you can try Native Pet Organic Pumpkin for Dogs)
  • Plain peas
  • Plain yogurt

So, in very small quantities, your puppy can partake in some of the delicious foods we eat–even if modified.


Can I give my puppy the same food I eat during Thanksgiving?

In small quantities, your puppy can have some foods like plain turkey, plain sweet potatoes, and plain green beans.

But other foods can be toxic, such as bones, chocolate, nuts, raisins, foods containing xylitol, and fatty foods.

What should I do to prepare my puppy for Thanksgiving?

Make sure that he’s been well-socialized to people and new situations. Exercise him before guests arrive.

And make sure that his environment is safe so that he can’t escape or get into dangerous things.

How can I make sure that my puppy doesn’t escape when guests come or leave?

You can keep a leash on him as guests enter or exit. Teach your puppy to wait by a door or go to a place.

Or have your puppy in a safe location such as a crate, exercise pen, or room at those times.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways you can prepare your puppy for the Thanksgiving festivities.

Make sure that he’s been well-socialized to new people and situations during the time that you’ve had him. 

Have him well-exercised physically and mentally prior to when guests arrive and during the day.

Have a safe, quiet area for him when needed such as his crate, an exercise pen, or a safe room. 

And make sure that he can’t dart out the door. It’s also important that he doesn’t ingest dangerous foods or other items such as decorations.

Have you had guests over for the holidays?

Do you have any tips for a puppy’s first Thanksgiving?

How did you ensure that your puppy was safe and still had fun during Thanksgiving?

Please tell us about it in the comments section below.

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6 Tips For Your Puppy's First Thanksgiving - Puppy playing in the leaves

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