Christmas Tree Safety Tips for Your Puppy

Cute puppy celebrating Christmas
fotostorm / Getty Images

When you decide to “deck the halls” for the holidays, thinking about Christmas tree puppy safety is critical. Your puppy may believe the Christmas tree is a special gift just for his entertainment. The attraction is natural, as puppies want to chew branches, pull off decorations or worse. The result can be a holiday that’s anything but merry.

Puppies turn everything into a toy. The branches beneath the tree create a great puppy hideout. Tree ornaments that move or make noises lure puppies to grab and chase; garland offers a great game of tug-o’-war; and the twinkling lights draw them to investigate or even chew. That can lead to electrical shock that might even require rescue breathing to save the pup's life. Trees end up toppled, presents and decorations damaged, and sometimes pets are hurt.

Young pups often follow nature’s call and hike their leg the same way they’d mark an outside tree. Water in the tree base looks like a drinking dish. If that water has aspirin or other preservatives to keep trees fresh, it can make puppies sick. Young pups during teething want to gnaw everything, and they may swallow inedible objects without meaning to. Ingested tinsel, tree needles, hooks from ornaments and other holiday décor can kill a pet.

Puppy Proof the Christmas Tree

First, make sure all breakables or dangerous ornaments and decorations are not on lower branches; situate them out of a pet's reach. Anything that fits in the puppy’s mouth is a potential hazard. Garlands, ornaments, strings or hooks, icicles and fake spray-on snow can cause problems. Edible strings of popcorn may look festive, but it tempts pups to munch and eating the string can kill your pet.

Keep Puppies Away

Next, keep puppies at bay and a safe distance from danger by making the area surrounding the tree unattractive. There are several options, and some work for certain pets and not for others.

  • Aluminum foil is a great deterrent for tiny pups and cats since they dislike walking on that odd-feeling surface. Silver foil also offers a festive holiday look.
  • The soft "tacky mats" available from home products stores designed to keep throw rugs from sliding around work well to keep pets at bay because they dislike walking on sticky surfaces.
  • Another option is Sticky Paws which is a double-sided tape product. Sticky Paws is available in larger sheets as well as strips that you can apply directly to carpets beneath the tree, or to placemats situated on table tops or wherever needed.
  • For larger pups, try the X-Mat Pet Training Mat from Mammoth Pet Products. These hard plastic mats with the uncomfortable nubby surface can be placed in “pet-free zones” such as around the Christmas tree, plants, furniture, or front door to keep pups at a respectful distance.
  • If you can’t find an X-Mat from a pet products store, make one yourself using the clear plastic carpet runner/protectors placed nub-side up on forbidden zones. That makes the area surrounding the tree unappealing.
  • You can also use the pet's sense of smell to keep her away from the tree. Vicks Vapo Rub (menthol smell) also works as a good pet repellent. Dip cotton balls in the ointment and stick in the lower branches of your tree. Bitter Apple or other nasty tasting substances help keep pups from chewing but don’t rely on this entirely. Some dogs actually like the flavor and still chew through electric cords.

Create a Barrier

  • Set smaller trees on table or counter top out of dog nose-reach.
  • Place your tree inside of a baby’s playpen.
  • Block off the “tree room” with a baby gate.

Create a Puppy Holiday Treat Tree

If you don’t mind having puppies turn your tree into a canine playground, make sure the holiday tree is assault proof. Attach guy-wires or twine to protect topple-prone trees from the puppy’s games. Just make sure the ornaments are pet safe, with no swallowable parts. You could even offer the puppies a small tree of their own. Here’s how.

  • Get rid of the lights and any flocking that could be licked or swallowed. Water your real tree with plain water or choose an artificial one that has no additives in case the pup wants to drink.
  • Puppies want to play tug with garland but could care less about dried flowers, and they still look festive. Even if he chews up a bit of Baby’s Breath, it just ends up out on the lawn if swallowed.
  • Soft puppy toys with squeakers make great tree decorations and won’t be destroyed during puppy play.
  • Jumbo-size jingle bells offer movement and sound when hung from ribbon on a branch. Stuff one inside a sock and knot the end for more jingly fun, which serves as insurance the pup won’t try to swallow the toy.
  • Chews or puzzle toys stuffed with smelly treats can be placed around the base of the tree. That offers something for Junior Dog to smell and chew—safely.

Decorate with the pet in mind and you’ll keep the fur-kids in the family happy and safe.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.