When Bill's dad passed away his older farm dog, a Border Collie named Max, needed a home. Bill couldn't bear the thought of Max being put down or going to a home where he might not be treated well, so Bill decided to bring Max home to his house in the city, where Max was introduced to the wonderful world of the great indoors! Max had a lot to get used to being in the house, but a few weeks into December when Bill's wife put up the Christmas tree, things got really interesting! Max recognizes trees--they are for sleeping under, and peeing on, right?
Problem! Bill’s family needs to teach Max that the Christmas tree is not like the trees outside at his former home on the farm. They need to teach Max to stay away from the tree. Teaching an old farm dog Christmas tree manners will take some time and patience but with consistency, Max will figure out that this tree is not like the trees back home!
Christmas trees present several problems for older dogs that have not been previously taught to stay away from them. You do not want your older dog peeing on, knocking over, or otherwise damaging gifts under the tree. The tree itself can also present a threat to your older dog. Tree water can contain additives that are toxic to your dog, and pine needles ingested can damage your dog's digestive system. Decorations that are knocked off and played with can cut your dog's mouth or cause serious problems if accidentally swallowed. Decorative lights on trees also present a temptation for chewing, and an older dog that inadvertently chews on electrical light cords can be electrocuted and suffer burns to their mouth or worse, a fatal shock.
You will want to teach your older 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 older dog and reinforcing moving away from your Christmas tree. Remember to be consistent and patient with your older dog while he is learning new boundaries.
You can use treats and toys to redirect your older dog away from your Christmas tree and teach him verbal commands to respect boundaries you set. In addition, you can use mats, aluminum foil, noisemakers, and any other creative deterrent you can devise to set up barriers around your tree until your older dog learns that the tree is not a good place to approach. Remember, rescue dogs or dogs coming from an environment where different boundaries were in place can be confused initially when new barriers are introduced. Be sure to use patience and avoid harsh punishments that will upset or confuse your older dog.