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Christmas trees are an essential part of holiday decorations for many families, but if you have a dog at home, the tree may cause some concerns. Pets are often curious about every aspect of the tree, whether it’s the lights, ornaments, or pine needles. Yet, if they get too curious, the tree could pose a threat to your furry friend.
Luckily, it’s possible to set up a beautiful tree and keep your dog safe at the same time, as long as you follow some necessary precautions. Keep reading for tips on how to dog-proof a Christmas tree to keep your canine companion safe.
Are Christmas Trees Dangerous for Dogs?
Christmas trees in general aren’t harmful to dogs. Real Christmas trees are non-toxic plants like fir, spruce, or pine trees while artificial trees are less likely to shed needles and don’t need any water. No matter the type of tree, your pup will stay safe as long as they keep their distance.
However, the problem is that many pets don’t want to stay away from the tree. Most animals get curious about new items in the home, especially ones as big and flashy as a Christmas tree. So, while the tree itself isn’t necessarily dangerous, aspects of the tree can become hazards. If animals try to ingest needles or knock down fragile ornaments, they could be putting their health at risk.
Here are the most common dangers of Christmas trees for dogs:
- Pine needles – Can cause issues if digested
- Ornaments – May scratch a dog if broken or cause a blockage if ingested
- Unstable tree – If your dog can easily knock over the tree, there’s a higher risk of danger
- Water for live trees – It might look like a water bowl, but the water isn’t safe for dogs to drink
- Electrical cords – Dogs could get electrocuted if they chew on tree lights
These are just a few of the many hazards dogs could face around the Christmas tree. Keep these in mind when setting up your holiday decorations.
Real Trees vs Artificial Trees
Are real trees or fake trees safer for dogs? Unfortunately, both types of Christmas trees pose similar risks. The needles on both can cause irritation and blockages if ingested. Both could tip over or have sharp ornaments fall off, especially if your pet won’t leave the tree alone. The main difference between real and fake trees is that real ones need water at the bottom that pets may try to drink, causing an additional risk for them.
Tips for a Pet-Safe Christmas Tree
Even the highest quality Christmas tree can pose a risk to your furry friend. So, here are some tips to reduce the risk of illness or injuries in your pets this year.
1. Don’t Leave Pets Unattended Around the Tree
The best way to ensure your Christmas tree doesn’t harm your dogs is if you never let them go near it unsupervised. An easy way to do so is to restrict their access to that area of the house or to put some sort of barrier around the tree. That way, they can’t drink the water, eat loose needles, chew on electrical cords, or knock over the tree and ornaments.
Setting up a gate is the best way to restrict your pet’s access to the room with the Christmas tree. The Cumbor Extra Tall Baby Gate is a good standard option and the Regalo Wide Dog Gate is ideal for a bigger area. If you want a gate that takes up minimal space when not in use, consider the Wiscky Retractable Baby Gate. A playpen surrounding the Christmas tree, such as the Midwest Wire Dog Exercise Pen, is another product to keep your dog away from the tree.
When you’re monitoring your pet, make sure you stop them if they get too close to the tree, especially if they’re trying to chew on anything or drink the tree’s water.
2. Ensure the Tree is Stable
When setting up your tree, ensure the tree has a sturdy base so your dog can’t easily knock it over. You can also anchor it to the walls or ceiling for extra support. Tipping the tree over not only makes a mess for you, but it can also cause fragile ornaments to break and leave sharp edges everywhere. The tree could even fall on your dog in the process.
3. Regularly Sweep Up Pine Needles
Pine needles, whether they’re real or fake, can irritate your dog’s throat, mess with their digestive system, or cause blockages. Sweep or vacuum them up before your pup can get to them.
For the most effective cleaning, consider the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Vacuum. Not only can it clean up tree needles with ease, but it can also help collect pet hair.
4. Take Your Time Setting Up the Tree
If you have an anxious pup, setting up a Christmas tree might be a lot for them at once. To ease them into the idea of this new decoration, you can start by setting up the bare tree and leaving it like that for a few days to help your pup get used to it. Then, once they seem okay with the tree, you can start adding decorations to it.
5. Keep Breakable Ornaments out of Reach
Any ornaments with small or fragile parts should be kept toward the top of the tree so they’re out of reach from your dog. Like needles, ornaments can cause damage internally if ingested, however, they can also leave nasty scratches on your dog’s skin if they shatter. It can also help to tie the ornaments on the tree as tightly as possible so they’re less likely to fall off.
