I got lucky with Luna and Morgan. Once they got out of the puppy stage, they have been good about leaving the Christmas tree alone.
Part of that is because I never leave them alone with the tree and I don’t allow food gifts to be placed under the tree until we are about to open gifts.
Some of it is also due to the training that we did with them. Enough times of “leave it” and they start to understand they aren’t supposed to play with the tree.
The biggest issue I have with Luna and the Christmas tree now is when Allie the cat decides under the tree, or on top of the gifts is a great place to sleep. If Allie is near the tree Luna is likely to bump it by accident, but other than that, she is good about leaving the tree alone.
If you are not so lucky and have a dog that can’t seem to stay out of the tree, or a young dog that is just into everything right now, there are things you can do to help keep them safe this holiday season.
Read on for some tips on how to keep your dog safe around the Christmas tree.
Why Are Christmas Trees Dangerous for Dogs?
Many dogs are drawn to the smell of a real Christmas tree. The pine needles, sap, and oils can be irresistible to some dogs. But these scents that make your tree smell like Christmas can also harm your dog if ingested.
Pine needles can cause gastrointestinal irritation and blockages if swallowed. And the oil from the pine needles can be toxic if ingested in large quantities.
The sap from the tree can also be irritating to your dog’s skin and coat. It can cause redness, itchiness, and even rashes.
The water in the tree stand can also be a problem. It can contain harmful bacteria that can make your dog sick if ingested. And if your dog knocks over the tree, the water can spill and create a slipping hazard.
And then there are the decorations. Tinsel, garland, ribbons, and strings can all be tempting playthings for your dog. But if swallowed, they can cause serious gastrointestinal blockages.
Glass ornaments can also be dangerous if broken. Your dog could cut himself on the shards or swallow small pieces of glass.
Even the electrical cords from the lights can be a hazard. If your dog chews on them, he could suffer burns or electrical shock.
How to keep your dog safe around the Christmas tree
There are several ways to keep your dog out of the Christmas tree.
Consider an artificial tree
An artificial tree doesn’t have the same appealing scent as real Christmas trees, so your dog may be less interested in it. And if it’s made of durable materials, it will be less likely to break if your dog bumps into it
Plus, an artificial tree doesn’t have the dangers of a real tree, no dangerous pine needles, and no tree water to keep your dog out of.
Stabilize the tree
Whether you choose a real tree or an artificial tree, make sure it’s stable. A sturdy tree will be less likely to tip over if your dog bumps into it.
Weigh down the base of the tree
Use a heavy base for your tree or place something heavy on top of the base you have. A tree with a heavy base is less likely to fall over if your dog decides to play with it or bumps into it.
Anchor the tree to the wall or ceiling
If you’re really worried about your tree tipping over, you can anchor it to the wall or ceiling. You can use fishing line to tie the tree to the wall or ceiling. Fishing line is difficult to see, so it won’t be obvious that you have tied it up.
By anchoring the tree to the wall or ceiling it will be less likely to fall down if your dog bumps into it.
Start with a bare tree
Once you have the tree set up, wait to add the decorations for a few days. This gives your dog time to get used to the tree being in the house.
If you have a real tree this gives them time to get used to the scent and the sight of the tree without being tempted by all the shiny objects.
This also gives you time to find out how your dog reacts to the tree without risking ornaments breaking. If your dog can’t leave a bare tree alone, you know that there is little chance of them leaving a decorated tree alone.
You will need to be more proactive about keeping your dog out of the tree once it is decorated.
Use a physical barrier
A physical barrier is one of the most effective ways to keep your dog away from the tree. Dogs are less likely to jump over or go under a barrier if they can see it.
You can use a baby gate, pet fence, or even an exercise pen to create a barrier around the tree. Just make sure the barrier is tall enough and sturdy enough that your dog can’t knock it over or push through it.
Train your dog to stay away from the tree
You can also train your dog to stay away from the tree. This may take some patience and practice, but it can be done.
Start by teaching your dog a “leave it” command. Then, practice this command with other objects before moving on to the Christmas tree.
When you’re ready to introduce the tree, put your dog on a leash and have him sit or lie down at a distance from the tree. If he starts to move toward the tree, give the “leave it” command.
If he obeys, give him a treat. If he doesn’t obey, turn and walk away from the tree. Repeat this exercise until your dog is consistently obeying the “leave it” command when he’s near the tree.
Distract your dog from the tree
If you can’t seem to keep your dog away from the tree, try to distract him with other toys or activities.
Give him a chew toy to keep him occupied or play fetch with him in another room. You can also try training him with positive reinforcement – every time he leaves the tree alone, give him a treat.
Put a deterring material on the floor around the tree
You can also put something on the floor around the tree that will deter your dog from getting too close. Some people use aluminum foil because it’s loud and slippery. Others use double-sided tape because it’s sticky and uncomfortable. There are also tacky mats that work similarly to double-sided tape but are much larger than a piece of tape is.
