One of the greatest pleasures on Christmas morning is watching someone you love excitedly shred wrapping paper to get to the gift you picked out just for them. Except, of course, when that someone you love is your dog and those weren’t his presents. Nor is it Christmas yet. There’s no denying that some dogs just can’t resist the temptation of brightly wrapped packages and just have to go investigating.
So how do you keep your furry present-wrecker from getting into the gifts? Like most things canine, it depends on your dog, and one solution does not fit all. But here are some tips to try, most of which have worked for me in the past:
Reinforce Verbally and Redirect
Sometimes what should be the easiest thing to do can be the hardest. Every time your dog starts nosing around the presents, it is important to firmly tell them “no,” “stop” or whichever halting command is familiar to them. No matter how cute they look amongst the packages, don’t take the time to snap a photo or go get people to see.
Yes, I know it’s hard. I epically fail at this almost once a season. But if you don’t tell your dog no every time they get near your gifts, they will get the impression that it’s sometimes okay to go investigating. And we all know what an expensive mess that can lead to.
Not only should you verbally stop your dog when they take an interest in the presents, but you should also redirect them to do something else. Have them sit, go fetch something or any other activity. This gives them a defined course of action to take, hopefully getting their mind off of your pretty packages.
Fence the Tree
While I have had good luck (mainly in spite of myself and thanks to good dogs) with stopping and redirecting, sometimes that’s just not enough – especially if you can’t be there 24/7 to guard the gifts or you have an extremely willful dog. That’s when you have to get proactive on ways to keep your dog from the presents.
One way is to fence off the tree. Your dog can’t mess with what they can’t get to, right? Some people use baby gates around the Christmas tree for this purpose. I’m not a huge fan of how the taller ones block the tree from being seen, but there are alternatives. One is to use smaller garden fencing – decorated, of course – or run a working train track around the tree.
If fencing in your Christmas tree isn’t an option, you can still keep your dog out of the presents by bundling gifts together. Place wrapped gifts in laundry baskets, crates or big boxes decorated to look like larger presents. Your dog will have less access to so many tempting smaller packages, and you still get the pleasure of having gifts under the tree.
There are a lot of things people spray on and around gifts to keep dogs out, from dog repellent to hot sauce to citrus. None of these work on my dogs, but you may have luck with them. What has worked in the past is low-hanging bells on the bottom branches. The tinkling startles them just enough to make them wary of going under the tree. Definitely try out how your dog reacts to bells before putting them on the tree. What turns one dog away can look like an awesome game to another.
A lot of dogs also dislike the sound of tinfoil when their claws touch it. You can spread it around the tree instead of a skirt. Leave enough room between presents for the noise to be made if your pet gets a case of the Christmas curiosities.
Keep Goodies Away
Sometimes it’s exactly the gifts that get your dog to digging. Never put food gifts under your tree, and expect your dog not to know they’re there. Especially CANIDAE dog treats! It doesn’t matter how well you’ve packaged it to disguise the scent. Trust me, your dog knows, and will find the opportunity to investigate.
This tip isn’t just limited to food. If your dog goes nuts for leather, then gloves and wallets made out of the same material will be safer elsewhere. Stuffed animals their favorite toys? Better not put those under the tree, and so on.
Make the Tree Less Attractive
Sometimes it’s not even the gifts that attract your dog – those are found and destroyed by happy accident – but the tree itself that beckons them. Because it looks like... a tree. Or is a real tree.
Fake trees do seem to be slightly less interesting to dogs, not having all the fascinating woodsy smells, but not everyone can enjoy the holidays with an artificial evergreen. You can still make the real thing less interesting by making sure it doesn’t contain any bird’s nests, etc. still attached.
Avoid Shiny Paper
If you have a dog with a fetish for light chasing games, shiny gift wrap can be your worst Christmas nightmare. All of those twinkling tree lights will reflect off of your packages, just tempting your dog to capture them. Of course once the ripping starts, it turns into a whole new game.
Provide Alternative Fun
Christmas stuff is fun, everyone is excited and the smell of yummy foods are often in the air. Your dog feels that and wants to play with all the new decorations sitting around. So make sure your dog has a safe outlet – and some special treats – to help them cope with all the excess of new. This will help keep your dog out of your Christmas presents, but most importantly, it ensures they will have happy holidays too!
Does your dog like to unwrap gifts under the tree? What do you do to keep them out of Christmas presents?
Top photo: redjar
Bottom: Cindy Funk
Read more articles by Tamara McRill