How to Dog-Proof a Holiday Tree

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There is something magical about a decorated and lit-up tree.  And nothing makes a better holiday card than a picture of the decked-out tree with your furry friend lying beneath it with wrapped treasures.

However, what may sound picture perfect doesn’t always work out so well in real life.  

Dogs and puppies don’t always sit still for that perfect shot, and trees can pose several safety dangers to dogs.  The pine needles, breakable ornaments, candied decorations, electrical wires, and light bulbs can all become hazards to a curious pup. That doesn’t mean you have to go without a tree though. 

Below are some ways you can keep both your dog and your tree safe this holiday season. 

Create Some Distance Between Your Dog and Your Tree

To keep everyone safe, you can put some physical distance between the tree and your pup. 

You can easily put up a baby gate or pet gate to close off a room or area and create a physical barrier between the decorated tree and your furry family member. If you have the ability, consider placing the tree in a room that can be closed off from the rest of your home.

However you choose to do it, restricting your pooch’s ability to access the tree will not only protect him but will give you peace of mind when you cannot supervise your dog.  

Choose an Artificial Tree

One way to cut down on potential danger is to opt for an artificial tree rather than a live tree.

Once a live tree is cut down, it no longer has a root system. Without the root system, the tree cannot take in as much water as it needs, and eventually dries out, causing it to lose needles. The needles from the tree are very sharp, and if your dog ingests fallen needles, he could suffer from internal punctures to the digestive tract. Additionally, some trees may have had chemicals added to the water that are harmful or deadly to your dog. 

If you choose to have a live tree, make sure to keep it watered.  The more hydrated the tree is, the less likely the needles are to fall off. Additionally, the closer to winter you buy it, the better it will look.

Stabilize Your Tree

If you do a search on Google or YouTube of “dogs knocking over holiday trees,” you will see hundreds of videos of pets running around and singlehandedly dismantling all types of holiday décor. No one wants the same scenario to be played out in their homes. This is why you want to be sure your tree is stable and your pooch cannot accidentally knock it over.

First, you will want to be sure to start with a secure, good-quality stand to hold the base of the tree. You can then secure your tree by placing it in a corner and anchoring it to the wall or ceiling. This can be done using fishing line, which can be tied around the tree trunk and then to a bolt in the wall. Another option is to tie the fishing line to the top of the tree and secure it to a screw or [if possible] a rafter in the ceiling above.

Your Tree is Not a Water Dish

Do not allow your dog to drink from the tree stand.  Remember, if you have a live tree it may have had chemicals added to the water before it was cut down. Do not add preservative to the water.

You might consider elevating the tree to make it more difficult for curious paws and tongues to find their way into the base.  Not only will it make it more difficult for Fido to drink the water, but it will also protect your ornaments and decorations! The holiday edition of good news for pets mentions that many newer tree stands have higher sides which makes it more difficult for pets to drink from the stand.  So, if you haven’t replaced your tree stand in many years, consider upgrading to a newer, pet-conscious model 

Use Dog-Safe Decorations

If you have the time, leave your tree up for a couple of days before you start decorating it. This will help your dog adjust to the tree being in the house. Hopefully your pup will be less curious once it has been up for some time and will be more likely to leave it alone once it is covered in lights and ornaments.

When choosing ornaments, keep in mind that plastic ornaments are less breakable than glass. Also, plastic hooks are a safer option than metal hooks when hanging ornaments on the tree. Better yet, yarn, twine, or ribbon all make equally festive ornament hangers without the potential danger of traditional wire hooks. 

Of course, you know your dog best. If your dog sees everything as a new chew toy, choose your ornaments accordingly and always check to be sure they are non-toxic. Also, reserve the higher branches that are out of paw’s reach for the breakable or more treasured ornaments.

Hold the Food

While strings of colored popcorn, candy canes, and gingerbread houses all look beautiful on lit-up Christmas trees, they will attract hungry pets! It’s best to save the food for the dinner plates rather than the décor. This will prevent any mishaps resulting from dogs jumping to grab those yummy treats when you’re not looking!

Instead, perhaps Santa could leave a few dog biscuits out for his favorite pooch.

Take Care with Electrical Cords

When stringing the lights on the tree, consider leaving the bottom branches bare. Supposedly curiosity only killed the cat, but the dog can get tangled in the wires too. If you have a teething puppy or a dog who loves to chew, the electrical wires and lights can be a burn risk. Keep cords to the tree and electrical outlets off the floor where curious pups cannot reach them.

Clean Up

Be sure that you clean up any string and ribbon from underneath the tree promptly, so your dog doesn’t become tangled in it. If you have a live tree, make sure to clean up any needles right away and check back frequently for both tree and décor that may have fallen down throughout the holiday season. 

Keep Poisonous Plants out of Paw’s Reach

We often think of poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe as synonymous with the winter holiday season. However, these common houseplants are all potentially toxic to dogs. 

If you have your heart set on meeting under the mistletoe, an artificial version of the plant can look just as attractive as the real thing. If you decorate with any of these plants, consider replacing them with other houseplants that are safe for dogs.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.