Safety Tips for Dogs During Thanksgiving

According to 63 percent of pet owners travel at least 50 miles with their pets over the holidays. The Travel Industry Association of America says 78 percent of the pets taken on vacation are dogs, with cats coming in second at 15 percent. Traveling with my dogs is a frequent occurrence in my life, but for some it’s a holiday event. There are many things you can do to make your travels with Fido more enjoyable for the four and two leggeds in your family.

Crates and Harnesses in the Car
The ASPCA reports that unrestrained pets are responsible for more than 30,000 accidents every year. Some states require pets to be buckled up or crated in the car. Personally, I am a big fan of crate training and my dogs ride in secured crates in my car on a daily basis. I can barely contain them from hopping in. (We also play “crate games” for agility practice.) If your dog isn’t crate trained or there is a lack of room for one, a dog car safety harness seat belt will also do.

Dogs love routine and often show signs of discomfort when their routine is interrupted. I know it can be fun to hang out longer in your pajamas and visit with family during the holidays. But, if you usually walk Fido at 7 am every morning, keeping him to that routine will keep him settled when you come back and want to visit more with family. I think Fido will be okay with you getting back into your pj’s after his walk.

Turkey and other delightful smells:

A dog’s sense of smell is their primary sense. It is estimated to be 100,000 times better than a human’s. (For more on how dog’s smell, read Canine Senses: How Dogs Smell by Canine Science.) You can only imagine how good that turkey smells to your dog. When I was a child, Doodle, our small Cocker Spaniel, actually jumped up high enough to pull down turkey pan containing the leftover carved turkey.  You can only imagine our surprise when we heard the crashing sound from the dining room.

Next: 3 Rules for dogs on Thanksgiving

No Matter the Size of the Dog – Don

Rule number one: Make sure the turkey isn’t in reach of your dogs. Doodle was not an athletic dog and still the smell of the turkey turned her into a Border Collie jumping over a 24 inch agility jump. What doesn’t appear reachable on another day, may be on Thanksgiving.

Rule number two: No turkey bones for Fido, no matter how cute he looks begging. Dogs have been known to choke on turkey bones and internal organs can be damaged by sharp shards of bone.

Related: 10 Foods Poisonous to Pets

Rule number three:
No sharing food from the holiday table. The food may be too rich and feeding dogs from the table rewards them for begging, which only encourages them to do it more. Teaching your dog to “go to their bed” or “go to their crate” has many benefits on Thanksgiving and all days. (Stay tuned for many training tips in January. I will be posting blogs in honor of National Train Your Dog Month.) An alternative to table-feeding is to grate some carrots and chop some other fresh vegetables and put it in Fido’s dog dish as a reward when he’s exhibiting good behavior.

Related: 10 Ways to Liven Up Your Dog’s Dinner

Next: What to bring if you are traveling with your dog

What to bring if you are traveling with your dog:
Vaccination Records
Collar with ID Tags and Leash
Safety Harness or Crate in the Car
Seat Covers and Blankets
Beds and Crate
Sheet for covering a bed in a hotel room
First Aid Kit
Food and Water
Toys and Balls and Bones

Please note: Some facts from this blog were excerpted from two fabulous blogs I read on the subject:

1) Holiday Safety Tips for You and Your Dog by the host of BarkRadio, dog trainer Dee Bogetti

2) Holiday Roads and Traveling with Fido by Susan Sims and Carol Bryant from

Remember to express gratitude to your entire animal household on Thanksgiving (and every day), for the gifts, joy, and love they bring us each and every day. If you are traveling with pets, thanks for posting a comment on any special experiences you are having or any travel tips I may have not posted here.

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Magdalena J.
Magdalena C.about a year ago

Thank you!

wchi wink
.3 years ago

i thought that , from the picture, this would be a funny article, but it's serious! i really like the tips from Die H. too...right on!

Sherri Mowbray
Sherri M.4 years ago

Thanks for the advice!

David M.
Eva Daniher5 years ago


Die Hard
Die Hard5 years ago

Bear in mind that almost all of this is generic, and not even remotely applicable to 99.85% of animals. Or humans.

Pretty much no dogs, and absolutely no cats, should be taken "on holidays." If you have to travel -- and usually the "holiday visit" is a disaster anyway, so you might consider just staying home and making a nice phone call -- get a pet sitter. Having a regular pet sitter is always a good idea anyway, in case of a personal emergency.

Cats and small dogs MUST always be in a carrier when forced to travel. But seatbelts? That's just plain idiotic. Seatbelts are just not built for dogs. Keep the window halfway up, and padding in the floor.

Do not keep their leash or even collar on while travelling. Leash and harness them AFTER YOU HAVE STOPPED.

The dog is going to get to the turkey. Deal with it. Even a miniature poodle is still faster than you are. Cut the dangerous bones out before you take your eyes or hands off of it. Feed the pets properly, with a few treats added, before you say thanks with your eyes closed.

The most dangerous one in the house is the toddler. No amount of discipline will keep the two-year-old from eating exactly what you tell him not to while staring you in the face.

Stephen N.
Stephen N.5 years ago

Generally excellent advice. I made an exception on holidays and occasionally fed my Brandy girl (Chessie/Lab X) scraps from the table. She didn't develop the begging habit. I also DID NOT secure her while driving. How do you expect your best buddy to get those ears flapping in the wind if he or she can't stick his or her head our the window? She's waiting on the Rainbow Bridge, glad for the human dad she had while here. She told me so last night, just as I was drifting off.

Gita Sasi Dharan
Gita Sasi Dharan5 years ago

Very useful tips to all dog lovers, thank you.

Alicia N.
Alicia N.5 years ago

Thanks Lisa for the tips, I agree with the safety belt in the car, why not? I buckle up, my dog too! and in the kitchen, I tell my dog Oreo to stay away and he just goes outside and waits patiently, that way all involve in the kitchen is safe, I don't think that animals belong in there anyway.... an A plus article!!

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman5 years ago

Thanx for tips.

Lynn Porter
5 years ago

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was an hungred and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger and ye took me in. Naked and ye clothed me, I was sick and ye visited me. I was in prison and ye came unto me.
......................And the King shall answer and say unto them "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:34-36 + 40

Saint Francis called the animals brother and sister.

"Thank you. Moooo, cluck cluck, coo, thank you, bray, cockadoodledoo, baaaa, thank you,
woof woof, howl!, meow, thank you."

And all God's children said, "Thank you."