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We have a new puppy. He’s 4 months old and majorly in the teething phase.

We always host thanksgiving dinner and will do so again this year. About 15 people will come.

Our puppy spends time in his crate quite a bit but Thanksgiving is a very long day. We will take him out for walks but normally have him out for a bit after, closely monitored due to puppy teething and general young-and-chaotic oversight. With 15 people and lots of food, clothes, etc around he will have lots of temptations and he probably won’t be supervised the way he is used to. He will get into a fair amount of trouble even now if left alone for a few minutes.

If we leave him in his crate he will almost certainly bark a ton and it generally is fairly cruel to leave him in the crate for close to 24 hours (if you include sleeping the night before)

We have a two story house, and a cat who is still unsure about the puppy and about people in the house. The puppy is barely house trained and it’s going to be close to freezing since I live in Wisconsin. He does not like the lower level which is the cat’s domain and whines and quivers when down there so it doesn’t seem like an option to put him down there.

How can we plan and prepare for this in a way that will:

  • Keep the puppy out of trouble
  • not be cruel to the puppy
  • Not be too stressful for the puppy
  • Not be gross (puppy in food)
  • Not be a huge pain for everyone
  • Not interfere too much with cooking and prep
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    The most important thing: where do you live? A small flat and a large house with yard and garden are far from being the same thing from your puppy's POV. How many rooms do you have? \how many bathrooms, hallways?
    – virolino
    Nov 8, 2022 at 9:24
  • Also, what is your biggest concern? The safety of the puppy or the safety of the guests? :)
    – virolino
    Nov 8, 2022 at 9:25
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    Or the safety of the turkey ;)
    – Journeyman Geek
    Nov 8, 2022 at 11:22
  • Added context. My concern is the welfare of the puppy, potential trouble he will cause (chewing on ANYTHING he sees primarily), and total disruption of Thanksgiving.
    – Steve V
    Nov 8, 2022 at 11:52

4 Answers 4

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There are a few techniques you can use to make your day run as smoothly as possible without involving puppy prison—but expecting the day to run as smoothly as it had pre-puppy isn't setting yourself up for success, so remember to keep your expectations reasonable.

1. Restricted access. Whether by puppy gate or play pen, limit your pup's access to busy, food-related areas. Try to place this safe area somewhere near the action so your pup doesn't get lonely and may get the occasional pet or play, but out of the way enough so it's not a safety hazard. Use whatever time you have between now and Thanksgiving to build value for this safe area, using toys, chews, and nice treats to make that area seem super awesome and a great place to be in your pup's eyes.

2. Tire him out. Giving your pup is still quite young, I want to preface this by saying not to overdo it, especially with the physical stuff. But some good mental stimulation before the event and at regular intervals throughout should keep your pup entertained and reduce barking and destructiveness. Puzzle toys, nosework, trick training, snuffle mats—these are all great ways to get your pup to use his brain.

3. Self play. Give your pup something exciting and novel for self play. A new chew toy, long-lasting treat (like a bully stick), or a self-play puzzle toy will help to stave off boredom.

4. Regular potty breaks. Set a regular alarm on your phone/watch/whatever to take your pup out for a potty break, and maybe even a short walk around the block. Preventing potty accidents will make your day smoother and his day less stressful.

5. Enforced naps. If you aren't already, try to get your pup acclimated to going into the crate for nap time. You don't have a lot of time between now and Thanksgiving, so hopefully you've made a start on this already. Figure out how much your pup will need to sleep and enforce those naps by bringing him to the crate for nap time. Little treats when he goes in on his own can go a long way to making it a place he wants to be to sleep.

6. Find your dog lovers. If any of your guests love dogs, have toys available for them to interact with him (in a safe place away from the kitchen!). Tug toys, flirt poles, treats—whatever he's into when you're interacting with him. Keep an eye on your pup though to make sure he isn't getting over-stimulated or over-tired. Make sure your guests (particularly children!) are advised not to over-stimulate the puppy. With children, ensure they're supervised for their safety and your pup's.

