By: Melissa Kolmar, CPDT-KA, SBA

It’s the happiest time of the year, but it can also be filled with hazards for pet-owners. Here are some tips to keep your dog safe this holiday season.

  • Make sure your Christmas tree is anchored so it doesn’t tip or fall over. Also, prevent access to tree water, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Mistletoe, poinsettia, holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested.
  • Tinsel can be harmful if ingested, as it can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s a good idea to avoid using tinsel!
  • Salt dough ornaments (which are commonly created in children’s classrooms) are toxic to dogs if consumed. Salt toxicity is a real risk due to the high salt content.
  • Make sure that you store all sweets in a cabinet so your dog can’t get to it. I don’t recommend leaving it on the counter or table as many dogs will counter-surf for goodies. Chocolate and xylitol (artificial sweetener) are both toxic to dogs and can cause serious medical problems.
  • Fatty and spicy foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your dogs. Make sure the food is supervised when out on the counters and tables. Dogs are known to counter-surf when delicious food is available.
  • Remind guests not to offer table scraps to your dog. Not only are some foods toxic, but if everyone is offering scraps your dog could get very sick!
  • If you are hosting a large family gathering and cannot supervise your dog, consider boarding them a reputable facility or staying at another friend’s house. Dogs can get overwhelmed in large gatherings (especially if there are lots of children present). If you are going to be hosting and won’t be able to actively manage your dog, it may be better for them to have a quieter venue. This is especially true for dogs who are fearful or shy of people.
  • If your dog is going to be at home with your gathering, make sure they have a safe, quiet place to retreat to if they get overwhelmed or tired. This could be a crate, other room, exercise pen or bed. Make sure your guests know that if your dog goes to that spot, they should be left alone.
  • On the morning of the holiday, make sure to physically and mentally wear your dog out. This can be a long walk paired with a food puzzle or a game of fetch paired with some nose work.


Melissa SPCAMelissa is the Training Manager at SPCA Tampa Bay’s training school, New Dawn Animal Behavior. New Dawn uses positive, rewards-based training. Melissa’s goal is to help people better understand their dogs and learn how to communicate and collaborate with them. For more information, visit