Cats, Dogs and Thanksgiving: How to Keep Pets Calm This Season
Your pets are part of your family, and you probably want them to be there during your Thanksgiving celebration. But what if your cat or dog isn’t used to having a lot of people around? According to the Partnership for Animal Welfare (PAW), dogs and cats can get anxious or stressed over big crowds and extra noise invading their comfort zone.
With a little bit of preparation, you can help put your furry friends at ease and bring out their best pet behavior this Thanksgiving.
It Starts With Training
Before introducing your dog to guests, PAW suggests making sure your pet knows the basic sit and stay commands. Once your dog has these actions down, ask a friend to help you train him to follow those commands around new people. Invite your friend over, and with your dog on a leash, take the following steps:
- Command your dog to sit and stay.
- Have your friend walk toward your dog.
- If your dog gets up from his seated position, have your friend turn around and walk away.
- Command your dog to sit again.
- Ask your friend to approach again.
- Continue this training until your dog stays seated upon your friend’s approach. At this time, give him praise and attention – and maybe even a treat.
This practice should teach your dog that acting calm comes with a reward, which ultimately may encourage appropriate pet behavior around new people.
Get Rid of Excess Energy
Although you may be busy cooking and preparing for your guests, it helps to try to make time for a little exercise with your pet. Maybe take your dog to the park or pull out the cat toys and play with your feline friend about an hour or two before guest are expected to arrive. If you can tire out your pets before the holiday commotion, PAW notes they may be less energetic the rest of the evening.
Give Them a Space of Their Own
Some pets may simply be excitable or frightened by large groups of people and a lot of noise. For that reason, the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests having a separate room or space for your pet to escape to when he or she gets stressed. This can be a quiet room, crate or anywhere else your cat or dog feels comfortable, and should include things your pet is used to, such as toys, blankets, a scratching post, or his or her bed.
Put Them on a Short Leash
If you have an older dog or don’t have time to train him before Thanksgiving, PAW recommends making use of his leash. Before guests arrive, put your dog on a leash and keep him close to you as your family and friends walk in the door. As you greet your guests, stay calm and relaxed to show your dog this is a friend, not a threat. Reach out and touch your guest’s arm or shake his hand, then allow your dog to smell that person’s scent on you. If your dog seems calm, you can have the person offer a treat to show he or she is a friend and appreciates the dog’s good behavior.
Keeping your dogs on a leash is also an effective way to prevent them from running out as people come in the door. But, as a precaution in case your pet does get out, the American Humane Society suggests he or she always wears identification tags, especially during the holiday season.
The holidays can be a busy time for both people and pets. Pets should add joy to your holiday celebrations, not extra stress. Take the necessary steps to keep your furry friends calm, and see if you can make it a happy time for everyone.