Top Ten Ways to Say “Thank You” to Your Dog This Holiday Season… Part I

How do you say "Thank You" to your dog? If your gratitude this Holiday Season includes your precious pup who faithfully brings so much joy and unconditional love all year long-- show your appreciation by including your dog in the festivities. Say "Thank You" to your kindred canine and make your dog smile. Here are some of my ideas, please feel free to add yours to the Wish List.

1. Hang Out with Your Dog

Photo Courtesy of Chihuahua Rescue San Diego

One of the best gifts you can give your dog is your time, energy and affection, and quite likely, no one is more gleefully pleased with your attention than your dog. If you have a well-socialized dog, take her with you to run some errands or spend some quality time together. Take a long ride up the coast or just about anywhere out in nature and walk along the beach, visit some of our beautiful little beach or small towns along your way. Dogs love country.

2. Veterinary Care

Be pro-active about the health care of your dog all year round just as you are about the health of other family members. Why not schedule a trip to your vet for a complete check up? Choose a veterinarian that both you and your dog genuinely like and trust. Some top-notch integrative-care veterinarians combine both allopathic and holistic approaches to the health and well-being of your dog to provide optimal dog-friendly medical care.

Practice calming desensitization techniques in order to better prepare your dog for the onslaught of stimuli she will likely encounter at the clinic. If your dog has been "dreaming of an orthopedic bed", this could be a good time to make that purchase.

3. Train Your Dog

Say "Thank You" by practicing Positive Reinforcement techniques. Positive training for companion animals is fast becoming a preferred method of dog training. One of its most prominent advocates, The Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2006) in their article, "Good Trainers, How to Identify One"… recommends dog-friendly dog training because it is effective, humane and leads to lasting behavior. Enroll in a class or get a private behavioral consultation to target those little or big behavior problems that have cropped up during the year.

To get started at home, reward behaviors you would like to see repeated. Ignore, prevent or manage the behaviors you’d rather not see repeated. Remember to set some household rules, draw boundaries, establish routines and make it all doable for your dog by being consistent.

4. Food!

Tasty food ranks very high on the list of things your dog loves. Why not prepare holiday feasts for the entire family and provide a special meal for your dog? If you feed your dog healthy, organic food and avoid ingredients that are toxic to dogs, a homemade meal may be just what Doggy Santa ordered. Super-premium dog food is also a good choice. Who can resist Merrick™ "Venison Holiday Stew"! Hopefully your dog is already accustomed to eating a wide variety of foods in a balanced diet so a new dish will not upset the tummy.

Don't encourage begging by feeding directly from the table but feed in your dog's bowl or by hand, away from your dining area.

Whether it's foods that people love that may be toxic to your dog, cooked bones, chocolate, or poinsettia plants, be sure to educate yourself for your pet’s sake about the season's dangerous substances. The Humane Society of the United States ( has a complete list of foods that are potentially poisonous to pets. If you think your dog may have ingested a toxic substance you may call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888.426.4435). For a fee, you will receive an immediate consultation.

5. Exercise.

Get your dog out for a nice long run if possible. There are many unique trails, parks, beach areas and neighborhoods to explore. If you prefer to watch rather than run, arrange for a "Play Date" with another friendly dog, or head out to a Dog Beach or one of our leash-free dog parks. Remember, however, to bring only dog-friendly dogs to the dog park and be aware that there is little legal recourse should your dog have an encounter with a dog that is not dog-friendly in a leash-free area.

Consider enrolling your dog in a dog sport class or joining a local group for agility training, fly-ball, or dog dancing. Behaviorally, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog, so don’t underestimate the benefits for both of you that come from aerobic and non-aerobic exercise as well.

What about gear? Many dog trainers recommend a dog-friendly front-clip harness for both walking and running in order to distribute the stress of on-leash pulling across the dog's chest and body, rather than around the neck and throat structures.
(To be continued...)

We'd love you to share your favorite "Thank You" story, comedy or idea right here. Please do!

Warmest Woofs,

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: [email protected] for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at

Originally published RanchCoastNews, Lorine Wright, Executive Editor.  All rights reserved.

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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


7 thoughts on “Top Ten Ways to Say “Thank You” to Your Dog This Holiday Season… Part I

  1. Linda Michaels Post author

    A romp on the farm with your best friend? Sounds great to me too!
    Thanks for sharing you and Tanner.

  2. Laura Walker

    Even though, I'm a dog trainer, I gave my bulldog a training class for his birthday in October. Sure, I can train him to do everything at home, but by getting in a class, I know he'll get attention from me, his instructor and his classmates and it guarantees some quality time together at his favorite store in the world. He loves it!

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  4. Bonnie, Alexis and Beckam

    Alexis enjoys that extra snuggle time in the morning before going outside and Beck's favorite is the treats. Everyday, they get a dentastick and every weekend, a busy bone.

  5. Lisa

    I am happy to say that my beagle, Gracie, gets all of those all year round. How I make it a little more special at holidays is sheet potatoes. She loves them : )

  6. Linda Michaels Post author

    Hi Everyone, Sweet potatoes for Gracie's Holiday? Brilliant! Sweet potatoes are so good for our dogs they're used as the carbohydrate ingredient in many exclusionary diets that allow just one protein source and one carb source in order to identify or eliminate allergens. What a great, healthy idea for a holiday treat.

    Thank you all for sharing. I love just picturing you and your dogs loving it up for the holidays.

    Warmest Thanksgiving Wishes to you and your "puppies".
    PS I'm going to add sweet potatoes to the Food section 🙂

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