Christmas is a big deal, with a lot of sensory distractions - especially if you walk around on all fours and are only one-to-three feet tall. For our canine best friends, the sudden onset of sparkly decorations, piles of gifts, lots of noisy visitors and persistent new food smells can be very overwhelming. It’s understandable that your pooch may be a little harder to control at this time of year, and you might worry about their wellbeing.
Keeping your dog at their safest and calmest over the festive season is all down to simple preparation. By adding a few extra dog-proofing steps to your Christmas routine - from safely decorating your Christmas tree to making sure your dog is occupied at dinnertime - your pooch, and you in turn, can enjoy this hectic season more peacefully.
Read on for our top tips for dog-proofing your house over Christmas…
First up: the tree. You might not consider your dog’s relationship with your Christmas tree until they come ‘fur to fir’ with each other in a stand off - then the questions will arise. “Do dogs like Christmas trees?”, “Will a real Christmas tree poison the dog?!” and “Are fake Christmas trees toxic to dogs?”.
Here are some dog-proof Christmas tree ideas to have pooch and tree living in harmony together until January.
In general, dogs and Christmas trees should be kept a safe distance from each other, as whether it’s a natural or artificial tree you go for, there are various hazards.
For some families, it’s hard to imagine going without a real tree. Luckily, the trees most often used at Christmas (fir, pine, spruce) are non-toxic to dogs, so it won’t be too much of an emergency if they have a curious chew. What could cause irritation or a tummy upset however, are the dropping pine needles or tree sap.
For this reason, even though real Christmas trees are generally safe to dogs, it’s a good idea to clean up the needles regularly, always supervise your pooch around the tree, and keep them apart with a gate or tree barrier.
What about a fake tree? Artificial trees are usually made of plastic, but dogs still may chew on them and cause harm to themselves and the tree itself. Some artificial trees also come with a frosting of fake snow, which can be toxic to dogs. Again, it’s best to be safe and keep a barrier between your tree and the dog(s) in your home to avoid any ingestion which could lead to stomach upsets or blockages.
Pets getting at the Christmas tree is an age-old problem (we all know that cats love to climb), so tree barriers are widely available. This is to protect your dog from your Christmas tree, and vice versa. Though Christmas tree guards for dogs are a great solution, do supervise your dog around the tree anyway, and don’t leave them in the same room when you go out.
When you first get out your Christmas tree, your dog may be very aware of its big, imposing and unfamiliar presence. Rather than intensify the strangeness by immediately hanging lights and sparkly objects from the tree, leave it bare for a few days. This gives your pooch time to get used to the change in environment, and will mean the transition to decorated tree will be less disruptive for them.
When it comes to decorating, some pooch parents keep the bottom of the tree bare and only hang things on higher branches - or you can even get half trees for dogs that stay out of reach of paws, claws and gnashers.
If you want to decorate the whole tree, avoid edible decorations like popcorn strings and chocolate baubles - they will simply be too tempting for a dog. Delicate baubles that may smash should also be avoided or hung elsewhere, and real garlands (ivy or holly, for instance) should also be draped higher up, not in dog’s reach. This is especially true when it comes to puppies and Christmas trees - at this age, they are prone to destruction!
It can help to have distractions around so that you can train your dog to stay away from the tree. A special Christmas-themed toy could help - that you get out at particular times of day when your dog seems their most troublesome. Festive treats for dogs can also be used as a good training tool.
Piles of gifts are another evil temptation for a dog - most pooches know what gift wrapping is by a certain age and will be desperate to tear the boxes open. To save any tears or ruined surprises, it’s a good idea to keep gifts hidden away until Christmas morning. If this isn’t possible, at least keep them behind a barrier or gate.
Remember, you can keep dogs away from everyone’s gifts on Christmas day by giving them their own gifts to unwrap, like a Christmas hamper for dogs.
You can keep fancy decorations out of reach of your pooch, but there are some items that are particularly unsafe.
Don’t keep any open flames where a pet could brush it or knock it over, such as Christmas candle displays or intricate light set-ups.
Has your cheeky dog chewed the Christmas lights? More decorative lights means an abundance of electrical cords which dogs are often tempted to nibble. Keep an excess of cords neat, hidden or behind gates and barriers - as a safety precaution to your entire family as well as pets.
As mentioned, chocolate baubles or candy strings are too tempting for pets to have hanging around. If you have edible decorations, keep them out of sight (and smell!) of your dog, or perhaps bring them out purposefully at the time your family will eat them.
Christmas is the perfect time to adorn your rooms with festive foliage - holly, ivy, mistletoe - while still making sure they’re safe enough to be around a curious pooch. Though most Christmas plants are moderately safe and will only cause mild stomach upset, certain parts of plants (holly or mistletoe berries, for example) can be dangerous to dogs if munched in large amounts.
So long as you supervise your dog around Christmas plants, hang them well out of reach and deter your pooch from eating any should they try it, they should be fine. So that you’re in the know about which plants are safest, here’s a rundown of which Christmas plants are toxic to dogs.
If you’re uncertain about whether you can trust your dog around festive plants, it’s best to be on the safe side and go without.
We tend to eat and eat at Christmas time - and our dogs will get FOMO. With so many delicious aromas and a sense of occasion around the dinner table, your pooch will make it known that they want to be involved.
Here’s how to keep your dog occupied so you can enjoy your festive meal in peace.
It makes sense that your dog might be a bit on edge at Christmas - it’s an exciting yet overstimulating time for most of us. By introducing new things slowly, reassuring your dog and keeping to a regular routine, they should handle the festive season relatively smoothly. Read on for some tips to keep your dog calm over Christmas.
For a dog as cool as a Christmas cucumber -
Having more people in the house than usual can send your dog into overdrive. Be sure to take them into a calm, empty space if they need a moment, or distract them with toys and calming dog food.
Dogs won’t always know that Santa is likely a family member dressed up - be ready to pull off a beard if necessary so your dog knows they needn’t be on guard!
Some decorations are too noisy or flashy for certain dogs to deal with - for instance, a singing Santa figure could trigger a frightened barking fit. If this is the case, you might want to only set off these decorations for visitors when the dog is in another room, or switch them off most of the time if it causes too much stress to your pooch.
Giving your dog some calming dog treats or letting them unwrap their own Christmas gift for dogs will be a great distraction for your pooch during gift-giving time. This way your dog can feel they’re included without disrupting the fun.
To avoid your dog feeling left out, be sure your dog gets a special meal like the rest of the family by dishing up a doggy Christmas dinner when you’re eating. Keep to your regular meal-time routine and maybe give them a calming dog treat or two so they know to behave.
Fireworks aren’t exactly dogs’ best friends, and they’re likely to go off at random periods throughout Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Consider some calming dog food, supervise and comfort them, and of course, keep them indoors during firework displays.
If you have to leave your dog alone for a short time over the Christmas period, be sure they have the safety of their regular blankets, crate or den, comforting toys and perhaps some gentle dog music. Use a baby gate or dog barriers to be sure they stay in rooms away from hazardous Christmas decorations or plants, and don’t stay out for hours, if possible.
There’s a lot to manage at Christmas, but so long as you set boundaries for your pooch (physical as well as behavioural) while making efforts to involve them in activities and offer doggy-safe spaces, they should stay happy and calm over the festive season. Keep hazards out of reach, feed them healthy festive dog food that sits well with their tums, and reassure them with their own toys and gifts so they can join in with the family fun over Christmas.
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