• Home
  • Training
  • How to Train Your Dog to Stay Away from a Christmas Tree

How to Train Your Dog to Stay Away from a Christmas Tree

How to Train Your Dog to Stay Away from a Christmas Tree
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon3-4 Days
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Christmas is the best time of the year! Giving gifts to family and friends, cooking scrumptious family meals, and lighting the lights on a winking, twinkling Christmas tree are things many of us look forward to every year.

And with so many novel sights and smells--not to mention the occasional present under the tree--the holiday season can be a lot of fun for Fido too! Many families have developed traditions that include their pet in the festivities, such having as their own stocking or festive get-up. But some parts of the holidays are best observed rather than experienced hands-on. One of these is the indoor Christmas tree.

With a delicious smell and so many interesting lights and ornaments, it's no wonder that your dog might show too much interest in the Christmas tree. The last thing you want is to recreate a slapstick scene from a holiday movie and watch in horror as your over-excited pupper knocks the tree off its stand. At best, a huge mess to clean up. At its worst, dangerous broken ornaments and exposed wiring. But spending a little time training your dog to leave the tree alone can keep the holidays safe, and best of all, fun for everyone!

In this guide, we'll show you how to do just that. But if you need a little help getting started on your dog training adventure, book an in-home or digital dog training session through the Wag! app.


arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

Having a dog doesn't mean that you can't enjoy having a beautiful indoor Christmas tree. Training your dog to look and not touch is definitely the best way to avoid holiday disaster and give you peace of mind all season long.

Whether you are dealing with a young puppy, an adult dog, or ever an elderly canine, using patient and compassionate training methods while reinforcing the training as needed will go a long way to saving the tree and keeping your pup away from harm.

Christmas trees present a number of dangers, including tree water that could contain toxic additives, pine needles that could damage your dog's mouth or digestive system if eaten, lights that could cause cause electrocution, or various kinds of ornaments that could look tasty. Not to mention any presents waiting under the tree that you probably don't want your dog to get into, or pee on!

You will want to teach your dog that the tree and surrounding area is off limits. This can be accomplished with deterrent barriers, training to obey verbal commands to avoid the tree, or directing your dog away from the tree. Remember to be consistent and patient with your dog while he is learning these new boundaries.


arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

For the two methods below, you'll want to have a supply of treats. Using high value treats during training sessions is recommended, so aim for something your dog really loves but doesn't usually get, such as bits of chicken. You may also want to have their favorite toys nearby to use as distractions while training. 

We'd all love to have unlimited time to spend teaching our dog, but the reality is that you can't have eyes on them every moment. So, while your dog is still learning how to leave the Christmas tree alone, it may be wise to have some kind of boundary or deterrent to keep them away from it until they know their boundaries. Items you can use around the tree include aluminum foil, tacky/sticky mats or tape available at pet stores or for holding carpet in place, a hard plastic mat with a nubby surface, or carpet runners with spikes turned up that can be found at hardware stores. You can also use a baby gate to keep your dog out of the room where the tree is located until you care able to supervise. 


arrow-up-icon

Top

The Redirect From Tree Method

Most Recommended

1 Vote

Ribbon icon

Most Recommended

1 Vote

Ribbon icon
1

Redirect away from tree

Watch your dog carefully. When he approaches the tree, say "away" and toss a treat on the floor away from the tree.

2

Distract

Your dog will go get the treat. Now provide a toy, play with your dog, or let your dog outside to distract them from the tree.

3

Repeat

Repeat whenever the dog approaches the tree for a couple of days, saying "away" and tossing a treat away from the tree.

4

Reward away from tree

When your dog has learned to move away from the tree for a treat, use the "away" command without tossing a treat. Then, when your dog moves away, give him a treat out of your hand. Alternate providing treats with just giving praise or playing with them.

5

Repeat and distract

Continue to provide the “away” command whenever your dog approaches the tree and give them verbal praise like “good”. Providing a chew toy away from the tree to distract your dog may continue to be beneficial.

6

Remove reward

Once your dog has the "away" command down, start using it when he approaches the tree and just giving verbal praise with no treat.

The Leave It Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Present treat in hand

Hold your closed hand out to your dog with a treat wrapped in your hand.

2

Say "leave it"

When your dog nuzzles, licks or paws at your hand to reach the treat, say “Leave it”.

3

Reinforce "leave it"

When your dog stops trying to reach the treat, say “good” and provide a different treat from your other hand. Gradually start leaving treats on the ground and using the 'leave it' command. When your dog obeys, reward with a better treat. Repeat until the 'leave it' command is established.

4

Apply "leave it" to the tree

Supervise your dog around the Christmas tree. When your dog approaches the tree, say "leave it" making sure to give your dog a treat when they obey.

5

Reward hesitation and distract

When your dog hesitates in his approach, call him away from the tree and reward him.

6

Repeat "leave it" for tree

Repeat for several days, replacing treats with praise. Eventually, just command the dog to “leave it” when he approaches the tree.

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

obi

Dog breed icon

Spaniel

Dog age icon

2 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

He is chasing light in our garden. If the door or window moves the light reflection annoys him and tries to catch it. He waits for the light in the garden. When I open the door to let him in he runs away after the light. I cant get him to come in as if I go near him he runs away and he doesn't even want a treat or a toy.

Dec. 13, 2021

obi's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jazmin, First, if you have or are using a laser pointer for anything with pup, put the laser away because that can make this obsession far worse. This behavior can happen without the use of a laser too, but just in case you are, you need to know that. Second, work on redirecting to more appropriate outlets and to providing mental stimulation; activities like training with you, puzzle toys, training games, canine sports, and other fun, healthier mentally stimulating things. Because of the severity of a light chasing habit and how obsessive compulsive in nature it is, I would recommend looking for a trainer in your area who specializes in behavior issues has has experience with using a combination of low level e-collar stimulation based training to interrupt the behavior and make it less self-rewarding without pup associating that interruption with you, but with the behavior itself through the use of a remote training collar, and with replacing the compulsion with reward based activities like training with you, puzzle toys, games, and other fun things as soon as pup pauses the chasing. So that the light fixating becomes a No, and the other mental activities a Yes for pup. It could also be beneficial to speak with your vet or an animal behaviorist with medical training about whether a potential chemical imbalance could be related to the behavior and be addressed medically? This behavior can be due to a temperamental tendency toward OCD type traits, and the chasing of lights tends to be a self-rewarding behavior with chemicals like dopamine being released when pup does it, encouraging the cycle to continue, which needs to be addressed from a behavioral stand point most of the time, but it could also be related to a chemical imbalance or something neurological. I am not a vet, so speak with your vet concerning anything medical. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 13, 2021

Dog nametag icon

Lily & Zoey

Dog breed icon

Lab mix

Dog age icon

8 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Both of my dogs, aged 8 years and 14 years, eat Christmas ornaments every year. They only do it when we’re not home or in bed. So we don’t see it happen in order to give them a command. We only see a broken/chewed up ornament and guilty faces after it had happened. Any tips on how to stop the behavior?

Dec. 3, 2021

Lily & Zoey's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessie, I would look into a Pet Deterrent device, since the behavior is happening when your aren't present. You would set the radius a short distance just to keep pup's away from that foot in front of the tree and hide the device right behind the tree. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 6, 2021


Wag! Specialist
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.