by Hailey Hudson

The holidays are quickly approaching, and for many families, that means tinsel, wreaths, and wrapping paper. But if you have a curious Labrador, especially a puppy, how can you keep your dog safe and out of trouble without removing the decorations entirely? Good news: The holidays are the perfect opportunity to get in some quality training sessions with your pup. Let’s break down how.

What To Avoid

Here are a few of the worst holiday decorations for your Lab to tangle with. It may be best to avoid these decorations entirely this year.

Poinsettias. This popular and beautiful holiday plant has a dark side: its sap is toxic to dogs. The white sap can cause blisters, swelling, and diarrhea. Most cases of poisoning by poinsettia aren’t very bad, but there is no antidote, so play it safe and use artificial poinsettias. Mistletoe and holly are also dangerous.

Candles. If you want to display holiday candles, don’t light them. Candles are bad enough for dogs; some ingredients, such as benzene and lead, can be dangerous to breathe in. But lit candles are even more dangerous. The last place you want to be this Christmas is at the vet with your Lab who got a little excited, knocked over a candle with their tail, and burned itself. To be safe, it’s better to not light candles at all.

Tinsel, ribbons, and icicles. These sparkly decorations are tempting but hazardous. If your dog eats them, they can cause painful abdominal blockages, which might require surgery or even be fatal. Tinsel especially tends to bunch up in the stomach or intestines, causing pain and incisions in the tissue. Because of the risks, avoid tinsel this Christmas.

What To Hide

There are many holiday decorations that aren’t necessarily toxic to your Lab, but it still wouldn’t be pretty if your dog decided to start chewing, so for these decorations, it’s best to keep them out of reach.

Christmas tree. For most families, a Christmas tree, whether real or artificial, is a staple of the holiday celebration. Unless you explicitly trust your Lab, you don’t want to let him or her loose with the tree; Christmas tree needles aren’t digestible and could irritate a dog’s stomach and tree water might be poisonous. But that doesn’t mean you have to forgo the tree entirely! Put your tree in a room where you can either shut the door or put up a baby gate. You could also set up a baby play yard, which essentially creates a fence around the tree.

Lights. Whether indoors or outdoors, strings of lights might be dangerous for your dog: chewing on cords could result in burns or electrical shocks. When hanging lights, on your Christmas tree or elsewhere, tap cords to the wall and keep the strings of lights up high. The same goes for any treasured knick-knacks–that happy Lab tail can do a lot of damage.

Training Tips

The holidays are a busy time of year, but they also offer perfect training opportunities. Carve out a little time each day to work with your Lab.

Don’t make decorations tempting. It might be fun to wave a red ribbon above your dog’s head, but don’t. If your dog shows interest in any Christmas decorations, firmly say “No” or “Leave it.” By making the decorations seem fun and appealing, you increase the chances that your dog will sneak behind your back to play with them… so don’t hold playtime near the Christmas decorations. Instead, praise your dog for leaving the decor alone.

Do a trial run. Does your dog show interest in the packages the mailman drops off? If so, the gifts under your tree may be unwrapped sooner than December 25th. To prevent this, put some decoy presents–empty boxes in wrapping paper–under the tree and use them as training aids. Again, reward your dog for leaving the gifts alone. After a few weeks of consistent training, you’ll be able to put the real presents under the tree.

Divert your dog’s attention. When the floor is littered with wrapping paper, toys, and ribbons on Christmas morning, it may seem impossible to keep your dog out of everything. But don’t stick your Lab in a crate. Instead, buy him or her a Christmas gift of his favorite bone or toy. That way, your Lab will be able to entertain himself and not bother all of the debris.

Decorating for Christmas as a Labrador owner might seem daunting. But it’s possible!

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