Oh, Christmas Tree!

Liz Palika

Dogs and the Christmas Tree

In a recent basic obedience class I was teaching, I asked the class how many people had set up their Christmas trees. No one had; they were all afraid because they had young, adolescent dogs. An untrained dog can create havoc with a Christmas tree, but that doesn’t mean you need to go tree-less.

Think Prevention

The best way to make sure your tree makes it through the holiday unscathed is to think prevention. How can you set up a tree and keep it safe from your dog?

If you normally have a full-sized tree that is set on the floor, think about a table tree this year. It can still be a nice, full tree and next year, after your dog has had some more training, you can always go back to a full-sized tree.

The height of the table for the tree should be above your dog’s nose. If you have a Great Dane puppy, that might be difficult, of course, but a higher table helps put the tree out of the dog’s reach.

Anchoring the tree is also important; even if the tree is on a table. A couple of guy-wires to walls works well. If that isn’t possible, duct tape works. Tape the tree stand to the table. If that isn’t possible either, be inventive. How can you anchor the tree and tree stand so that it will remain in place for the season?

It’s still a good idea to put unbreakable ornaments on the bottom third of the tree; depending of course, on how tall your dog is. If you have a Dachshund and the tree is on a table that is normal table height, then unbreakables aren’t needed. But if you have a medium to large sized dog, use unbreakable ornaments as glass ones can break if dislodged. Plus, glass ornaments can cut your dog’s mouth if he thinks they are toys. Wires are also attractive to inquisitive puppies, so tuck them away so they aren’t dangling or visible.

Once you have the tree set up, take a look at it from your dog’s perspective. Look up at the table, look under the table, and from different directions. What does your dog see? What is dangling or waving in the air movement of the room? Remember, your dog doesn’t know what is dangerous or breakable.

Distance is Good

If, even with these precautions, your dog is still a little too interested in the tree, you can make it less accessible. A pretty white garden picket fence can be set up around the base of the tree or the table. If it’s set back a couple feet from the tree, that will put some distance between your dog and the tree.

If your family likes to set up a miniature train around the tree, that can be done just inside the picket fence. The train is then visible yet also protected.

Stockings for Santa to fill can be hung from the table under the tree. The cookies and milk for Santa can also be left on the table. Presents placed on the floor under the tree and table can also be protected by the picket fence. Ideally, the fence will help keep everything safe.

Supervision and More Prevention

With all of this prevention, however, your young dog still needs to be supervised around all the Christmas decorations. Everything is too new, too interesting, and way too attractive for an inquisitive dog. Even with a picket fence, an adventurous, bold dog might still try to climb or jump into trouble.

When you supervise your dog’s access to the holiday decorations, you can also teach him. The leave it exercise is an excellent way to teach your dog that all these decorations are off limits.

When you can’t supervise your dog, keep him in a safe place away from the decorations, food and candy, and gifts. It may be difficult sometimes, and an upset to your daily routine, but preventing him from getting into trouble will help save the holiday.

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