Decorating the house for the holidays is one of the events that the whole family often really enjoys getting involved in. Unfortunately many of the decorations or types of decorations that are attractive to us as people are also very attractive to our dogs, but for a completely different reason. Dogs see holiday decorations as all kinds of new things in the house to explore and play with, often resulting in serious health issues and even life threatening situations.
There is also an additional risk factor to consider with Christmas decorations, and this occurs if you have guests visiting that are bringing along their dog or dogs. Often the family dog is used to the decorations and won't cause a problem, but that doesn't mean with a strange dog in the house they might not both decide to play with the ornament. Often your dog will behave in ways that aren't typical of the dog if another pet is in the household. In some situations it seems like whatever one doesn't get into the other one will, so pet proofing is particularly important in this case.
The first thing to do is to check all your electrical outlets. Any cords or plugs that are at the level which a dog could chew should be relocated to areas that the dog cannot access. This may mean additional extension cords that are then taped, with a wide painter or electrical type of tape, to the baseboards. This type of securing the cords prevents a puppy or a dog from becoming tangled in the cords or playing with the cords. Power cords used to light the tree or other decorations can be bundled into one larger cord and taped together, again preventing the chance the dog will attempt to chew through the cords. Never leave the tree or decorations plugged in if you are not at home, especially if the dog has access to that particular room. If the cords are unplugged there is no chance that the dog could get a shock or be electrocuted if he or she did decide to play with the cord.
After the electrical outlets or power cords have been covered or secured, the next step is to take a look at the location and type of decorations themselves. While they may look lovely where they are, are they in a place that the dog could get at them? This is particularly true for movable types of electronic or electric decorations that may really spark a dog's interest. These types of decorations should be off the floor and on some type of mantle, table or shelf that is well out of reach of the dog.
When checking these types of decorations, also look at any parts of the decoration that may be dangling or hanging. A good example of this issue may be a stocking hung beside a fireplace. The tip of the stocking may well be within reach of the dog, posing a tempting plaything, especially if there are some candies or treats in the stocking on Christmas Eve.
Tablecloths and decorative runners with tassels or fringe can also be a very enticing thing to play with. Not only will the slightest breeze or air puff make these things move, but the dog may actually brush up against them and turn around to see what is touching them. This then leads to sniffing, mouthing and eventually pulling or tugging on the tassel or fringe. The best case scenario is that all that happens is the decoration and the tablecloth is pulled off the table, the worse case is that the dog then has access to a bowel of chocolates or ends up walking through broken glass.
Pet proofing the house also means looking at the physical space that the decoration is located in. This is particularly important for Christmas trees that are often located in the living room or family room window. If this is an area where the dog always goes to watch what is happening, the dog is constantly going to be running into or under the tree. Trees either need to be relocated or very firmly and securely anchored if this is the case. Knowing if your dog is going to want to be around the tree is very important in both determining where the tree should be and what decorations to put at various levels on the tree.
Pet proofing the Christmas tree just requires a bit of common sense and the ability to think like your dog. Look at the bottom branches where you dog would reasonably sniff and explore. Remove any glass ornaments such as those beautiful but delicate glass balls and also any lights that are on these lower branches. Move all the breakable or glass ornaments to the mid to upper levels of the tree, even if the dog is not typically in that room.
Tinsel or any type of garland should also be removed from the sections of the tree that the dog can reach. If you are using any type of tinsel, although it is never recommended in a home with a dog, make sure it is well above the pets level and immediately remove any pieces that fall off the tree and onto the floor or furniture. Flocking or artificial snow should also not be used on any branches a dog can access to chew or lick since it is toxic if consumed in a large enough quantity.
Another way to pet proof the Christmas tree area is to stop using hooks to hang ornaments and bulbs. These hooks, which are really roughly cut wire, can be easily ingested by a dog if they fall off the tree or if the ornament or decoration is knocked off. The hooks often lodge in the stomach or intestines, causing perforations that can be deadly. Using brightly colored ribbon or string is a better option, combined with placing the ornaments up higher in the tree.
Finally, puppy or dog proofing your Christmas decorations wouldn't be complete without getting down to your dogs level. On your stomach or knees, look around the room at your pooches eye level and see what dangles, twirls or flutters that might just be something to investigate, then remove or move it to a safer place in the home.