Leonie St Clair | www.londondogstraining.co.uk 

Pet proofing Christmas 

Christmas is a hectic time so it is important to have a pet plan. Young animals need to be protected from their desire to explore new things and old animals need a safe haven to escape to. Christmas is an Aladdin’s cave of pet-fun opportunity and it is easy for things to go wrong, resulting in costly vet bills. Here is a quickie checklist, to remind ourselves how to keep our furry friends safe over the holiday. 

Christmas trees and ornaments  

All that glitters, dingles and dangles is an open invitation for cats and young dogs to have their own kind of festive fun with your tree and its adornments. Broken ornament shards are dangerous and pets can be burned by chewing through flexes. Even pine needles are toxic. Site your tree carefully. Put foil or a little cage around the edge to limit access. Shut unsupervised pets out of the room, especially at night. 


Pets may try to open presents before you can, especially if they smell food within. Many Christmas foods are highly toxic and even fatal. Do not leave any pets unsupervised around gifts. Quite apart from the prospect of costly, out of hours vet bills, if your pet gets to the presents before your kids do, there’ll be tears on Christmas day! 

Dangerous plants 

Holly, Ivy, mistletoe, and many types of favourite festive foliage are toxic, both to cats and dogs. Pups in particular love to investigate new things. A typical puppy-style investigation involves, sniffing, shredding and often, for a full analysis, ingestion! 

Dangerous foods 

Much of the stuff we love to eat will get our pets salivating too. But beware, much of that list is highly toxic; mincemeat, Christmas pudding, fruits like grapes and dried fruit, onion, garlic, anything with artificial sweetener, chocolate, myriad cakes and puddings, many nuts, alcohol…the list is endless. Unless your dog has an impeccable ‘leave’ and ‘stay’ (when you go out of sight) ensure he cannot access food. Cats are a law unto themselves but supervision or no access is vital. 

Crate train, tether, or separate 

For young dogs and greedy dogs, crate training or puppy pens are a great way to limit access when full supervision is not possible. Give your pet wholesome chews to keep him happy when penned. Present opening and the big Christmas meal are times to keep your pet under control. Elderly pets will appreciate a comfy, quiet spot, away from the hubbub. 

Adequate play and exercise 

So much is going on at Christmas that it is easy to forget the exercise and play requirements of your pets.  Take time out to do some indoors training and play with your dog, this way he’ll settle (see link to Christmas games). Puss also needs some fun. Flirt poles are a great way to play with cats, give her something legitimate to hunt and ‘kill’; that way she’s less likely to go after the baubles. We are now in firework season. Be aware of after dusk risks to both cats and dogs- many are spooked and go missing. 

Home alone 

Having everyone at home again for a few weeks can cause separation training to regress or ignite, once you try to get back to a normal work routine. If your dog has started to cope with some alone time or is already coping, then ensure you build in periods during the day and evening when your dog is given time by himself, just as you would normally.