It’s that time of year when family and friends travel, gather together and celebrate the holidays with big meals, special treats and lots of festivities. While Thanksgiving can be an amazingly fun time of year, for many people, pets and working dogs, it can be very stressful. Here are some important considerations for keeping your Service Dog happy over the coming days.
1.) Prepare For Travel
Traveling with a Service Dog has been covered extensively in other articles, so make sure to review them, particularly if you’re flying. For many people, travel will be by car. Make sure your Service Dog travels safely by putting them in a crate or a crash-tested safety harness. Roads can be chaotic and accidents happen more frequently due to the number of drivers on the road. Stop regularly for walks and water breaks, and allow your partner to rest if they aren’t actively needed for task work while in the vehicle. They may not get a chance during the chaotic holiday celebrations to come.
2.) Maintain Boundaries
Decide before you get where you’re going what you will expect from others regarding your Service Dog. There will likely be encounters with lots of children or extended family/people you don’t see often, and it’s important to enforce your personal expectations regarding whether or not your Service Dog can be petted, talked to, or played with. It’s oftentimes easier for many teams to allow a few minutes in the beginning for everyone to say hello and get it out of their system, then to follow the standard, “Please don’t distract them; they’re working,” construct. If, however, you want to allow your partner to simply be a well-mannered house guest and play and hang out, feel free! Whatever you’re comfortable with, but make sure you make your wishes known from the start to avoid tension and stress later.
3.) Only Share Safe Foods
While there are many safe foods that your Service Dog can share during Thanksgiving, there are just as many, if not more, dangerous choices. Great options for sharing include green beans, potatoes, white meat turkey and pumpkin. Make sure any offerings aren’t loaded with sugars or fats (like cream or butter) because those can cause digestive upsets.
Avoid grapes, raisins, desserts, cooked bones, gravy, chocolate and alcohol. Here are a few more food safety considerations from the ASPCA.