When your dog walks on these items it should deter them from getting too close to the tree.
Use a pet deterrent spray
There are also commercial pet deterrent sprays, like bitter apple spray, that you can use around the tree. These sprays contain bitter flavors that dogs don’t like.
Just spray it on the tree and Christmas decorations and when your dog tries to bite the tree, he’ll taste the spray and be deterred.
Use dog-safe tree decorations
Using dog-safe decorations makes it safer for your dog if they do get into the tree. These ornaments are less likely to break when they fall and hit the floor and are big enough that they shouldn’t pose a choking hazard for your dog.
Put fragile ornaments on higher branches
Putting fragile ornaments on higher branches keeps them out of your dog’s reach so he can’t chew on them or play with them and accidentally break them. Then put the ornaments that are not fragile on the lower branches. That way if your dog plays with any ornaments, they are at least dog safe ornaments.
No food on the tree
When decorating your tree, skip over any food ornaments. This includes candy canes, dog treats, cinnamon ornaments, and any other type of food you may use as an ornament.
Any food on the tree may tempt your dog to try and get to it. This could lead to them knocking the tree over or breaking decorations in their attempt to get to the food.
On top of that, some food decorations could make your dog ill if they eat them and no one wants an ill dog at Christmas time.
Don’t put real candles on the tree
Real candles may look pretty on the tree, but they are a fire hazard even without dogs in the house. With dogs, it’s even worse. If your dog bumps into the tree or knocks it over when the candles are lit, it could start a fire.
Even if you’re using battery-operated candles, it’s best to keep them out of reach of your dog. A curious dog could knock them over and potentially chew on them.
Avoid tinsel or curly ribbons
Tinsel and curly ribbons may be pretty, but they’re not safe for dogs. If your dog eats them, they can cause an obstruction in their intestines.
This obstruction can be life-threatening and may require surgery to remove.
Avoid traditional wire hooks
You want your ornaments securely attached to your tree, but wire hooks can be dangerous for a dog if they swallow them. The metal hook could puncture your dog’s stomach or intestines causing a life-threatening condition that will probably require surgery.
Your dog could also step on any metal hooks that have been knocked off the tree or fallen on the floor during decorating.
Instead of metal hooks use a twist tie or a small amount of string to tie your ornaments to the tree.
Secure electric cords
If you are one that likes Christmas lights on your tree, make sure to secure the cords. A curious dog may chew on the cords which could lead to getting electric shocks if it is plugged in at the time.
You can use cord covers to hide the cords and make them less tempting for your dog. If you don’t have cord covers, you can tape the cords down or keep them out of reach by placing them behind furniture.
Delay placing gifts around the Christmas tree
If you put your Christmas presents around the tree too early, your dog may be tempted to rip them open. Dogs are curious creatures and if they see a wrapped box or something that smells good, they may be tempted to tear it open.
To avoid this, wait until closer to Christmas to put the gifts under the tree. This will give your dog less time to be curious about them. And if you are giving food gifts, wait to put those under the tree until Christmas morning.
If you have a dog that is particularly curious or destructive, you may want to put all the gifts in a closet or another room until Christmas day.
Don’t leave your dog alone with the Christmas tree
Even if you’ve followed all of the tips above, it’s still best not to leave your dog alone with the Christmas tree. A curious dog may be able to find a way to get into the tree no matter how well you think you’ve secured it.
It’s best to keep an eye on your dog when the Christmas tree is up. This way you can catch them if they start to get into something they shouldn’t and stop them before they cause any damage.
That means you either need to put the tree in a room that you can shut the door to when you can’t supervise your dog or use a crate for your dog.
Crating your dog whenever you can’t supervise them makes it so they can’t get into the tree when you can’t watch them.
Keep toxic plants out of reach
Many common Christmas plants are toxic to dogs if they eat them. These include holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias.
If you have these plants in your home, make sure to keep them out of reach of your dog. The best way to do this is to put them up high where your dog can’t get to them.
You can also keep them in a room that your dog can’t get into.
Celebrate Christmas with your dog
Now that you know how to dog-proof your Christmas tree and keep them safe this Christmas, it’s time to think about how to celebrate with your dog.
You can celebrate with your dog by making them one of these 14 Christmas dog treats. What dog wouldn’t love a homemade treat at Christmas?
You can also buy them a gift of their own, like one of these Christmas gift ideas for dogs. If you would rather make something to give your dog, here are some DIY gifts for dogs.
Dogs are curious creatures but with a little bit of planning, you can keep them safe during the Christmas season. By following these simple tips, you can dog-proof your tree and avoid any potential hazards.
Keep in mind that some dogs may be more curious or destructive than others, so if you have a particularly inquisitive dog, take extra precautions.
And finally, always keep an eye on your dog when the Christmas tree is up to make sure they don’t get into anything they shouldn’t.
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