Ahhh, Thanksgiving. It's coming and so are the guests. And the tempting kitchen smells. Turkey roasting in the oven, potatoes, yams, and the desserts. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie. Well, you get the idea and if you're anything like me, you're drooling at the thought. Guess who else is getting excited? Your canine companion.
If you've read my behavior book, "Rover, Get Off Her Leg!" (H.C.I. Communications) you know what dogs are capable of doing during a holiday when those smells are soooo tempting. You know where that turkey can end up and in what condition. And with company coming your dog will have to be on his or her best behavior.
Now is the time to start thinking about your dog's "company manners," his comportment, her etiquette in polite company. Well, truthfully, you should have thought about it sooner but better late than never.
Be sure you feed your dog early in the day. Your dog's daily ration should be divided into two separate meals. One fed at breakfast and the other at dinnertime. Your dog will be eating when you are so there's less temptation to give in to his pitiful glances. Never feed your dog at the table. He should learn early on that he waits politely until the family has finished eating and then he can receive a treat, whether that's in the middle of the afternoon, or in the evening. During the holiday, that treat can be a small piece of turkey. He is not allowed to beg, climb up on the table (yes, dogs do that!) or otherwise cajole family members and guests into giving him food from their plates. Remember that onions are poisonous to dogs so keep those well out of reach. The same for chocolate! And nothing laced with nutmeg....
Your dog should also greet visitors politely, with all four feet on the floor. No jumping up allowed. It's too easy for many dogs to knock Grandma or Grandpa off their feet. While this face-to-face greeting is normal dog behavior, it is not normal human behavior and your dog is living in human society and will need to learn the rules of comportment. Sitting politely and waiting to be acknowledged is optimum. Getting underfoot can be equally hazardous for some family members.
You'll also have to enlist the cooperation of your guests. They can't pet the dog unless he's either sitting or standing quietly and no sneaking food to the dog under the table!
Thanksgiving can be a wonderful holiday or a complete canine disaster. The choice is yours. Start training now with positive reinforcement, setting your dog up to do the right thing so he can be rewarded for it. This will pay dividends in the end, for you and for your dog.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your four-legged family members.