Yes, You Can Have a Christmas Tree and a Puppy!

If you have a puppy in the house (or an energetic young dog) you may be rethinking your desire to put up a Christmas tree.

After all, the warnings are everywhere: beware of the tree water as it could make your puppy sick, don’t let the cords dangle where the puppy can chew on them, and don’t use any tinsel on the tree as it can devastate the intestinal tract if your puppy swallows it. These and other warnings are very real; the tree and decorations can be a potential problem.

If a Christmas tree is a part of your normal celebrations, however, you can still have one even if you have a puppy in the house. You may just need to rethink how you normally do it.

Get the Tree Off the Floor

I grew up in a family who believed that bigger the Christmas tree the better. My maternal grandmother would put up a huge tree every Christmas. It didn’t hurt that her home had high ceilings. But after a German Shepherd puppy destroyed our first Christmas tree, my husband and I decided that the puppy needed some training and we needed to rethink how we displayed a tree.

That was the first year we had a smaller tree displayed on a table. We found that it was still gorgeous, we could still use lots of lights and ornaments, and our celebrations weren’t hampered at all by having a slightly smaller, elevated tree. Plus, there was considerably less stress!

In the years since then, I have had both big trees on the floor and smaller trees on a table. If I have a puppy or kitten in the house, the tree is elevated. If I’m fostering kittens, up the tree goes! If I have a young dog with a happy tail, again, the tree is up.

Having a tree on a table doesn’t mean you must have a tiny tree. Let’s look at the math. If you have standard eight-foot ceilings and put the tree on a three-foot high table, that means you can still get a five-foot-tall tree. Four and a half if you have a star or angel for the top. A nice full five-foot tree is still big and gorgeous.

Now, I have also heard of hanging a tree from the ceiling and seen photos of a few that were pretty. I’ve never done that, haven’t been brave enough to try it, and so cannot vouch for it. If you have or want to try it, let us know how it goes!

dog tree

©istockphoto/Kerkez

Exercise Pens Are Great

If you prefer a big tree on the floor, that’s great. You can still make it puppy proof by using an exercise pen.

Exercise pens (also called xpens) are foldable fences used for keeping dogs safe in a temporary situation. They are found from two foot high to four foot high, usually with eight 24-inch wide sections in each pen. They are used for housetraining, to prevent problem behaviors, or to keep a puppy away from the human toddler. They are often used much like a dog crate. The primary benefit of the xpen is that is easily moved and set up. If you don’t have one you can find them at pet supply stores.

If your tree is placed in a corner of the room or up against a wall, the exercise pen can circle around the base of the tree. Place it so the puppy can’t reach any part of the tree or decorations. When the puppy is in the room, place the xpen around the tree. If the puppy is on a leash in that room with you or has been put in his crate, then take the xpen down so everyone can enjoy the tree without the pen.

White Picket Fences are Lovely

One year I was hosting a Christmas party but also had a new puppy. I had my tree on the floor and had an xpen around it so the puppy couldn’t get into trouble but since I was going to have guests over, I really wanted something more decorative than an xpen. I went to the local hardware/garden center to browse and came home with several sections of three-foot-tall white picket fence.

At home I took down the xpen and set up the picket fence. I zip tied the sections together with a bit of a curve to them so the fence stood up by itself and placed it around the base of the tree. Then I decorated the fence with artificial poinsettia blooms placed out of the puppy’s reach. A few more poinsettia blooms placed here and there in the tree pulled the decoration together. It was lovely and I’ve recreated that look many times since then.

The white picket fence can be decorated in other ways, too, just keep the decorations out of the puppy’s reach. The fence is attractive on its own, too, and can be left undecorated. You could also repaint it; making it green, or red, or any other color. Let your imagination go wild!

You Can Do it!

Having a Christmas tree and holiday decorations as well as a puppy will require a bit of thought. You may need to change your traditional decorations or placement of those decorations. You may even need to restrict the puppy’s access to the decorated room but that’s okay. Keeping him safe is important.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

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