It’s the holiday season! You’re putting up the tree and decorating the house with lights.
There’s flowers, candles, sparkles and glitter, glass bits and bobs, and everything else that makes decorating so magical.
It looks beautiful and puts us all in the spirit. The world is ready to celebrate with friends and family.
But, pet owners have some extra planning to do. Many worry about whether their decorations are dog safe. What if they eat something or knock something over?
Thankfully, there’s plenty of wiggle room when it comes to decorations. There are plenty of dog friendly options and alternatives to the traditional Christmas flair.
We’ll take a look at some do’s and some don’ts to keep your dog safe and participating in the festivities.
Take Time Putting Up Christmas Decorations
If it’s your dog's first Christmas, all of the excitement and change can be a lot. It can even be a little scary for them.
Bring your tree in and set it up, but wait a few days before you decorate it. We know it’s hard to wait, but it will be worth it!
This gives your dog a chance to get used to it and investigate it before there are decorations up. That way if they’re overly curious or stressed, there’s less for them to accidentally harm themselves with.
It will also give you time to work with your dog on keeping away from the tree. If your dog knows the “leave it” command, this is a great time to put it to use. If they don’t, it’s a wonderful learning opportunity.
Avoid Christmas Decorations that Involve Food
A garland made of popcorn and cranberries is a popular decoration during the holiday season. While the popcorn and cranberries can be good for your dog in small amounts, the string they’re on is not.
Not only that, but most people wrap it around their Christmas tree. All it takes is a curious or hungry dog and then your tree is on the floor and you have to make an emergency vet visit.
Other popular tree decorations may include cookies, apples, and oranges. So, it’s best to leave the treats off the tree for the previously mentioned reasons.
Be Mindful of the Type of Christmas Decorations You Use
Consider wood and plastic decorations instead of traditional glass and crystal. They also make shatter proof ornaments now.
This way if anything gets knocked down, it doesn’t shatter on the floor and potentially cause cuts, or even worse, get eaten by a curious canine.
If there are sentimental decorations you just have to include: consider putting them high up or out of reach, so that they can’t accidentally be knocked over.
Keep in mind that your dog may be attracted to particularly shiny or reflective decorations as well and you should be mindful of when and where you put them up.
Avoid Seasonal Plants as Christmas Decorations
Some of the most popular decorations are toxic to dogs and should be kept out of the home. You don’t want your dog accidentally getting them and making themselves ill.
We’ve provided a list of plants to avoid and things you can use as an alternative for them. The plant to avoid is on the left and the replacement is on the right.
They may not look exactly the same, but they will be similar and do a good job of emulating the same sort of decorative feel.
Consider a Fence as Part of the Christmas Decorations
If you have a live tree, you’ll have a water reservoir. It’s good for your tree, but a curious or thirsty dog will see it as a place to drink from even though it’s probably full of bacteria and dirt.
A decorative tree fence will keep them out of the water.
Even if you have an artificial tree, a fence may not hurt as it can help prevent accidents such as the tree getting knocked over and it allows for less access to the branches.
You can also use a gate to fence off the room that your tree is in, if that’s an option.
Try a Table Tree for Christmas Decorations
Some dogs are just too curious for their own good and no matter what you do, you can’t keep them out of your tree.
If that’s you, but you can’t stand not to have a Christmas tree up as part of the decor: try a tabletop tree.
They’re usually shorter than 1m (3ft) tall and most stores sell miniature decorations to accommodate their short stature.
You can try placing it in the center of your table or some other place that’s out of your dog’s reach.
Wait to Incorporate Gifts as Part of the Christmas Decorations
All of those colourful bows and ribbons can make for a tempting snack. Not to mention the shiny paper.
Instead of putting out the presents ahead of time, wait until the night before or the morning of. There’s much less chance for your dog to try and take a nibble or shred up the wrapping paper.
Bows, ribbons, metallic and glitter paper can cause digestive blockages and distress for your dog. If you really want to use gifts as part of the decor, forgo the bows and ribbons. You can also get plain wrapping paper that isn’t as appealing or hard on the stomach even if it’s still not good to ingest.
When opening gifts, have a garbage bag at the ready, so nothing is left lying around for a curious dog to eat off of the floor.
Try Electric Candles as Part of the Christmas Decorations
Candles can be seen in windows, on tables, and all over during the holiday season.
The tradition of putting them in windows dates back to the late 1600’s in Irish homes.
It’s a tradition that’s been carried around the world and into the modern day, even if people may no longer know why it’s done.
Instead of using real candles, try electric candles. The wicks are illuminated with LED lights so if they get knocked over, there’s no chance for a fire.
Be Ready for Christmas Decoration Emergencies
All of the prepping and mindfulness in the world can’t stop an accident. Sometimes no matter how prepared we are, accidents happen.
Check with your vet about their hours during the holidays and make sure you know where the closest emergency clinic is as well.
That way, you’re prepared should any unexpected accident happen.
Keeping your dog safe around Christmas decorations is more about adjusting and accommodating than just keeping them safe.
Swapping out some traditional items for others goes a long way in providing safety to your dog and your home.
Perhaps all of this planning will even inspire you to think outside the box and get creative with your decorations.
Did we miss something? Do you want to share your decorations with us?
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How can I introduce my dog to a Christmas tree safely?
Introduce your dog to the Christmas tree gradually. Set up the tree and let your dog get accustomed to it before decorating. Use this time to reinforce commands like "leave it" to prevent your dog from disturbing the tree. If it's their first Christmas, this approach helps them adjust without being overwhelmed or scared.
Are there any Christmas decorations that should be avoided around dogs?
Yes, avoid decorations that involve food, like garlands made of popcorn and cranberries, which pose choking hazards. Also, steer clear of fragile decorations like glass ornaments which can break and harm your dog. Instead, opt for wood, plastic, or shatterproof ornaments.
What holiday plants are toxic to dogs, and what are safe alternatives?
Common holiday plants like Poinsettias, Holly, Mistletoe, and Amaryllis are toxic to dogs. Safe alternatives include Red Roses, Christmas Cactus, Autumn Olive (Silver Berry), and Achira. These plants can give a similar festive feel without the risk to your pet.
How can I prevent my dog from accessing the water reservoir of a live Christmas tree?
A decorative fence around the base of your Christmas tree can prevent your dog from drinking the potentially bacteria-laden water from the tree's reservoir. This barrier also helps to protect the tree from being knocked over by a curious or playful dog.
What precautions should be taken with Christmas gifts to ensure they are dog safe?
Wait until the last moment to place gifts under the tree to avoid tempting your dog with colorful bows, ribbons, and shiny wrapping paper, which can cause digestive issues if ingested. Consider using plain wrapping paper and skipping ribbons or bows. During gift opening, keep a trash bag handy to immediately dispose of wrapping materials, keeping them out of your dog's reach.