In November, we focus on gratitude and all the things we are thankful for. For dog lovers like you and I, that includes recognizing the value our canine friends add to our lives. Keep reading to learn tips on how to arrange a dog-friendly Thanksgiving.

Why You Should Celebrate Thanksgiving with Your Dog

There are many obvious reasons to be grateful for our dogs. They help us in a myriad of ways, whether as a field companion, a service animal, a working K9, or a pet that props us up on days we need a bit of emotional support. Regardless of the title they carry, they all provide companionship and a sense of security. We laugh when their inquisitive nature gets them in a tight spot or chuckle because we’re able to elicit the “head tilt” by making strange noises.

I’m sure we can all list many reasons we’re grateful for our dogs, but I wonder if our dogs could speak, what would they say about us?

What would their gratitude list look like?

Besides meeting their basic needs for food, water, and shelter, I wonder what they might say.

As a professional trainer, I hear much about what people want from their dogs. But, it is rare that I hear anyone express concern about providing for their dogs. I’m not talking about toys, clothing, or the most expensive bed. I think if our dogs had a choice, they would care far less about those things than we might think.

I’m talking about psychological fulfillment.

I’m talking about remembering that they are dogs and what that actually means. Domesticated, yes, but predators at heart and bred with purposes in mind that are still very much a part of who they are. Whether for hunting, herding, pulling, chasing, or guarding, dogs still feel the draw of their DNA, and I believe our pets would be most grateful if we would find some way to acknowledge and honor that part of their existence.

Thanksgiving Activities for Dogs

At the very minimum, you can get your dog out into the woods to explore the terrain they were born into. Every dog, from Chihuahua to Mastiff, will benefit from being allowed to run, sniff, and explore the natural environments. For a small amount of time each week, get your dogs out of the concrete jungles and out of the dog park. Go find dirt, grass, woods, and solitude. You will open a part of their being you may never have experienced before. Here are some dog-friendly Thanksgiving activities you can try:

Go for a Hike in Nature

Take your furry friend on a hike in a nearby park or nature preserve. This will give them the chance to explore new sights and smells while getting some exercise. Choose a trail that suits your dog's energy level and make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for both of you. Don't forget to keep your dog on a leash and clean up after them.

Set up a Playdate

If your dog loves to socialize, set up a playdate with another dog. This will give them the chance to run, play and engage in doggy behavior in a safe and controlled environment. Make sure to choose a dog with a similar play style and energy level as your own, and choose a location that's safe and fenced-in.

Take Your Dog for a Swim

If your dog enjoys water, take them for a swim in a nearby lake or river if the weather permits. This is a great way to cool off during hot weather and provide your dog with some exercise. Be sure to supervise your dog at all times and make sure they're comfortable in the water before allowing them to swim.

Play Fetch in an Open Field

Many dogs love to play fetch, so take advantage of an open field or park to let your dog run and play with a frisbee or ball. This will provide them with the opportunity to get some exercise and engage in physical activity. Make sure to bring water and snacks for your dog and to keep them on a leash if necessary.

Set up a Scent Game

If your dog enjoys tracking, set up a scent game in your backyard. This involves hiding treats or toys for your dog to find, which engages their sense of smell and provides mental stimulation. You can use a variety of items, including food, toys, or even your own scent, to create a fun and engaging game for your furry friend.

Final Thoughts

This deep appreciation of exactly what dogs are is what brought me to e-collar training so many years ago. I wanted to provide dogs much greater freedom, but I needed to feel confident it could be done with maximum safety. My learning to use an e-collar was the solution that allowed them to more fully experience all the joys of “being a dog.”

If my dogs could speak, I suspect they would say they are grateful for this gift of freedom far more than any joy a treat or new toy could provide.

Overall, getting your dog out into nature is not only good for their physical health but also for their mental well-being. This Thanksgiving, take some time to explore the great outdoors with your canine friend!

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