Worried about the Christmas tree? This trainer's tips will keep your dog away

Dog with antlers on
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Being able to celebrate the festive season with our dogs is one of the biggest joys of this time of year, treating them to one of the longest lasting dog chews maybe a few extra treats too! But if you have a Christmas tree, you might be worried that your pup will get a little too excited and maybe knock things over, hurt themselves, or even see the tree as a spot to take a toilet break.

After all, Christmas trees are quite big, and can be surprising for dogs – after all, they don’t know that this huge tree that’s landed in their house is actually a Christmas tradition! So, it’s understandable that our canine companions might see fit to investigate. 

But there are things that you can do to get your pup used to the tree, and reduce the risk of them causing an accident. Expert trainer Nikki Mather, the founder of Positive Steps Dog Training, offered some advice in a new Instagram post fit for the festive season. 

First off, Mather recommends leaving your tree out without any decorations for a couple of days to help your dog get used to it being in the house. But then, when it comes to decorating the tree, stagger it.

“Decorate the top first, leaving the bottom bare for a few days with all decorations out of reach,” she says. And give your pooch a chance to sniff the tree without reprimanding them or trying to stop them – they understand the world through their nose, so it’ll help them grow accustomed to it. 

If there are any dangerous items on the tree – perhaps any sharper items – it’s a good idea to keep them higher up on the tree, so they’re out of reach of your pup. 

“Practice settle training around the tree,” Mather continues, “Or fun enrichment games around the tree.” Kill two birds with one stone and get some useful training practice in there – it’ll help you and your pup long after Christmas has ended!

If your dog begins to mouth the decorations once you put some further down the tree, try to resist the urge to yell. After all, they’re going to be quite tempting for a dog. Instead, try using a recall game to distract them – make it fun!

Are Christmas trees toxic to cats and dogs? Real Christmas trees can be mildly toxic, so that’s another reason to tempt them away.

If there are times when your pup might need to be in the same vicinity as the Christmas tree but you can’t supervise them, it’s not a bad idea to put barriers in place like a playpen. It does the job for a short while, keeping your tree safe but more importantly your dog safe. 

What if you have a cat as well as a dog? Fortunately, we also have seven ways to cat-proof Christmas trees, right here. So, no matter which pets you have, you can keep your tree safe for the big day!

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at DogTime.com, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.