7. House line. If you do choose to have your pup out and about, put a leash on him with the loop cut off (so it doesn't get stuck on furniture) so you can easily get him out of trouble. You can even attach it to yourself or another family member so the pup is always supervised.

More long term, but working on calm behaviors like "settle" and "place" can give your pup a place to be and enjoy being relaxed around people. Though four months old is too young to expect a stellar "place" command, it's not a bad idea to start!

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My personal experience is this:

  • Puppies are excited by guests. Keep him in his crate for a few minutes when the visitors arrive to help him calm down, then let him interact with your guests. That also takes care of the problem that the dog runs between legs and jumps at people when they're trying to take off their jackets and shoes.
  • Keep all bags and handbags of your guests off the ground. A teething puppy might search all the new and interesting bags for something to chew.
  • With so many guests the puppy is very likely to find at least one who wants to play with or pet him. That interaction can balance the time(s) the puppy has to spend in the crate.
  • Never leave your puppy alone in a room with food, even while cooking or setting the table. Our own solution was to have at least one person stay with the dog (mostly while preparing food anyways) or lock our dog in a different room or the crate.
  • If the visitors stay for a long time, some dogs get overwhelmed or exhausted. If you notice that your dog cannot find rest (he lays down but gets up again quickly; he closes his eyes but then watches the next conversation) it can be beneficial to lock him in a quiet room like a bedroom, just to give him the timeout he needs.

In the end, keeping your dog out of trouble is your responsibility. I guess you know him and his habits best, so try to analyze the situation regularly and anticipate his usual reactions to it. Will he jump on the table to have a taste? Make sure there's a person nearby to prevent that. Will he chew on your guests shoes? Put them all in a big box and out of reach.

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The care we show to our pets should be more-or-less equal to the care we show to our children. In the same way that we do not let our children unsupervised for many hours in a row, pets should not be ignored for hours either.

as a minimum, you need to make sure of two things:

  1. the puppy has enough food and water; re-supply as needed;
  2. make sure the puppy can "eliminate" the food and water he had yesterday; puppies need feeding and walking more often than adult dogs.

So if you plan to just put the puppy in some kind of "suspended animation" for the sake of the guests, then you will be in for a surprise.


A long time ago we had a parakeet. And he was always bothering my mother and her occasional guests to the point that conversation was mostly impossible. And that continued until my mother understood the root cause and implemented a trick: whenever she had a guest and the parakeet started the "show", she just took him on her finger at the level of her face (elbow on the table). This gave him the illusion that he is in the middle of the conversation - which made him incredibly happy and zero jealous, and all problems ceased.

Bottom line: instead making the puppy disappear, you might just as well plan to make him the center of attraction. Just an idea.

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There's a few things I'd consider

When we had religious events where the dogs wasn't invited (where we had priests of our religion over) - we'd generally have someone stay with the dog. I think its pretty important that the dog realise that he's not being punished - if you can 'cordon off' some areas where the pup's free to move and have humans in the area too, its less likely that the pup feels he's done something wrong and be grounded. We also used to build a little barrier of storage boxes between the places he could and couldn't go to... and well he probably amused himself/got tired out trying to figure out how to sneak out

Our late dog decided the kitchen was off limits as a pup so it was less of a problem but it might be a great idea to keep the pup out and if he does sneak in, politely and firmly evict the little fella from the area.

Its also worth thinking of the people who are coming. This is both a great socialisation opportunity and a potential for stress. Its a puppy - so its going to be overwhelmed and people are either going to love him or hate him.

That said, when our little mutt was teething, he'd chew on everything (there were mitigating factors) - I also suspect redirecting the need to chew appropriately a good idea.

Basically its gonna be work but - hopefully worth it.

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    ... apparently I got distracted half way
    – Journeyman Geek
    Nov 12, 2022 at 22:14

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