If you’re in the market for new ornaments, consider some dog-themed ones that aren’t made of fragile materials like glass. The iHeartDogs Metal Gingerbread Cookie Dog Ornament and the Wooden Merry Christmas Dog Ornament are some examples of adorable pet-related ornaments that won’t shatter.
6. Hide Electrical Cords
Bright holiday lights are hard for anyone to resist, especially pets. If your dog tries to chew on any electrical cords, they could get shocked or tangled in the wire. To prevent this, consider not putting lights on the bottom branches that your dog can reach. Also, make sure the cord for the lights is hidden as much as possible so your dog won’t be drawn to it.
7. Avoid Decorating with Tinsel, String, and Ribbons
Tinsel and ribbons are popular Christmas tree decorations, but due to their long shape, they can easily cause blockages if eaten. If you suspect your dog might want to chew on them, it’s best to skip them altogether. The exception to this rule is small ribbons to hang up ornaments. They’re generally safer than the metal ornament hangers because the metal ones can scratch your dog.
8. Don’t Decorate with Toxic Plants
A lot of holiday plants, such as holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias, are toxic to dogs. As beautiful as they are, you should keep them off your tree and ideally out of your home altogether to keep your pup as safe as possible. If you really love the look, choose fake plants instead. You should also avoid putting food on the tree, such as candy canes. They may be tasty for humans, but they’re not safe for dogs.
If your dog accidentally ingests something toxic, using a product like the Dr. Cuddles ReadyRESCUE Detoxifier can help you act fast to potentially save your pet’s life.
9. Wait to Put Out Presents
It can be fun to put Christmas presents under the tree early, but families with curious pups should think twice. Many dog parents have their pets rip open the wrapping paper on their own presents, so the dogs may not understand that the presents under the tree aren’t all for them. Even dogs who don’t open their own presents might get overly curious and accidentally ingest wrapping paper or reveal a surprise gift too early.
10. Train Your Dog to Stay Away
Consistently working on training with your dog can help them understand expectations around the house, especially around Christmas decorations. Teach your dog cues such as “drop it” and “leave it,” and then reward them when they listen. Teaching them to come when called is also a good way to redirect their attention away from the Christmas tree.
If you’re currently struggling to find the time and energy for in-person dog training, consider an online dog training website like SpiritDog. Online dog training allows you to train your dog at your own pace on your own schedule, only focusing on the areas of training that are most important to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Dogs Drink Christmas Tree Water?
No, dogs should not drink the water from a Christmas tree stand. This water can contain fertilizers, pesticides, or preservatives used to keep the tree fresh, which are harmful if ingested by dogs. Additionally, stagnant water in the stand can harbor bacteria or mold, posing further health risks.
Are Pine Needles Harmful to Dogs?
Yes, pine needles can be harmful to dogs if ingested. They can cause gastrointestinal irritation and may lead to symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. Additionally, sharp needles can potentially cause injury to a dog’s mouth or internal organs.
How Can I Stop My Dog from Chewing on the Christmas Tree?
To stop your dog from chewing on the Christmas tree, use deterrent sprays on the tree, keep the tree and ornaments out of your dog’s reach, supervise your dog when they’re near the tree, and provide them with suitable chew toys. Consistent training, using commands like “leave it”, can also help in teaching your dog to stay away from the tree.
Can the Smell of a Real Christmas Tree Bother Dogs?
The smell of a real Christmas tree isn’t bothersome to most dogs. However, some dogs might be sensitive or allergic to the pine scent, which can cause mild irritation or allergic reactions. It’s important to monitor your dog for any signs of discomfort or unusual behavior when introducing a real Christmas tree into your home.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Stressed During Christmas?
To prevent your dog from getting stressed during Christmas, maintain their regular routine as much as possible, provide a quiet and safe space away from the hustle and bustle, and gradually introduce them to holiday decorations and activities. Also, ensure they get enough exercise and attention, and be mindful of their reactions to new people or loud noises, adjusting the environment as needed to keep them comfortable.
Follow These Tips for a Safe, Fun Christmas!
By following these Christmas tree tips, you can ensure the holiday season is safe for your dog while still being fun. Even if your pet has never been curious about your holiday decorations before, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. After all, dogs are part of the family, so they need to remain as safe and happy as everyone else this Christmas.