O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, so lovely, so tempting, so dangerous for your dog. Christmas trees present a whole host of problems when you have a dog in the house, especially a young dog that may become fascinated with your tree and see it as a source of endless amusement, a great place to lift his leg and relieve himself, or a potential food source.
Besides being a major pain, if your dog is constantly interfering with your tree and knocking off breakable ornaments, stepping on presents, or even peeing on your tree, there are several serious safety issues that Christmas trees present. A tree with electric lights presents a hazard of electric shock if a dog chews on the wires. Also, dogs may decide that the balls on your Christmas tree look an awful lot like the ball he likes to play fetch with. If breakable, not only may you have damaged decorations but your dog’s mouth or paws could be injured from broken glass and sharp edges. Another issue occurs when dogs ingest Christmas tree needles, which can have toxic substances on them or natural oils from the tree, which can make your dog sick. Tree parts can also cause damage to your dog's digestive system from punctures or by causing obstructions in the digestive tract. Some dogs like to drink tree water, which may contain chemical additives to preserve your tree, which can be toxic to your dog. Presents also can be a hazard; chocolates or other food substances can be wrapped as gifts under the tree and become an irresistible temptation to most dogs. I once came home to find my dog Taffy, who was a committed garbage hound, had unwrapped and consumed an entire box of chocolate liqueurs. Taffy ran up and down the hallway, bouncing off walls for about 2 hours. Fortunately, he was OK. In short, there are a lot of risks that a tree with gifts can present if your dog does not learn the tree is not his plaything, food or toilet!
You can use treats to train your dog to stay away from and leave the tree alone and reinforce the behavior. Other methods involve creating a negative association with the tree, using a barrier your dog will not like to walk on, such as aluminum foil, can be used, or products available from a pet store. In addition, you may use a noise maker to create a negative association. You will need to temporarily block the tree off during training if you can not always be present to supervise, so that your dog does not become injured during the training period or inadvertently receive positive reinforcement from food items or playthings he finds. Supervision, vigilance, and consistency during training will be important to achieve success.