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For many people, the Christmas tree is the focal point of their winter holiday décor. The most challenging part of setting it up is deciding where to hang their ornaments. Pet parents, however, have additional considerations to keep in mind.
But Christmas trees bring more than a festive touch to the home for dogs (and cats). Everything about them, from fragile decorations to shiny lights to the branches, may pique a canine's curiosity. Unfortunately, all of these (and more) could be dangerous if they're knocked over, chewed up, or ingested.
That doesn't mean pet parents shouldn't set up a tree for the holidays. However, they will need to take additional steps to ensure a more dog-proof Christmas tree.
The following five tips can help pet parents protect their Christmas tree from their dog this holiday season:
Real Christmas trees are a staple holiday item in many homes. Lots of families have a long-standing tradition of visiting Christmas tree farms to pick out the perfect evergreen. However, live trees can present a few significant health risks for dogs.
For one thing, evergreen trees drop needles. A curious dog may ingest them or accidentally eat them when gnawing on the branches. Christmas tree needles are sharp, and swallowing them could puncture their digestive tract. They may also collect in the intestines, resulting in a blockage.
Another potential hazard with a real tree is the water that sits in its base. While keeping the tree well-watered helps minimize dropped needles, many people use additives such as flower preservatives, sugar, or aspirin to increase longevity. These turn the tree water toxic for dogs if they drink it.
Instead of a real tree, pet parents might want to consider investing in an artificial one. It doesn't have (nor will it shed) sharp needles and doesn't require any watering. Even so, pet parents should still take precautions to keep their dog from chewing on the tree's limbs.
When it comes time to decorate the tree, pet parents will want to take some extra precautions.
Many families have at least one box of fragile ornaments they received from family members or collected over the years. While every human in the house knows to handle these pieces with care, dogs aren't aware of their fragile nature and could accidentally knock them off the branches, shattering them. Dogs could also get hurt if they step on broken ornaments.
While pet parents can keep their treasured ornaments safer by hanging them on higher branches, there's still the risk of a playful dog running into the tree and knocking them loose. Pet parents might want to consider looking for shatterproof ornaments instead. They can still display their favorite ornaments in a safer location, such as a high shelf, mantle, or display case with LED candles to bring attention to them.
Metal hooks are convenient and affordable. However, dogs can step on these, injuring their paws, or ingest them and potentially suffer mouth injuries or digestive tract punctures. Twine or yarn offer better alternatives since these materials won't poke or scratch curious dogs. Additionally, pet parents can tie their ornaments to the branches of their Christmas tree, keeping them more secure.
Edible ornaments can be incredibly tempting for food-driven canines. Candy canes and gingerbread people contain a lot of sugar. Too much sugar can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea and pose issues for dogs with diabetes or other blood sugar issues. Popcorn garlands use string, which could cause intestinal blockages if ingested. Salt dough ornaments (although not something people would eat) are high in salt, and eating them could cause salt toxicosis in dogs.
Pet parents should avoid using edible decorations to keep their dogs from running off with something they shouldn't have. Alternative items, such as a dog-friendly paper garland or holiday greeting cards from friends and family, offer safer, far less tempting solutions.
Some dogs might not like the sudden addition of a strange tree with shiny lights and sparkling ornaments, at least not right away. They might get scared and try to attack the tree or find a safe place to hide. Other curious canines may not want to leave it alone.
Until their dogs get used to the festive addition, pet parents should keep a close eye on them around the Christmas tree. If they're going out, they might want to block access to the tree by shutting the door to the room housing it or putting a pet gate in the doorway.
If their canine is still a little too interested in chewing on tree branches, pet parents may be looking for other ideas on how to stop a dog from eating a Christmas tree. A deterrent like bitter apple spray could provide an effective solution. The natural, nontoxic substance has an incredibly bitter flavor that can put many dogs off trying to lick or chew any sprayed items. They can also use a bitter citrus spray, which may be a better option for pet parents with cats.
Alternatively, pet parents could put up a gate or fence around their Christmas tree skirt. It may provide greater peace of mind knowing that their dog can't reach the tree limbs and ornaments, especially if they aren't there to watch their pets.
A dog-proof Christmas tree doesn't just protect breakable ornaments and prevent messes. It's vital for keeping canines safe from sharp objects, electrical cords, and other potential hazards that may cause serious injuries.
Pet parents wanting to know how to keep a dog away from a Christmas tree can also try positive reinforcement behavior training. They can work with their dogs to create positive associations with the Christmas tree (and other holiday decorations) and establish acceptable behaviors using treats and lots of praise.
If pet parents need additional training tips and advice, Fuzzy's online vets are available 24/7, including Christmas Day, to help. Pet parents can receive expert guidance and more to ensure a happier holiday season for all.